Quick Guide to Buying MIJ Instruments From Japan

Japan is famous for producing extremely high quality musical instruments at very reasonable prices, both from well known international brands and also smaller local shops. There’s also some very nice Japan-exclusive models offered by Fender and other large international brands.

As of 2022-2023, we are seeing historic highs in the JPY/USD exchange rate. This makes it an outstanding time to buy from Japan. I thought I would make a thread to help out people who don’t live here as the international ordering process is actually easier than you might think.


PART I. The Basics

The easiest way to order from Japan and have a very good chance of a successful, satisfying purchase experience is to order from one of the reputable retail chains here. All of these compete on reputation and generally will go out of their way to ensure you get a high quality, well set up instrument.

A number of people here have ordered internationally with great success. The bass usually leaves Japan within 24-48h. Japanese shipping is amazing; you may see customs delays of course, but I think most people have not.

On to some recommended vendors:

Ikebe Gakki
In my experience the one with the best web experience is Ikebe Gakki. (Gakki means “musical instrument”, you’ll see it a lot.) They have an outstanding and easily searchable web store, fantastic selection, and good customer service. I have bought several instruments from them both in their stores and via the web, as you can indentify specific instruments you have tried on their web page:

Ikebe is nice because they have a very localizable web page. In the upper right of the screen, you can select English and you’ll get pretty solid translations of everything:


2024 edit: They refreshed their site and this button is now at the bottom of the page, on the left. Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page, and on the left, look for this. Last button on the right is your friend:

Screenshot 2024-05-20 at 19.52.35

after translation:

They have an International Order link on each instrument page you look at:

Kurosawa Gakki

Kurosawa is another excellent chain, actually perhaps a little higher end than Ikebe, but they are pretty similar.

This is their online overseas ordering info:

Here’s their online shop, which actually has somewhat bilingual headings and titles but is nowhere nearly as nice as Ikebe’s page, you’ll need Google Translate:

I have never personally bought from them but they are one of my favorite browsing experiences. I think @JerryP did buy from them.

Ishibashi Gakki

Ishibashi is another big chain here with excellent instruments. I have bought an instrument from them before (in-person, not online) and had a good experience. They have a separate page for international customers, I am not sure how the selection matches their domestic offerings however. In fact their international offerings mostly appear to be used instruments, which is not a bad thing; it’s an interesting twist actually, as there’s some deep values in there, and an excellent used selection:

Here’s their Japanese domestic site, if you want to browse with google translate and see something you like, it could be worth an inquiry:

Shimokura Gakki

Shimokura is a huge chain here. I would not describe their web experience as great, but they do have info on international orders and they do have a great selection:

I have bought an instrument from them and had a good (if brief) experience. I would say they are the most pro forma of all the shops listed here, not great but not bad.

That list should get you started. There’s others - I really wanted to list BigBoss here (ESP’s retail store), for example, but I didn’t see a good international link for them. I can help with future questions if anyone has any.


PART II. The Brands

There are many smaller brands here that people are likely not too familiar with, and some big ones that deserve mention too. I’m only going to touch on a small fraction here. Most trend towards very high quality Jazz and Precision style basses, probably biased towards J-Basses. These are often extremely high quality clones; you can basically think of them as very well made Fenders but with potentially much higher quality hardware and electronics (especially pickups).

For lack of any other format I’ll try and keep this alphabetical. This is just going by my memory so I will probably be editing this and add more over time. I’ll include vendor links but really you can order these from the shops mentioned in the previous post; individual manufacturers will really vary by how much they want to deal with direct international sales.

  • Atelier Z - Atelier makes very high quality Fender-style instruments, with their own look (usually very beautiful wood. Kurosawa has an excellent selection of these.
  • Bacchus - Bacchus is the midrange electric guitar brand of Deviser Guitars, a very nice acoustic brand. Bacchus makes a famous line called the Woodline you might want to check out. Make sure you look at the MIJ models, not the World models.
  • Black Smoker - Black Smoker is a part of Black Cloud, and they make very nice high end Fender-style instruments. Ikebe has a good selection of them.
  • Electric Sound Products (ESP) - probably no intro necessary for ESP; what you probably don’t know is that they are actually more of a music empire, with many sub-brands, like LTD (their inexpensive overseas line), Edwards, navigator, Grassroots, Killer, etc etc. MIJ ESP’s are very expensive but fantastic, and they have a custom shop probably second only to Warwick in variety.
  • Fender Japan - no intro necessary. Fender historically has outsourced their Japan production to very high quality local makers like FujiGen and Tokai. With the MIJ’s you’ll be getting roughly or near MIA quality at MIM prices here.
  • Fernandes - Famous in the US metal scene in the '80s, like many on this list they made a name back in the lawsuit era as high quality Fender and Gibson clones. These days they make a wide range of instruments, some quite creative.
  • FujiGen - Very high quality midrange instruments. They manufactured Fender Japan’s instruments for years and might now, it’s unclear.
  • Greco - Another classic Lawsuit Era company (or older), some really interesting gear
  • Ibanez - No intro necessary I think, they often outsource but I think still make their own MIJ’s. Not sure. Regardless, great stuff, though mroe mass market.
  • Momose - This is the higher end brand of Deviser (where Bacchus is the midrange brand). Some truly gorgeous instruments.
  • STR - Another very high end line of Deviser’s.
  • Tokai - Another long-time manufacturer here across a broad rrange of instruments; manufactured for Fender Japan for many years.
  • Vellmor - Smaller boutique shop famous for some of their signature artists (F-Chopper Koga, etc). High end, very high quality.
  • Yamaha - no intro necessary, similar to Ibanez but IMO a step up; YMMV. Their MIJ’s are really nice.

Part III. Advanced

Buying Used from Overseas

Japan has a very vibrant used market. There’s basically two high traffic places to shop, and in my experience one is much better than the other. Note that after discovering that Ishibashi sells used to the overseas market above, you might just want to stick to that; if you speak Japanese or are in Japan, the next two might appeal to you:

  • Mercari - Mercari is a relative newcomer to the online marketplace and is by far my recommended used marketplace here, both in terms of relative selection and overall shopping experience. I have bought and sold many instruments here. Prices tend to be lower than other options. It’s not an auction site, it’s a sales site. Shipping will be on a case by case basis you need to work out with the seller before you buy. Japanese required for their site and I do not know if they offer accounts to international customers; probably useful only in Japan. They do have a US affiliate though so you might be able to work something out.
  • Yahoo! Auctions - Yes, Yahoo is still a thing here. I don’t know their policy on international accounts. This is an auction site and has all the risks that Ebay does, but with a much worse web experience than Ebay currently has. No English support. Shipping will be on a case by case basis you need to work out with the seller before you buy. Selection is good. Prices bidded up to are often ridiculously bad. Personally I would avoid.
  • EBay - I would not use eBay to buy basses from Japan, there are much better options.

Shopping in Japan

Japan is a virtual heaven of musical instrument shopping. All of the chains I mention above have shops around Tokyo (and other cities). But in general, no single area compares to the musical instrument district here, Ochanomizu.

This is basically a must-visit when you come to Japan. It’s actually kind of overwhelming; picture multiple blocks of music shops with (seriously) amazing selections, often in the form of buildings with five or six vertical floors of sales space mixed in with tiny mom and pop shops in the alleys. It’s just incredible. Guitars, brass, woodwinds, there’s lots here; but mostly guitar and bass.


Kurosawa, Ikebe and Ishibashi also all have outstanding stores in Shibuya, which is more convenient and is a common tourist destination anyway. Ikebe’s new store is especially good:

Most other major shopping areas will have them too; I’ve bought in Ikebukuro before, and almost bought a bass in Shinjuku.

Amazon-like experiences

There’s basically two good choices in Japan for this and they vary widely for their support of overseas customers. I mention them as last resorts but I do not recommend these for musical instrument shopping at all, as opposed to the chains listed above:


First, I feel like “soiling” this thread by even adding a comment (like dipping rice in soy sauce), but thank you for your service to the community. Dollars and Euros and more exotic currency WILL flow to Japan now, even more than before :smile:

To add some useful info: as far as I can tell from the conversations in the forum, the US is better off in terms of being hit by import taxes (no such taxes below a value of 800 dollars, if I understood that right), whereas Euroland will hit you fairly hard with import taxes, but even more so with VAT. So, that is always something to factor in. For me, even when the Euro was strong compared to the Yen, the added costs of shipping, import fees and VAT have so far been an effective quencher for any Japan-directed GAS.

@howard’s well curated thread here isn’t helping however :joy: :crazy_face:


I think you just saved me tens (or hundreds) of hours of browsing on the extensive list of appealing sites :rofl:but for a sad reason :sob:


Ha, my pleasure, and please do comment - that’s a good thing to point out about import duties in various regions.


Thank you @howard ! This is great info :raised_hands:


Not sure what’s happening there sometimes… Here is a beautiful Woodline specimen from a Japanese store:

In USD, after shipping and what duties/VAT I would have to pay, this might come out to approximately: USD 1700

Here is the same bass (as far as I can tell) from a shop in the UK:

in USD: about 2700 :scream:


That first price looks legit, Ikebe has it (well, a similar one, configured specially for Ikebe) for 154k too, pre-tax:


Pretty much every high end thing I look at from Japan is about $1000 less or so fight now.

Looking at bari saxes, thousands and thousands less!!


All of the chains I mentioned sell saxes as well :slight_smile:

Kurosawa probably the biggest selection.


Yes, I did. I picked up a Fuji Gen BMJ-R and a hard case. Exchange rate at the time was 148 Yen to the dollar. I showed the sales person (who spoke English very well) my passport and he waived the sales tax.


Cool. They are a great shop, my favorite to browse when I am in Ochanomizu.


Thanks Howard for this informative post!


@matt.g.ward.esq came in with an excellent tip for niche finds… basically if you are looking for something rare and/or expensive enough you can retain a pro to find it. He recommended Danny Stewart at BassJapanDirect.

His prices look really reasonable to me and I could even picture myself using his services for something truly rare, because I really hate playing phone tag in Japanese. He ships overseas and in general looks to me like he is running a great business.


イイネ :+1:


What an amazing resource, @howard! Thank you for putting together such a comprehensive, thorough, and valuable series of posts. Bookmarked!


My pleasure! Happy to enable GAS in others :slight_smile:


Exactly what I’ve been looking for. !!