Post wwii Asian Ukuleles


Beat Guitar Plastic Hong Kong Soprano Ukulele Corner
Beat Guitar
Diastone Banjolele
Diastone Banjolele
Cameo Baritone Ukulele
Cameo Baritone
kyomei soprano ukulele
Kyomei Soprano
bentley baritone ukulele
Bentley Baritone
Alex-O soprano ukulele
Alex-O Soprano
regency soprano ukulele
Regency Soprano
Tkg soprano Ukulele
TKG Soprano
Melodey Baritone ukulele
Melody Baritone
junior guitar banjo
Junior Banjo

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.

There are also a lot of brands for which I have found very little information on apart from having seen some examples, some maybe "house" brands for the Factory, some would be for small distributors whose history now is gone:-
Brand Name Distributor (OEMs) Further Information
Alex-O Taiwan - I have seen the headstock with and without the O
Aloha Royal Tokyo Gen Gakki Japan - This was the house branding for Tokyo Stringed Instrument Co. and nothing to do with the partnership with Kamaka
Altus Taiwan
Aragon Japan
Asahi Asahi Gakki Japan
Beat Guitar T Plastics Hong Kong
Bentley Japan
Blackstone Japan
Blue Hawaii Japan
Cameo Japan
Capri Japan
Castilla Taiwan
Clear Sound Japan
Coast Japan
Crown Professional Japan
Daiichi Daiichi Gakki Japan - distributed Ukuleles endorsed by Masao Koga, a famous Japanese guitarist and composer
Diastone Japan
Dixon Taiwan
Douglas Japan
Empire Japan
Exotica Japan
Flamenco Taiwan
Fortune Japan
Hikare Hikare Gakki Japan - 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 were the main business as they were produced under this name well into the 1980's
Hoffman Japan
Iida Gakki Japan - 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?
Iwama Gakki Japan - Distributor of Rock Guitars and Ukuleles based in Nagoya
Junior Guitar Namura Toys Japan - Also called Junior Banjo on the box The firm was founded in 1923 and sold to Hasbro in 1992, this was primarily a Tin Toy maker, and as well as the 27" length Banjo they also made some playable(?) tin Guitaleles. Their trademark was T.N in a diamond
Kahala Japan
Kyomei Japan - they made larger scale Ukuleles too
La Valencia Japan
Lero Japan
Lilan Meikyo Gakki Japan
Linco Taiwan
Marathon Japan
Masada Japan
Meikyo Gakki Japan - aka Meikyo Stringed Instruments. Founded in 1972 and specialising in Japanese Folk Instruments including drums. They have made at least one Banjolele
Melody Japan
Midland Japan
Million Voice Japan
Mistral Japan
Mizuno Japan
Morales Whole Tone Japan - made by Zen-on / Hayashi Gakki
Morris Iida Gakki Japan
Muse Japan
Onken Onken Gakki Japan
Orlando Japan
Pacific Japan
Pleasant Shiro Gakki Japan
Prelude V.M.I. Taiwan
Regency Japan
Rhythm Band Inc. Taiwan - established 1981
Robin Japan
Rock Iwama Gakki Japan
Romance Tokyo Trading Co. Japan
Shiro Shiro Gakki Japan
St. George Shiro Gakki Japan
T Plastics T Plastics Hong Kong
Tara Taiwan
TGK (INA) Japan
Tokyo Gen Gakki  or
Stringed Instrument Co
Japan -Also know as Kamaka (Japan), 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 a house brand called Aloha Royal, (Identical to Keiki Kamakas apart from the branding), which has no connection to Kamaka that I have found, (plus Kamaka only ever say they worked in partnership).
Tokyo Trading Co. Japan
V.M.I Taiwan
Venus Japan
Wealth Iida Gakki Japan
Whole Tone Japan
Windsor Japan
York Japan

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