Post wwii Asian Ukuleles click for more

Tombo Ukulet MiJ Elcetric Tenor at Ukulele Corner
My Tombo Ukulet
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.

Tokyo Stringed Instrument Co

They made Keiki Kamaka for, and may have been owned by Kamaka. One of the main reasons I'm not sure is they also produced another brand called Aloha Royal which has no connection to Kamaka that I have found, (plus Kamaka only ever say they worked in partnership).

Tombo Musical Instruments

The company was founded in 1917, and in the 1960's they did get involved in the OEM manufacture of Chordophones. They are probably most famous for producing, (and there is some debate about how the name came about), the Tombo Electric Ukulet. This came with a special case that doubled up as an Amplifier and could be run from battery or mains, (I would think its quite heavy if it had all of the batteries in?), plus they made a 6 string version, but it was still a 17½in Tenor scale so would be a Guitalele not a Guitar. As well as Tombo they also produced Norma branded instruments between 1965 to 1970 which were distributed in the U.S. by Strum´N Drum, Inc. of Chicago, Illinois, (well the electric Guitars certainly were, I'm less sure about them building the Ukuleles but the ones I have seen do have Tombo tuners and do look different enough from other Japanese Ukuleles of the time for it to be likely). Other OEM Brands that are attributed to Tombo include Angelica, Asama, Columbus, Condor, Duke, Horugel, Kinor, Montaya, Queen, Regina, Schaffer and Yamato. 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? They are still in business today but they only appear to make Harmonicas now.

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