Going down the Japanese Uke rabbit hole

Here's another YouTube link. In May the Tokyo Handcraft Guitar Fes was held. This is a report from the show. Sorry, it's all in Japanese. But the visual candy should be entertaining for most folks.
The reporter stops by the following booths:
Antar, West Field Guitar Craft, Seilen, Ogawa Inlay Craft, Purity, Wizard Leather.

Even if you don't understand Japanese, you aren't missing much. She pretty much says the same thing about every uke she picks up...
"It's so cute!", "It's easy to play!", "Oh, this is sweet!" etc., etc...
 
I was so curious what kind of Red Cedar would give such joyful tone so I actually asked Urabe-san the Luthier in Kyoto for more insight about this ukulele.
Surprisingly it turns out that the top wood described as Red Cedar is Japanese Cedar from Ise shrine which recently referred as Japanese Miyama Cedar in the market; at least a few hundreds aged Cedar grows in Ise Shrine for ages.
These are divine trees that cutting any of those are strictly prohibited and only those from the collapsed trees from aging are supplied by the authority.
Urabe-san is one of a few Luthier that the Ise city chose to supply the wood.
Thanks for sharing this amazing uke!

I just looked up the Ise Shrine and was blown away by its beauty and history. That cedar must be very special! Congrats on finding that beauty!!

 
I'm here to report back on my experience with using a Japanese proxy buying service. I used one called Neokeo. It went extremely smoothly and the shipping rates to the US were very reasonable. I paid $55 for the international shipping. Start to finish the ukulele I purchased showed up in 17 days. The majority of that time was actually the shipping from the seller to the Neokyo warehouse in Japan, where it gets packed and shipped internationally. Once it was shipped out of Japan it arrived in 4 days. The packaging was done very well and the ukulele was very well protected.

Oddly enough. Without intending to I bought the exact TkiTki ams-abolone soprano Ukecaster shared previously in this thread. It has the same serial number that the photos in the Ebay listing had. I got a much much better price buying directly from Japan compared to the price it was listed for on Ebay. If anyone is looking at Japanese brands on Ebay or Reverb I highly recommend checking a proxy buying service instead. The prices seem to be inflated for the US market when listed on Ebay or Reverb.

The tkitki brand ukuleles deserve the reputation they have. They are incredibly well made. I'm very happy with the purchase.
 
They also have plainer ones, which are a bit more affordable.

It is worth mentioning that these eBay listed Japanese ukes are mostly dropshipped, with a substantial markup. They can be found considerably cheaper by going through a Japanese retailer via a proxy service like Buyee or Zenmarket.
 
Ok, @badhabits , I'm fessing up that I'm on this thread, preparing myself for my upcoming Japan trip in less than a couple weeks. I already know I've got a bug, but I'm also blaming the trigger from @revdocjim talking crazy talk of strapping two ukes to his backpacks on his flight from Denver back home to Tokyo.

May the uke gods either a) give me strength against UAS or b) bless me with an amazing, magical, keeper at a price I can't pass up + free shipping home to the states.

This thread is dangerous. Heck... most of this forum is a UAS field of landmines.

Perhaps this post is a premeditated confession? 😏 Let's just say I'm excited to find out.
 
I'm not sure what the selection for Japanese ukes are like, but I've bought a Taisho Koto from Ebay Japan and it was super easy.

Taishokoto from Japan

I did have a colleague a couple of years ago who kept buying vintage toys from Buyee, so that site is pretty legit...I've just never personally used it.
 
Ok, @badhabits , I'm fessing up that I'm on this thread, preparing myself for my upcoming Japan trip in less than a couple weeks. I already know I've got a bug, but I'm also blaming the trigger from @revdocjim talking crazy talk of strapping two ukes to his backpacks on his flight from Denver back home to Tokyo.

May the uke gods either a) give me strength against UAS or b) bless me with an amazing, magical, keeper at a price I can't pass up + free shipping home to the states.

This thread is dangerous. Heck... most of this forum is a UAS field of landmines.

Perhaps this post is a premeditated confession? 😏 Let's just say I'm excited to find out.
I am not trying to trigger your UAS, but just a month from today, Sound Messe will be held in Osaka. We will have tons of guitars and ukuleles available from all over Japan and overseas.
 
Ok, @badhabits , I'm fessing up that I'm on this thread, preparing myself for my upcoming Japan trip in less than a couple weeks. I already know I've got a bug, but I'm also blaming the trigger from @revdocjim talking crazy talk of strapping two ukes to his backpacks on his flight from Denver back home to Tokyo.

May the uke gods either a) give me strength against UAS or b) bless me with an amazing, magical, keeper at a price I can't pass up + free shipping home to the states.

This thread is dangerous. Heck... most of this forum is a UAS field of landmines.

Perhaps this post is a premeditated confession? 😏 Let's just say I'm excited to find out.
Have a great trip! So many great ukuleles to find. In Tokyo, I really enjoyed TanTan and Ukulele Bird. The low yen makes for some attractive shopping.

While you are travelling, Black Cat (kuroneko) is a service that ships any luggage that you don't feel like carrying around to a Japanese destination of your choosing, such as a hotel you plan to stay at later in your trip. It is very reliable and safe. Might be handy if you end up acquiring some extra baggage!
 
Ok, @badhabits , I'm fessing up that I'm on this thread, preparing myself for my upcoming Japan trip in less than a couple weeks. I already know I've got a bug, but I'm also blaming the trigger from @revdocjim talking crazy talk of strapping two ukes to his backpacks on his flight from Denver back home to Tokyo.

May the uke gods either a) give me strength against UAS or b) bless me with an amazing, magical, keeper at a price I can't pass up + free shipping home to the states.

This thread is dangerous. Heck... most of this forum is a UAS field of landmines.

Perhaps this post is a premeditated confession? 😏 Let's just say I'm excited to find out.
I'm not sure whether to laugh or apologize! :) But I'll share one more "ukes on planes" story. Our work dictates that we go to the US every 4 years for about 6 months. Our previous visit was fall of 2019 to Feb. of 2020. The pandemic was just starting and we suddenly decided it was time to get out of Dodge while we still could and moved up our travel plans a month, fearing lockdowns. My wife and I decided at 10 PM that we need to get back home asap and got on the phone, booked flights for the next morning at 6AM and then started to pack. I had picked up several cheap ukes while in the US and really wanted to take them back... but how? So, my carry on was a camera backpack full of cameras and lenses. I found some straps and affixed not one, not two, but THREE ukes to the camera bag. A tenor and two concerts all in gig bags. And I was fortunate to say the least! We safely made it back home to Japan just a few days before all the travel restrictions kicked into full force and added three more ukes to my quiver! What would I have done if they had snagged me? I have no idea and didn't have any backup plan. But it worked. Yes, I know this all sounds crazy and I can't, in good faith, recommend that anyone else try the same thing but that's how it worked out for me. Good luck and I hope you have a great time here in Japan!
 
I'm not sure whether to laugh or apologize! :) But I'll share one more "ukes on planes" story. Our work dictates that we go to the US every 4 years for about 6 months. Our previous visit was fall of 2019 to Feb. of 2020. The pandemic was just starting and we suddenly decided it was time to get out of Dodge while we still could and moved up our travel plans a month, fearing lockdowns. My wife and I decided at 10 PM that we need to get back home asap and got on the phone, booked flights for the next morning at 6AM and then started to pack. I had picked up several cheap ukes while in the US and really wanted to take them back... but how? So, my carry on was a camera backpack full of cameras and lenses. I found some straps and affixed not one, not two, but THREE ukes to the camera bag. A tenor and two concerts all in gig bags. And I was fortunate to say the least! We safely made it back home to Japan just a few days before all the travel restrictions kicked into full force and added three more ukes to my quiver! What would I have done if they had snagged me? I have no idea and didn't have any backup plan. But it worked. Yes, I know this all sounds crazy and I can't, in good faith, recommend that anyone else try the same thing but that's how it worked out for me. Good luck and I hope you have a great time here in Japan!
I think the larger international planes and flights are bit nicer than these little planes going around SE Asia. I had to gate check again from Chiang Mai to Bangkok using VietJet. I'm gonna try luck again on Monday using Air Asia from Bangkok to Hanoi, but we're back on VietJet from Hanoi to Osaka. What a pain!

I am not trying to trigger your UAS, but just a month from today, Sound Messe will be held in Osaka. We will have tons of guitars and ukuleles available from all over Japan and overseas.
Thanks for the tip, but unfortunately we'll have moved on to Nagoya by that time. Sure, it's a short Shinkansen trip away, but this will be our first time in Nagoya and only there for 4 days before continuing East to Kamakura, so I likely won't go back and forth for this cool event. I wish I knew about it sooner, so we coulda planned a bit differently to make it fit. Oh well!

If all goes according to schemes, there may already be a uke being shipped home to WA by the time 5/12 comes around. I mean... ummmmm... I'm not hunting for anything!!!
 
Here, I share some ukuleles that I came across at the Sound Messe in Osaka in 2024.
If any of you're planning on visiting Osaka in the future, you should definitely check out this event that's held in May every year before booking your flight.
According to the organizer, more than 10,000 guitars and ukuleles have gathered at this event in 2024.
It's mainly for guitars and only 1 floor for ukulele, yet I passed by at least 300 ukuleles within a few hours of staying there.

Playing, touching, and seeing so many ukuleles, not just Japan made, but also from Hawaii (4k), United States (Da silva,Lo prinzi) , China (Ohana), Taiwan (Anuenue), Indonesia (Pono, Genta), and Thailand (Opio), was an amazing experience.
On top of that, either for good or bad, I was able to meet a few Japanese luthiers in person, and see and compare their passion for the instruments and how they handle customers. The one thing I regret is that I was not able to hear the exact sound of each ukulele due to there being way too many noises around; including jam sessions by guitar and ukulele virtuosos on various stages that kept going for all day.

Personally, I won't be able to afford Hawaiian ukuleles for a while. JPY is too weak now; good for visitors of Japan though!
So my next Ukulele that I will save up to purchase,,, I will have my wife's permission to purchase will either be from Toda Guitars or Kida Ukuleleworks. Their masterpieces are as fine as Hawaiian made plus they still keep affordable prices in JPY.
 

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Thanks for the confirmation on Kida , they have caught my attention online .
Any thoughts you can share about the basic LoPrinzi Model A Mahogany soprano or concert ?
 
Here, I share some ukuleles that I came across at the Sound Messe in Osaka in 2024.
If any of you're planning on visiting Osaka in the future, you should definitely check out this event that's held in May every year before booking your flight.
According to the organizer, more than 10,000 guitars and ukuleles have gathered at this event in 2024.
It's mainly for guitars and only 1 floor for ukulele, yet I passed by at least 300 ukuleles within a few hours of staying there.

Playing, touching, and seeing so many ukuleles, not just Japan made, but also from Hawaii (4k), United States (Da silva,Lo prinzi) , China (Ohana), Taiwan (Anuenue), Indonesia (Pono, Genta), and Thailand (Opio), was an amazing experience.
On top of that, either for good or bad, I was able to meet a few Japanese luthiers in person, and see and compare their passion for the instruments and how they handle customers. The one thing I regret is that I was not able to hear the exact sound of each ukulele due to there being way too many noises around; including jam sessions by guitar and ukulele virtuosos on various stages that kept going for all day.

Personally, I won't be able to afford Hawaiian ukuleles for a while. JPY is too weak now; good for visitors of Japan though!
So my next Ukulele that I will save up to purchase,,, I will have my wife's permission to purchase will either be from Toda Guitars or Kida Ukuleleworks. Their masterpieces are as fine as Hawaiian made plus they still keep affordable prices in JPY.
Oh. My. Goodness.
 
Thanks for the confirmation on Kida , they have caught my attention online .
Any thoughts you can share about the basic LoPrinzi Model A Mahogany soprano or concert ?
I am glad it was useful.
Loprinzi is a ukulele that took me to even re-visit the music store and play it again. The one I was looking at is a concert with a Spruce top and Mahogany side and back. It has a calm, warm and clear tone; easy to my fingers, and the sound is so gentle and pleasing to my ear. If I were traveling to the United States in 2011, while the Japanese Yen was strong, I would have taken home a few Loprinzi ukuleles:)
 

So my next Ukulele that I will save up to purchase,,, I will have my wife's permission to purchase will either be from Toda Guitars or Kida Ukuleleworks. Their masterpieces are as fine as Hawaiian made plus they still keep affordable prices in JPY.
I looked on Kida’s website, and I am so sad they don’t make sopranos. This one, visually, is my new dream ukulele. Thank you for sharing!
IMG_9873.jpeg
 
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