Tokai Gakki Co., Ltd. (東海楽器製造株式会社 Tōkai Gakki Seizō Kabushiki-gaisha?), often referred as Tokai Guitars Company Ltd., is a Japanese guitar manufacturer founded in 1947 and situated in Hamamatsu city, Shizuoka prefecture. Tokai have produced acoustic guitars, electric guitars, electric basses, autoharps, and melodicas. Tokai first started making classical guitars in 1965 and started making Hummingbird electric guitars in 1968 and Hummingbird Acoustic guitars in 1970.
Tokai have also made an original introductory line of acoustic Conn Guitars, and acoustic replicas of Gibson and Martin. In late 1970, the Tokai company under contract to Conn, headquartered in Oak Brook, Illinois, launched a new unique line of guitars carrying the Conn brand name. This venture is known to have continued until at least early 1973 (History of Conn Guitars). In 1972 Tokai went into a joint venture with Martin to supply acoustic guitar parts and also to build Martin's solid-body Sigma guitars. In 1973 Tokai started making the "Cat's Eyes" Martin acoustic replicas. In the late 1970s early Fender copies began and were sold mainly in Japan and Europe, such as the ".38 Special" guitar and "Hard Puncher" bass. In 1983 Tokai started making a metal-body guitar called the Talbo which the band Devo played at one time. Tokai have built various Gibson and Fender replica models over the years.
The Tokai "Les Paul Reborn" model started in 1978 and by 1980 Tokai had changed the name from "Les Paul Reborn" first to "Reborn Old" and then to the "Love Rock Model". This was in response to threats from the American companies to go to court to protect their copyrights. Thus these models are generically known as "Lawsuit Guitars". Tokai also made Fender replicas starting in 1977 and Stevie Ray Vaughan played a "Tokai Springy Sound" Stratocaster replica at one time. This guitar was fitted with lipstick pickups and can be seen on the cover of his second studio album Couldn't Stand the Weather. Tokai have their own instrument making factory and have built guitars for well-known brands (OEM). Tokai and Dyna Gakki currently build the Fender Japan solid-body models and have done so since 1997.
The original selling price in Japanese yen is often included in the model number—for example TLS-100 = 100,000 Japanese yen. The higher priced Tokai Gibson replicas have nitrocellulose finishes and long tenon neck joints. Tokai guitars have been made in Japan, Korea and China. Korean production started around the mid-1990s. Tokai guitars made in Korea (MIK) are lower priced guitars, similar to the Korean Epiphone guitars. The MIK (Made in Korea) guitars can be differentiated by the truss rod cover. Japanese guitars have a two-screw truss rod cover whereas the Korean guitars have a three-screw truss rod cover (although some early Korean guitars also have two-screw truss rod covers). The MIK guitars usually have a different Nashville style bridge instead of the usual ABR-1 bridge. Furthermore, MIK Gibson replica guitars usually have a neck made from maple, and the body wood is usually made from either alder, agathis or nato.
Tokai uses a seven-digit serial number usually pressed into the back of the headstock for the Gibson model replicas. Love Rocks use the first digit of the serial number for the year, 10XXXXX=1981 and starting in 1989 Love Rocks use the first two digits for the year, 89XXXXX=1989. Reborn models use only the first digit for the year, 800XXXX = 1978.
There is a major exception to this in that some "Reborn Olds" (very rare) and "Love Rock" models have inked serial numbers on the reverse of the headstock (often referred to as "Inkies"). These guitars are, it is generally agreed, from 1980 (00xxxxx and 01xxxxx) and 1981 (11xxxxx) although there are those who would disagree with this.
It also appears that some of the original 1978 "Les Paul Reborns" have inkied serial numbers
Some MIK Love Rock models have no serial number and simply have "Made In Korea" inked on the back of the headstock. Sometimes the model number may be located under the bridge pickup. MIK Love Rock models identified in this manner include ALS48 and ALS50Q.
The Tokai Fender replicas have a production number serial number that contains no year information.
- Q&A's with Mr. Shohei Adachi, president of Tokai Gakki (October 30, 2005)—Tokai Guitar Registry
- Tokai catalogues.
- Official Tokai Guitar Company homepage (English)