There’s no doubt that Japanese guitars are some of the best in the world. From iconic brands like Ibanez and ESP to more niche manufacturers like Caparison, there’s something for everyone when it comes to Japanese guitars.
In this article, we’re going to look at some of the best Japanese guitar manufacturers out there and find out what makes them so special. Whether you’re looking for your first guitar or your hundredth, there’s bound to be a Japanese guitar that’s perfect for you.
So, without further ado, here are the top Japanese guitar brands!
Ibanez is one of the most iconic Japanese guitar brands out there. They’ve been making instruments since 1908, initially as Hoshino Gakki, which is still the parent company today. And their guitars are used by some of the most famous musicians in the world. Some names include Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Paul Gilbert, Tosin Abasi, Tim Henson, and countless others.
Ibanez is known for both their innovation and elaborating on and even improving existing designs (i.e., floating bridges), and they were one of the first companies to mass-produce seven and eight-string guitars, which are a staple in a lot of today’s music, especially modern metal.
Throughout the years, though, they’ve been considered one of the premier superstrats because of their thin and fast-playing necks.
They’re also known for their wide range of products, from budget-friendly entry-level instruments to high-end signature models. So, no matter what your budget is, there’s an Ibanez guitar that’s perfect for you.
- Mahogany Body
- Wizard III Maple Neck
- Rosewood Fretboard
- Tree of Life Fretboard Inlay
- Jumbo Frets
Yamaha is another Japanese company with a long history of making great instruments. They started as an organ manufacturer in 1887 and a piano maker in 1900, but they didn’t begin making guitars until 1960. Nowadays, they pretty much make everything!
Since then, Yamaha has become one of the most respected instrument brands in the world but is still pretty underrated compared to many of the others out there, at least for guitars. Yamaha guitars are used by everyone from beginner players to world-renowned artists like Chris Poland, Frank Gambale, and bassist Billy Sheehan.
A lot of guitarists are probably familiar with Yamaha’s Pacifica electric guitar model because it’s a very popular entry-level Strat-copy, but they also make excellent steel-string and classical guitars.
In fact, their acoustic guitars might be considered even more popular than their electric guitars these days. Still, the point is that basically everyone has encountered a Yamaha guitar sometime in their lives, and that’s because they’re the largest manufacturer of musical instruments and other electronics.
- Solidbody Electric Guitar with Alder Body
- 2-Single-coil Pickups – Fired Red
- Rosewood Fingerboard
- 1 Humbucking Pickup
- Maple Neck
Takamine Guitars have a rich history that dates back to 1959 when the company started as a small family-run guitar shop and the brand has consistently grown over the years to become what it is today.
Aside from creating acoustic guitars that can accommodate a lot of different budgets, a lot of people don’t know that Takamine made innovations in the world of acoustic-electric instruments by developing the Palathetic under-saddle pickup.
These pickups are a type of piezo pickup that is fantastic at capturing your guitar’s natural tone while also doing a good job of reducing any feedback that could interfere with your sound quality.
Like Ibanez, Takamine is a brand that represents quality craftsmanship and innovation, and as of 2015, they have joined forces with the next Japanese brand that you’ll learn about.
- 6-string Acoustic-electric Guitar with Spruce Top
- Indian Laurel Fingerboard – Natural
- Sapele Back Sides
- Mahogany Neck
ESP, an acronym for Electronic Sound Products, is a Japanese guitar company that was founded in 1975. They’re best known for their heavy metal and hard rock guitars, which are used by some of the biggest names, including Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield, and George Lynch.
ESP also makes a wide range of other guitars, including acoustic guitars, basses, and even ukuleles, under the Takamine brand. They’re known for their high quality and attention to detail, and musicians of all genres use their instruments, especially those in metal bands.
Many people get their first taste of ESP guitars through their LTD line of guitars, which are affordable and sometimes consist of budget versions of signature guitars, such as those of the artists mentioned above.
In the Japanese market, ESP also has another subsidiary, Edwards Guitars, which makes very high-quality instruments at more reasonable prices than the true ESPs, especially the Japanese-exclusive models. Unfortunately, these guitars are tough to find in the United States and other Western countries and usually must be imported, which comes with more fees.
- Offers guitar players an affordable way to get Kirk Hammett’s vibe
- Has a basswood body with a maple neck and a rosewood fingerboard
- Comes equipped with a Floyd Rose Special bridge and locking nut
- Offers a fast, extra thin U-shaped maple bolt-on neck, 24 extra jumbo frets and Kirk’s skull-and-bones inlays
- Driven by ESP-designed LH-301 pickups
Caparison is a modern Japanese guitar company that was founded in 1997. They’re known for their unique, classy, and innovative designs, which combine elements of newer and older guitars.
As a much younger brand than the others, it’s outstanding how quickly the Caparison brand caught on by the mid-2000s and has had a roster of very well-known artists under its belt.
Some of their most popular models include the Dellinger, the Horus, the Applehorn, and the TAT, and they have been notably utilized by guitarists like Michael Romeo, Andy LaRoque, Olof Morck, and Adam D., Joel Stroetzel, and Mattias Eklundh.
Caparison makes beautiful instruments, but they usually come with a hefty price tag compared to these other brands, but it definitely reflects their fine craftsmanship. One part of me wishes that they had more affordable guitars, but the other understands and respects their reputation as a hand-made Japanese guitar brand with extremely high standards.
There are countless great Japanese guitar brands out there, each with its own unique history and style, and in this article, we’ve looked at some of the best and most well-known ones, including Ibanez, Yamaha, ESP, Fender Japan, and Caparison, and hopefully, you now understand why they’ve earned their place as the top guitar brands from Japan.
While many of these brands often compete, they have their own strengths and can bring something different to the table. Because of this, there’s definitely a Japanese guitar out there for everyone. Thanks for reading, and I hope this has given you some ideas on what your next guitar could be!