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Where to Buy a Used Guitar in Japan

November 18, 2019

First, I believe an explanation is in order. The whole "used" or "secondhand" scene in Japan is vastly different from the one in the US. In general, shops in Japan are very meticulous about an item's condition. So if you hand a guitar pawn shop your guitar to try and sell or donate, they may not take it due to not meeting their quality standards. If they do, though, they'll usually clean it up before resale, which may also include some repairs, and then they'll put it up for sale at a typically high price (comparatively to US used pricing).

This is normal out here. (And not only guitars, but this applies to many different forms of thrift shops or secondhand stores, too.) Out in the States, we have our Goodwills and Salvation Armies, where I've found $10 guitars. You won't be finding $10 guitars in Japan. But if you look long and hard and aren't picky or unwilling to play something a little more beat-up or weathered, then you may be able to find them cheaper than you'd expect.

Keep in mind that Japan is also a very brand-attentive country, so even if two guitars are pretty much identical, just having a specific brand name (i.e. "Gibson", "Martin & Co", "Ibanez", or other imported brand names) can also make the price jump up.

There are three basic levels I've seen of used-ness for used guitars in Japan (acoustic or electric):

1. "New" guitars

These are brand-new. 'Nuff said.

2. "Used" guitars (中古品 chuukohin used)

These have been cleaned and have had maintenance done before resell.

3. "Junk" guitars (JUNK品 jyanku hin junk)

These have not been cleaned and typically have some kind of issue (like a warped neck or broken strings). If you're buying, these usually have no warranty guarantees, and can't be bought with coupons or addition discounts. Also, I hate calling these "junk", but here we are, living in a picky consumer society...

With comparison time and Japanese cultural lesson time over, let the used guitar store recommendations begin.

I've been to multiple guitar shops all around the Osaka area. Ishibashi Gakki, Watanabe Gakki, Miki Gakki, Umeda Nakai Gakki, ESP Custom Shop, Shimamura Gakki, and a bunch of other stores I just don't remember the names of (it was a long day of guitar-hunting). But my personal favorites, and the ones I think you should absolutely check out if you're looking for cheaper, quality finds are...

1. Ishibashi Gakki link

I'd recommend Ishibashi first because of its massive selection. Back when I was doing my guitar hunt, I was searching for a "JUNK品 jyanku hin" guitar, and surprisingly, they had a lot to choose from. They are a chain store, with some branches bigger than others. The link I've provided you with (the one in Umeda, Osaka) has always had a lot of great finds, but there's also one in Americamura that also carries "junk" ones, too.

2. ESP Custom Shop link

This place is great for newer guitars. Couldn't find anything used under 12,000en, but still a nice selection for being such a small store. They also pride themselves on custom-made guitars and host guitar-making classes, which is super cool to see. ESP Guitar Craft Academy of Osaka Instagram linkie.

3. Book Off / Hard Off

You really never know what you're going to find in a Book Off. (Kind of like Goodwill, you just never know.) If you're in Osaka, there's a Book Off Plus that's in Namba, where I've found some used electric guitars before. Cheapest one I could find (and cutest, omg look at that super cute pink one) was 5,980en (around $60). Although Book Off itself doesn't have a very huge selection of instruments, their counterpart, Hard Off does. Link included for your viewing pleasure.

And with that, happy hunting, my fellow musicians!


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