History of fender MIJ Strats




The Fender Contemporary models were the first Fender Japan models to be named Fender Stratocasters or Telecasters. The previous Fender Japan models were all Fender Squier models. The Fender Contemporary models were manufactured from 1984 to 1987 by FujiGen Gakki and these Stratocasters were designed to be Superstrats (Super Strat) with a Floyd Rose like bridge designed by Schaller (and Gotoh) and humbucking pickups. There was a lower priced Fender Contemporary Squier model produced as well. The Fender Contemporary Stratocaster and Telecaster models were part of the Fender Japan E series model range.

When CBS sold Fender to its current owners in 1984 there was a transitional period from 1984 to 1987 with limited Fender USA production resulting in mostly Fender Japan and leftover stock being sold. There are also Fender Contemporary Telecaster models with HSS or HH pickup configurations and switches for selecting pickup options. The Fender Contemporary Telecaster models used the same tremolo systems as the Fender Contemporary Stratocaster models. Black Francis used a Fender Contemporary Telecaster in the Pixies.

There were also USA Contemporary Stratocasters and Telecasters which were totally different than the original Japanese models in terms of features and construction. These shortlived American-made models were made by the Fender Custom Shop in the mid-1990s.

Technical Information


1985 Fender Contemporary Stratocaster with System III Tremolo and Humbucking Pickups

The System I bridge string height is set by adjustable pivot post screws and has no individual string height adjustments but has individual string intonation adjustments and is very much like the Gibson Tune-o-matic bridge in terms of intonation and string height adjustments. The System I tremolo system uses a behind the nut string locking mechanism and was manufactured by Gotoh. The System II and System III bridges have individual string height and individual string intonation adjustments. The System II and III tremolo systems use a height adjustable locking nut.

The System II tremolo system was designed by John Page, Chip Todd and Charlie Gressett. The System III tremolo system was designed by John Page, Dan Smith, Charlie Gressett and John Carruthers. Both bridges were manufactured in Germany by Schaller. Sometimes parts of the tremolo system are lost and one common modification is to make the bridge function as a hardtail by locking the bridge into a non movable position and installing a string tree for the first and second strings so that the strings don't slip out of the nut slots.

The pickups used in the Contemporary models were manufactured by Fujigen. All the pickups used on the Contemporary models are Alnico and not ceramic pickups. The humbucking pickups used in the Contemporary models have a DC resistance which is approximately 7.6 kiloohms. The single coil pickups used in the Contemporary models have a DC resistance which is approximately 5.6 kΩ. The Contemporary models that use a TBX tone control use 500 kΩ volume pots and use 0.022 µF tone capacitors. The body wood is either a tan coloured Birch or a white coloured Basswood.

 Serial Numbers

The early Fender Japan E series serial numbers from 1984-1987 follow the Fender USA serial number format of E = eighties and the first digit of the serial number representing the year.

For example E6XXXXX = 1986.

Most of the Fender Japan serial numbers do not follow this format. The Fender USA serial format was used on the Fender Japan E series because most of them were exported to the USA while Fender was undergoing a transitional period.


Understand first:  Fender Japan Guitar Serial Numbers...

... work differently than Fender USA guitar serial numbers.

This guide explains the basic differences between Fender USA guitar serial numbering, and Fender Japan serial numbering.  If you already have a basic understanding of the USA serial numbering system, just skip down to the next Bold Centered orange-underlined text.

Most readers of this are probably already aware that Fender USA guitar serial numbers "theoretically" follow a pattern.  They were designed to help identify the approximate manufacturing date of the guitar.

For example:  a guitar whose serial number begins with the letter and number "E8", would have "theoretically" been manufactured in 1988 (E = in the Eighties, 8 = the 8th year... so, 1988); a Fender USA guitar serial  starting "N4" would "theoretically" mean 1994 (N = in the Nineties, 4 = the 4th year... so, 1994);  a Fender USA guitar serial starting "Z3" would "theoretically" mean 2003 (Z = 2000, 3 = in the 3rd year... so...)... you get the picture.

The "theoretically" appears in the previous paragraph a number of times for these reasons:

  • According to verifiable public information, the older serial numbers were notoriously placed in emptied coffee cans, boxes, etc.  When a Fender employee needed a serial number, they would sometimes reach in a grab whatever number came out... serial numbers lotto-style.  I have personally seen (and have seen the same listed on eBay more than once) E3 serial numbered USA Fenders, with a neck date of 1989.
  • Fender USA will tell you - if you take the time to email them and ask (you can do so at the Fender web site), or better yet... read the dating information at the same Fender site - the best way to date a USA Fender guitar is almost always the neck/body date/markings.

It should be noted... the serial numbering system for USA Fenders has been more accurate in recent years, and that the Fender Japan serial numbering system has had a few quirks of its own... neither is perfect.

Additionally, Fender USA sometimes adds letters to the serial number to make special designations.  For example, the US Fender serial number DZ575xxxx, would designate a Deluxe (the "D") guitar made in 2005.  All this is public information, avaiable on the web.  I encourage you to take initiative and verify this (and ALL) information independently, for yourself.

From this point forward, our focus will be on the Fender Japan serial numbering system.  And the Fender Japan serial numbering system is... well... ummmmm, it's a whole nutter ball game!

First we need to understand there is a *when manufactured* difference in the "MADE In Japan" Fenders, and the "CRAFTED In Japan" Fender guitars.  For example:  a "MADE" In Japan guitar having a serial number starting with the letter "A," would have been made in 1985 or 1986.  While a "CRAFTED" In Japan guitar with a serial number starting with the letter "A" would have been made in 1997 or 1998.

For more on the MADE vs CRAFTED thing, see the Guide I authored titled "MADE In Japan - vs - CRAFTED In Japan Fender Guitar(s)" .

The Fender Japan serial numbering system is - on the face of it - a little more complex than the Fender USA system.  But in the past, as we have already seen, the USA system has served only as a good starting point when dating a Fender USA instrument.  I have found the Fender Japan serial numbering system considerably more reliable (although, not perfect) for dating instruments... it *does* have some quirks of its own, and is a subject for a seperate Guide.

Fender Japan began production in 1982.  It was decided that the first serial numbers issued by Fender Japan would begin with the letters "JV."  The JV was followed by 5 digits which have nothing to do with dating the guitar.  The "JV" alone, tells us the guitar was made between 1982 and 1984.  The "JV" serialed MIJ (Made In Japan) Fenders have become, and will probably remain, the most collectable - The Holy Grails - of the Fender Japan instruments... while the "SQ"s strut closely behind.

The second serial number prefix used by Fender Japan was "SQ", which was followed by 5 digits.  And the "SQ" alone, tells us the quitar was made in 1983 or 1984.

Seeing the pattern yet?  Hang on for just a few more moments... we're almost there.

The next serial number prefix used by Fender Japan - as shown on the Fender web site (and other web sites as well) - was "E".  The E was followed by 6 digits.  The "E" alone tells us the guitar was made between 1984 and 1987... the first digit of the serial number has nothing to do with dating the instrumentNot the same use of the "E" as the US serial number of the same time frame...

Next were the "A", "B", and "C" prefixes, each followed by 6 digits.  "A", "B", and "C" prefix serial numbers were all made in 1985 or 1986.

I'm ceratin you've got the picture by now... right?  The first letter (or letters) alone, is (are) all we need to determine the year of manufacture - in most cases... you didn't really think it was going to be that easy, did ya...  ;)

But the exceptions are rare, and beyond the scope of this Guide.  Another time.

A great place to start in verifying this for yourself is... you guessed it, the Fender web site.  You'll notice on their "DATING JAPANESE MADE FENDER INSTRUMENTS" page, they start with the "MADE In Japan" serial numbers.  If you scroll down to the lower portion of the page, you'll see the "CRAFTED In Japan" numbers and prefixes.



JV+ 5 digits1982-1984
SQ + 5 digits1983-1984
E + 6 digits1984-1987
A + 6 digits1985-1986
B + 6 digits1985-1986
C + 6 digits1985-1986
F + 6 digits1986-1987
G + 6 digits1987-1988
H + 6 digits1988-1989
I + 6 digits1989-1990
J + 6 digits1989-1990
K + 6 digits1990-1991
L + 6 digits1991-1992
M + 6 digits1992-1993
N + 6 digits1993-1994
O + 6 digits1993-1994
P + 6 digits1993-1994
Q + 6 digits1993-1994
S + 6 digits1994-1995
T + 6 digits1994-1995
U + 6 digits1995-1996
N + 5 digits1995-1996
V + 6 digits1996-1997
Crafted in JapanA + 6 digits 1997-1998
Crafted in JapanO + 5 digits1997-2000
Crafted in JapanP + 5 digits1999-2002
Crafted in JapanQ + 5 digits2002-2004
Crafted in JapanR + 5 digits2004-2005


Contemporary and Standard Series Guitars Manual (Japan)






more history about MIJ Fender Stratocasters

The Fender Stratocaster isn't just a guitar, it's a cultural icon, a piece of modern Americana. Even if not made in America. Does it matter if the person that screwed it together had a street address in the US of A, Mexico or Japan? He or she will still be giving form to Leo Fender's revolutionary early-fifties design.  A design as obviously American as a '57 Chevy.  But maybe better. A 2006 Chevrolet looks nothing like the over the top, chrome bedecked, '57 model. But a 2006 Stratocaster  looks almost exactly like its 1954 forerunner. Leo got it right (give or take the odd detail) first time out. 

Since 1954 the Stratocaster has evolved, changed direction a few times, maybe taken a few wrong turns occasionally . But has remained true in spirit. Unlike the corporate manufacturing world which has changed immeasurably.  Fender Japan was set up in 1982 for good business reasons (outlined on the 'History' page). They made, and still make, fine quality instruments, but nowadays, bar a couple of models, only for their home market. 

However, there are many 'MIJ' (Made in Japan) or 'CIJ' (Crafted in Japan) Stratocasters in the hands of US and European owners or floating about the used market. The point of this site is to examine the range of different Stratocasters produced in Japan for export ( not the current excellent non-export range) and perhaps answer some of the questions that may arise in an owner/potential-owner's mind  when confronted by a Stratocaster bearing a  'Made in Japan' or 'Crafted in Japan' label


Link to the fujigen gakki story,  click link below.

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