BY CHANCE AND OVER THE NET, I MET THIS INCREDIBLE JAPANESE GENTLEMAN FROM TOKYO, JAPAN NAME SOMARA SEN. I SPENT NEARLY A WHOLE DAY EMAILING BACK AND FORTH AND IT CAME ABOUT SO INNOCENTLY. I ASKED SOMARA SEN FOR HIS PERMISSION TO SHARE THIS WITH YOU, AND HE WAS KIND ENOUGH TO SAY YES.
I WAS AMAZED AT THE DIFFERENCE IN GUITAR TRADE AND DEALING IN JAPAN IN COMPARISON TO THE U S A . FIRST AS YOU HAVE HEARD 100 TIMES ON THIS SITE AND OTHERS, THAT IF NOT FOR THE JAPANESE PRIDE IN WORKMANSHIP AND PERSISTANCE OF PUTTING OUT A GREAT PRODUCT, WHETHER IT BE GUITARS OR CARS, WATCHES, CAMERAS, TAPE RECORDERS AND NOW DIGITAL RECORDING STUDIO'S, HEY EVEN THOSE SO-CALLED AMERICAN BRANDS HAVE NIPPON CHIPS IN THEM. AND MOST OF WHAT'S UNDER THE HOOD WAS MANUFACTURED IN JAPAN BY JAPANESE CRAFTSMAN.
HERE IS THE BLUNT OF THAT CONVERSATION WITH MR. SOMARA SEN
Mr. Somara, Maybe you can teach me something I don't understand. Back in
the 80's when the CBS company contracted FugiGen Gakki to manufacture new
FENDER guitars along with Squires.. how did it come about that they used
what is called the Fender System One Bridge made by Schaller in Germany...
I don't understand how that came about, maybe you do.... And why did they
then make and install a less inferior bridge, the Fender System two and
three, and then finally re-contract to Floyd Rose
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.
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
k?. The Contemporary models that use a TBX tone control use 500 k? volume
pots and use 0.022 µF tone capacitors. The body wood is either a tan
coloured Birch or a white coloured Basswood.
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
Here's where I see where you are confused by mine. The one I'm selling is a
non-export model from the same era and doesn't follow any of these
Since not all buyers leave feedback, you can see here by the feedback I left for others how many guitars I sell . As you will see, I sell a load of guitars for one guy doing this on the side. I couldn't do all of this if these great guitars weren't readily available here in Japan like candy in a candy store for "pennies". I don't take this lightly. I could go into a store and buy everything and hope for the best to see what I got. I don't. I only pick the guitars that I think that are prime stuff that I don't mind keeping if something happened with eBay and I had to keep the guitar. Before I buy anything I take the necks, pickguard, control panels, etc. off in the store to see what I'm buying. I take measuring gauges, scales and other tools when I go hunting for guitars. I'm such a repeat customer they let me do it. I know what I'm looking for and I will never buy anything I thought was counterfeit. There is simply too much to choose from to bother with something suspect. Like I mentioned before, there is a '70s Greco large headstock Strat at a used shop down the street from me that I haven't even bought (yet). There is just so much to choose from I wait for what I consider the best chances for the best profit.
Even this Strat that we're discussing, I'm so tempted to keep it for myself. I don't have a large headstock Strat in my collection and this one is much nicer than most that are available to me. I just don't feel like asking my wife to let me keep yet another guitar haha. In the past 2 weeks alone I bought an '81 Yamaha SA2000S (very rare top of the line solid spruce top model), a rare Nippon Gakki Yamaha all solid woods vintage classical guitar, a rare high end nitro 1990 '52 Reissue Fender Japan Telecaster (Rare because it's a version that used a bridge serial number like Fender USA models with no first letter. This model is a TL52-90 and is very rare. This guitar is another example of how Fender Japan doesn't always stick to what you read on the internet when it comes to serial number formatting, etc.. some samples of some other rare TL52-90 with the same serial number bridge and a write up . Now wouldn't that MIJ with bridge serial number with no letter throw you off too?).
Seriously, I live and breath this stuff. My wife and I spend our weekends scouring the Greater Tokyo area for guitars. My wife is into it too because she knows it's like going hunting for free money. I'll share an example with you. I recently bought a rare '93 Fujigen made Orville by Gibson Les Paul model LPS-59R (one of the rarest) for approximately $400 USD. I recently sold it on eBay for $1699 (check my feedback for the auction)! You do the math on that profit, minus shipping and ebay fees. So my wife is hip to spending our weekends searching for gold! haha! She has a 5 day holiday this weekend and she booked 3 nights for us to go hitting the used shops in the Yokohama area for guitars. Now that's a special wife. She's not into guitars as much as she's into money haha.
Here are some photos of guitar shops in Japan. Some photos are mine some are pulled off the internet.
Here's a photo I took at a store down the street from me. This isn't even a music store! This is just a regular second hand store. The used guitar market is so big here in Japan you'll see several of these types of stores within a 1 mile radius. It would be like you going into any old regular thrift store in America and finding walls of used great guitars (not the crap guitars you usually find in American thrift stores: