Post wwii Asian Ukuleles click for more

In rebuilding Japanese industry after WWII but for peaceful purposes, one avenue that was exploited was the manufacture of musical instruments. Pre-War there had been a few well respected makers like Suzuki, so there was some skill available and it must have seemed like a safe idea - Until it killed Chicago (and a lot of other US) manufacturing!

Once in business, distributors found that giving the Ukuleles they produced Western Brand names was a better way to sell them, (somewhat similar to Chinese brands of today). Sometimes, with the older, long standing ones like T&D or B&J, they used old brand names they had used on Chicago made Ukuleles before the war. I have read that there were 80 firms started in Japan in the late 50's and early 60's to service the fretted chordophone boom but by 1970 50 of them had gone bankrupt! As far as I can see the same brand name may have been given to Ukuleles from a number of factories and each factory may have produced a number of brands, including some branded with their own Japanese name. This post war production was primarily Sopranos and Baritones, (I've only seen a couple of Concerts and Tenors), and mainly from Japan, with a few examples coming from other countries in the region. The Ukuleles themselves vary in quality from very low end to fairly high quality and some of these brands are now well respected internationally as makers.

Hayashi (Gakki)

It is generally agreed they were based in the Matsumoko region of Japan and I have seen 1954 given as a foundation date. I have read they were taken over by Zenon in 1962 and that they took over the bankrupt Zeon Gakufu Syuttpansya in 1968, (who made Zenon branded instruments? - whatever the case they merged and they may also have merged with, or taken over the acoustic Guitar maker C.F. Mountain that was founded in 1948 - I'm thinking another setup to closely copy Martins?). I have seen it suggested that the famous Matsumoko designer Nobuaki Hayashi had something to do with the firm, but I don't think this is the case. I have read they only made acoustic instruments, of which it is widely agreed were top quality and I have read that the firm in some form still exists today making guitar parts, (but not whole Guitars)?
Hayashi produced instruments branded Cortez, Custom, Emperador, Mountain and Pearl. Zeon, if they were a separate business produced instruments branded Beltone (not the Perlberg & Halpin brand), Morales, Zen-On and Zenon This may not be all the brands they made, I haven't seen all of these names on Ukuleles and they may not have been the only firm producing them?

Hikare (Gakki)

The firm was apparently set up by a Hawaiian cabinet maker to mass produce Hawaiian Guitars hence the "Designed in Hawaii Built in Japan" strapline on the sound hole labels, and Guitars seem to have been the main business as they were produced under this name well into the 1980's with production moving from Japan to Korea, (hence the change in the "made in..." part of the label). I think this move also proves this was a distributor not a manufacturer and given the frequency I see "Designed in Hawaii" or similar I wouldn't guarantee this was not a marketing ploy too. There are Soprano and Baritone Ukuleles under the brand name too though I not seen any Korean made ones and by reputation the Guitars, certainly, were not very well made.

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