20th c. Asian Ukuleles click for more

Iida Wealth Soprano Ukulele
Wealth Soprano (Iida)
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.

Iida Gakki

Iida began manufacturing instruments in 1958 in Nagoya, Japan and are possibly still in business They produced instruments branded Morris, Wealth and possibly Moridara They may also have produced acoustic instruments for Yamaha(?). This may not be all the brands they made and they may not have been the only firm producing them?

Kasuga Gakki

Founded in 1935 in Nagoya by Miki Bukichi, they made Guitars, Banjos, Mandolins, Violins and Ukeleles they produced instruments branded Conrad, Emperador, ES-S, Ganson, Heerby, Hondo, Kasuga, Mei Mei, Mellow Tone and Roland. 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? Kasuga went out of business in 1996

Terada Gakki

Founded in 1912. At their production peak (in the late 1970s to early 1990s) they were producing around 10,000 guitars a month using 3 factories at Higashiku, Kanie and Shirakawa. Terada are I believe, still in business but they only make OEM guitars at their Kanie factory, (the others have gone). As well as Tarada, they produced instruments branded Grapham, Gretch, KaluaKingston, Montano, Morris, Suzuki, Tone Master, Vesta, Yamano and possibly produced Burny, and Thumb 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?

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