Post wwii Asian Ukuleles click for more

K Yasuma and Co. 10 string tiple Ukulele Corner
My K Yasuma Tiple
In rebuilding Japanese industry after WWII but for peaceful purposes, one avenue that was exploited was the manufacture of musical instruments (Gakki apparently means musical Instrument in Japanese?). 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.

K. Yasuma & Co

In 1948 Kimihiko Yasuma started making Guitars in Nagoya. In 1950 he founded K. K Yasuma Gakki and was making Guitars branded New Ance, (and yes it was suppose to be a pun on nuance) and this appears to have appeared on the headstock, certainly of some Tiple Ukuleles along with the K Yasuma & Co logo. Why it was used on some but not all I don't know maybe to keep the branding for Japanese sold instruments, maybe to move away from the Martinesque headstock logo? In 1960 the firm was incorporated and became K. Yasuma & Co. (For some reason I can't translate they may also have made instruments branded T Yasuma between 1953 and 1970?) It appears from the website that the Firm still exists in some guise though I haven't seen any instrument by them in this millennium, (possibly because they make acoustic Guitars for Yamaha? they certainly have in the past) When they were making Instruments they made Guitars, Mandolins Ukuleles and Tiple Ukuleles that were very good copies of Martin Instruments. So good in fact that Martin won a court case for copyright infringement against them and had a lot of the Yasuma instruments in the US destroyed. (When people talk about "Lawsuit Guitar" this is the case they forget, Gibson only ever threatened court action, they never actually went to court, but the threat carried weight because of what Martin did to K Yasuma.) The company did continue after the lawsuit making instrument that looked less like Martins but I don't know when the last Yasuma branded instruments were made?

T Kurosawa & Co.

This is a large musical instrument reseller with a head office in Tokyo and still in business today. The history here is a bit patchwork but as far as I can make out Tsunesaburo Kurosawa is a Japanese Luthier who after studying for 5 years, set up his own label in 1957 making handbuilt Classical Guitars branded Kurosawa, (I have never seen a Ukulele branded as such though). By 1960 he was employing at least two others and in 1967 he opened his own music shop to sell Instruments including his, (by now factories), Guitars. Some time after 1957 he started to use the brand name Stafford on his Guitars, and also introduced Ukuleles into the range. He was another maker who based his instruments on Martins models but not as closely as Yasuma so didn't get sued. Stafford Guitars are still available today through his outlets and have a reputation for being generally fairly low end with a few high end models still produced. Ukuleles are no longer in the catalogue but from what I have seen I think the same could be said for them.

click for more

Please contact me if you have any information or pictures that would improve the page

contact Web Administrator if you think your copyright has been infringed