View Full Version : Buying an uke in Japan?

03-14-2009, 01:11 PM
Hello hello!

I am just wondering if anyone here has any insights into the ukulele market in Japan. I am very new to the ukulele - been goofing around for a couple months - but I think I'm definitely hooked...and therefore ready to invest in a higher quality instrument than the cheapo Hilo I have.

Sweet! The problem is that I am moving to Japan in a week and I'll be there for a year at least. I've been told that I should buy a new uke while I'm still in the States because they will be much more expensive in Japan...

So my question is: is this true? Are there places to buy ukuleles in Japan for reasonable prices? Or should I hurry up and buy one before I leave?

03-14-2009, 01:31 PM
There are several members who reside in Japan; keonepax, UkeNinja are the first names that came to me.

Ahnko Honu
03-14-2009, 01:57 PM
I would guess it depends on what you want. Probably pay more for a Hawaiian made ukulele there since they're gold there but I'm guessing a quality Kiwaya made in Japan would be a tad cheaper there. From what I gather the import duty is pretty stiff in Japan so any KALA or Ohana uke would cost more the Japanese doing this to protect local economy. I hear the laminate pineapple Kiwaya sounds amazingly good and not a bad price.

03-14-2009, 02:17 PM
Stores here usually can not match the deals you guys get in the US, especially if you count online stores such as MGM and others. Like Ahnko Honu says, what do you want to get? Check for prices at one of the big general music stores, Kurosawa Gakki (http://www.kurosawagakki.com/tags/search/5/0/0.html&SID1=784b83218609fc31809054436da14a88) (I arranged the list from cheap to expensive) to get an idea.

This is assuming you go to Tokyo. There are plenty of stores with loads of ukes from Mahalo to Martin and everything in between. Outside the capital, there is much less choice.

P.S. and last golden tip: if you can wait until the yen goes down into the cellar again, buy with converted U$D and you may have a deal.

03-14-2009, 04:59 PM
yea when i went to a store called island bazaar in southern california, there was a huge group of Japanese tourists that were buying ukes because they said they cost much more in Japan.

Ukulele Friend
03-14-2009, 06:08 PM

I used to live in Japan for a while and I actually took up the uke while I was there on a study abroad. There are quite a few builders from Japan nowadays who are handcrafting some incredible custom ukuleles but in my opinion some of the best entry level "import" ukes can be found in Japan.

Most of the import ukes in to Japan are of course built in China, Korea, and/or Vietnam but the Japanese eye for perfection coupled with their attention to detail really makes for a wonderful entry level uke for a great buy.

Some of the best sounding and playing entry level ukes I've ever come across as an import were sold in Japan although they were not necessarily made there.

Oh the days....


03-15-2009, 01:06 AM
Some of the best sounding and playing entry level ukes I've ever come across as an import were sold in Japan although they were not necessarily made there.
Any examples? I am not exactly stunned at the range of models available for f.i. Lanikai/Kala. I have not seen Ohana yet, let alone the newer budget brands. Ponos can be found if you look for them, Famous has some entry soprano models that are considered a "must have" for any ukulele player that wants to be taken seriously (joking, of course).

As for the custom builders: many of them indeed, nice work but very pricy as customs go. There is a slight trend towards "no frills" models that are within the price range of good Hawaiian ukes (~$1000), but you need to shop. And when were you here?

Ahnko Honu
03-16-2009, 12:45 AM
When you get to Japan just watch out for this gal, she's a good shot.