Buying from Japan

buying guitars from japanThe Japanese are known to have great quality guitars and have, until recently, been a supplier to the Australian market for Fender in particular. However, they tend to build only for their local market these days and it is relatively rare to find them here in Australia – except on a limited run here and there.

Japan was also the epicentre of the ‘Lawsuit Era’ guitars. The Lawsuit era relates to the periods in the 70s where there was no real copyright on guitar shapes, so a lot of guitar companies in Japan were able to produce very good copies of things like the Les Paul and the Stratocaster. Companies like Greco, Ibanez, Orville and Tokai made their names on incredible replicas of more expensive guitars and were sometimes just as good as their counterparts. This history of making high quality guitars has led to Japanese guitars being highly sought after, even now after the lawsuit era is well and truly past. Japanese makes tend to use some higher quality materials, but the biggest difference is that they seem to have far better quality control than other Asian countries such as Indonesia, China and Korea.

So, how do you go about buying a guitar from Japan and getting it back here to Australia in one piece? There are several options outlined below, as well as a few issues to take note of.

Japanese Built Guitars and Pedals

Remember that Boss has it’s headquarters in Japan as well, meaning that you can sometimes find some great deals on Japanese built pedals from some of the stores listed below. Pedals like the WAZA Craft, Ibanez and Maxon gear is easily accessible and ship for pretty low prices. If you are looking for authentic Japanese made pedals from the source, then buying online from Japan is definitely the way to go. You will also find on most of these sites that there will be a Used or Factory-Seconds section which means that you are often able to pick up gear for a little cheaper again than what you might find here in Australia.

Buyer Beware

A couple of things that you should be aware of here:

  • You are buying from overseas – This means that returns of broken/faulty or unwanted items are going to be more difficult. Some companies, due to taxes and the general annoyance will not accept returns for anything other than faulty items.
  • Rosewood – due to the new CITES regulations, the import and export of Rosewood is particularly watched. Make sure that you speak with Customs or get the appropriate clearance forms both for Japan and Australia should you want to buy something with a Rosewood fingerboard.
  • Postage – actually this isn’t too bad. Depending on the gear, you will be looking at paying between $50-150 for a guitar to be shipped to Australia. The last one that was shipped to me was double boxed, in a gig bag and surrounded by bubble wrap which most companies will do.
  • Language – PLEASE make sure you read carefully what you are buying. Most companies will ask that you email/message them directly for international orders. Some websites have been Google translated, meaning that not all info is there for you. There are times when you will be looking at factory seconds and not know from product pictures. Take your time and ask questions when you are unsure of anything at all.


If you are looking for a range of items J-Guitar is the place to go – they are essentially a catch-all for the below sites and post all of the recent items up for sale and link to the individual sites. A great way to start to get info on what is selling and for how much before you start to get more specific about where you want to buy from.

I have previously used Ikebe Gakki to buy gear and I have never had an issue with them at all, fast and courteous service and the guitar was at my door within the week. For the same item (Like the Fender Classic Series Strats) you are looking at around a $3-600 saving from Australian prices, this is if you can actually find them in Australia at all.

If you are looking for Used or Vintage gear Ishibashi is a very popular choice and has great reviews from the Australians I know that have bought from them. TC Gakki is also another store that a lot of people in Australia use when they are looking for used and vintage gear.

Just a word of warning – there is potentially going to be a tax on all items that are imported into Australia meaning that these guitars may potentially hit by a further sales tax, so if you want to buy now is probably the time

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