Teisco – History

(By Jimmy Noise / Oct 2014)








The foundations of Teisco started before world war two in Japan. It began with a musician by the name of Hiroyoshi Hashimoto. Al though he was not the founder of the company, it his determination that would cause the company to become one of the great Japanese guitar builders during the 1960’s.


It all started was Hiroyoshi Hashimoto wanting to play the Hawaiian guitar, but these types of instruments were expensive and difficult to find in Japan. Hiroyoshi Hashimoto decides to build his own Hawaiian guitar. His friend Mitsuo Matsuki’s uncle owned a timber company. So Hiroyoshi Hashimoto approached him to make a timber body for a Hawaiian guitar. He then took it home and completed the guitar by himself. He bought a magnet and hand wound a coil. He placed these parts onto the wooden body. Then, he started to play it.


He made the lap steel to play in a band with Bucky and Dick Mine (real name: Tokuichi Mine - a popular Japanese singer and actor). They would perform at a dance hall in Ginza, Tokyo. The Hawaiian style music and jazz was popular in Japan amongst the youth.



However, on December 8th, 1941, the Japanese armed forces attacked Parl Harbour in Hawaii. This saw Japan enter the World War II. The war caused the situation in Japan to change. The use of English was banned. Western Music like Hawaiian and Jazz were not permitted to be played. Hiroyoshi Hashimoto was also conscripted into the Japanese army as a soldier and sent to fight on the battlefield.


On August 15th, 1945, the war ended.  The U.S. army occupied Japan and the country was controlled by the U.S. army head, Douglas MacArthur. After the war, the Allied forces occupation Japan from 1945 to 1952. This provided a new incentive for Japanese musicians to emerge. The western styles of music that had been band during the war were now able to be played.



There were thousands of American troops stationed in Japan who were eager to hear the music they listened to back home.  There were musicians among them, but there weren't enough for to form full size bands. So they would hire local Japanese musicians.  Army trucks would drive up to train stations or places where musicians were known to hang out, and say, “OK, we need a couple clarinets, a trombone and a drummer”. People would pile in and then they'd go to play the gig. During the American occupation, there was a lot of widespread unemployment, but musicians did pretty well because they could get these gigs for the US soldiers.


This is when Hiroyoshi Hashimoto meets up with Mitsuo Kaneko. He also had made his own Hawaiian guitar with his own pickup. They had a lot in common and together they started a band with Mitsuo Matsuki and Konosuke Hamaguchi (a composer).







One day Hiroyoshi Hashimoto and Mitsuo Kaneko went to visit a Company called Fuji Onkyo Corporation, a famous microphone manufacturing company in Japan at the time. The company started as an electronics research laboratory for the Japanese Army. After the Second World War the laboratory became Fuji Onkyo Corporation. They meet with Doryu Matsuda and Tomizo Matsumoto. Hiroyoshi Hashimoto and Mitsuo Kaneko wanted to see about having guitar microphones (pickups) manufactured. As discussion progressed, the men discussed the idea of starting a new business.


In 1948 Doryu Matsuda left Fuji Onkyo Corporation, and established “Arai Onpa Laboratory” (The initial name for the Teisco Company). Minato-ku Tomizo Matsumoto also left Fuji Onkyo Corporation to join Doryu Matsuda. The parents of Mr Matsuda’s wife owned a paint company in Furukawa-bashi, Tokyo. Arai Onpa used the first floor of this factory to start their business.  


During this year Doryu Matsuda proposed to Mitsuo Kaneko to go into business together. Mitsuo Kaneko declined for some unknown reason, but encouraged both Doryu Matsuda and Hiroyoshi Hashimoto to join together. This led to Hiroyoshi Hashimoto joining Arai Onpa Laboratory.


Hiroyoshi Hashimoto was familiar with instruments and had experience of making a Hawaiian guitar and pick-up before. He knew how to calculate the dimension of frets, width of neck etc.. Doryu Matsuda and Tomizo Matsumoto knew nothing about instruments, but did understand electronics and how to make sound. Besides Hiroyoshi Hashimoto nobody else could play a guitar, and had never touched a guitar before. However they may have heard the music made by these instruments.


Soon after Hiroyoshi Hashimoto joined Arai Onpa Laboratory they left the paint factory and set up a new office and factory in Furukawa-bashi. They purchased a building that was previously a boxing gym and converted it into a factory.


Hiroyoshi Hashimoto spoke with Mitsuo Matsuki’s uncle about making guitar bodies for Arai Onpa Laboratory.  He made the first Hawaiian guitar body for Hiroyoshi Hashimoto before the war. Mitsuo Matsuki’s uncle agreed to make the bodies for Arai Onpa Laboratory. Arai Onpa Laboratory was now in the position to start manufacturing Hawaiian guitars using these bodies and the guitar microphones they made themselves. These were the first Teisco brand instruments. 


The Teisco name came from Hiroyoshi Hashimoto’s friend Atswo Kaneko. It was a name that was just made up. It has no meaning and is not an acernumb as often thought. Hiroyoshi Hashimoto thought it was a unique name and thought it sounded good.  The correct pronunciation of Teisco has the “e” pronounced like it is in the word “egg”. This is because Japanese cannot pronounce “ee”. The “e” is shorter sounding and simply, “Teisco”, not “Teeisco”.


As sales went up, Mitsuo Matsuki’s uncle became bored just making the guitar body. He wanted to start making his own electric guitar.  Mitsuo Matsuki’s uncle would later build a factory in Shinohashi, and start manufacturing Hawaiian guitars using the Guyatone name.


After that, Hiroyoshi Hashimoto asked two different wood working companies to make the Hawaiian guitar body.  These companies were commercial wood working companies and would have never built a guitar before. They may be cabinetry workers etc.. Not musical instrument makers. This was the beginning of the industry in Japan, so it was all new. Shortly after this, Hiroyoshi Hashimoto only asked Toban-Mokko in Shinohashi, (one bus stop away from Furukawa-bashi) to make the Hawaiian guitar bodies.


At this time in Japan, Jazz and Hawaiian music became even more popular than before the war.  More people wanted western style instruments. Teisco and Guyatone had begun to make Hawaiian guitars that created the opportunity for the Japanese people to own such instruments. A lot of the business that Teisco had was from the American soldiers stationed in the army bases in Japan. The electric guitar was still an unknown instrument for ordinary people in Japan.


By 1950, the Hawaiian guitar market had stabilised. The Teisco brand had became known by the people of Japan. Arai Ompa had grown to a point were they were in a position to expand into a new market. Jazz guitars with a pick up became much more popular around this time. And this was going to be the next development. Teisco started to make “Guitar Mikes” or pickups as they are referred to today. These were designed to fit on jazz guitars. An example of these can be seen on the Kiso Guitar below. It’s unknown if there was an arrangement between Kiso and Arai Ompa, to supply the pickup or if it was installed at a later date. Kiso did have a link to Suzuki, but is not yet fully documented how the two brands are connected.






To expand further into the jazz guitar market, Hiroyoshi Hashimoto wanted to make an agreement between a guitar manufacturer, where Arai Ompa would supply the electronics. Hiroyoshi Hashimoto visited Nippon Gakki (Yamaha) and Shinko-Shoji, to find a suitable company to make the wooded guitar for Arai Ompa. Hiroyoshi Hashimoto decided to do business with Mr Iwata, the president of Shinko-Shoji. They were a Jazz / archtop guitar builder and used the brand name Nardan on their instruments. Arai Ompa would build the pickup and electronics to install on the archtop guitar. The guitar would then be sold as a complete unit.


Arai Ompa’s guitars mikes had the Teisco brand name marked on them. (On the pickup, on the cord, etc…) This meant that if the pickups were used on other guitars, then the Teisco name was still getting exposure. This was the case with the Nardan guitar pictured below. The pickup has a Teisco sticker on it.


Nardan Logo

Nardan Guitar with Teisco brand pickup.


Between 1950 and 1953 a company called Orient Shoji in Ginza would export the Nardan guitars to Korea. There they would be sold to US Soldiers based in Korea for the Korean War. There was no other source of guitars in Korea and this provided a great opportunity for Arai Ompa / Shinko-Shoji, to provide them. Some of these guitars would then find their way back to the USA. During this time, Arai Ompa was able to expand. The demand in Korea was a mini boom. The domestic market was still developing and Arai Ompa may have struggled to enter the Jazz Guitar market, with out the exports to Korea.


Hiroyoshi Hashimoto travelled to all corners of Japan to promote the electric guitar. Electric guitars were an unfamiliar instrument at that time. He would take a guitar and amplifier and play in the snow, walking around so people could see a guitar. Hiroyoshi Hashimoto created great appeal for the electric guitar to the Japanese people. People could not believe how sound was produced from an amplifier. Hiroyoshi Hashimoto generated guitar popularity with steady effort which would lead to an electric guitar boom in Japan during the 1960’s.



In 1952 Arai Ompa Co. produced the first guitar with the Teisco Logo. The model was the EO-180. It was a Spanish acoustic guitar fitted with a guitar mike (Pickup). The wooden body and neck would have been built by different company, most likely Shinko-Shoji. The guitar would then be fitted out with electronic by Arai Ompa.


By the end of 1952, the post war US occupation of Japan would end. The US bases would close and the soldiers would return home. Some of them would take back Teisco instruments that they purchased while being stationed in Japan.










Another event would occur in 1952 which would shape the future of Arai Ompa Co.  Hiroyoshi Hashimoto saw a performer by the name of Noboru Arai play a guitar called the Gibson Les Paul on stage. At that time, this was only one Gibson Les Paul guitar in Japan. Hiroyoshi  Hashimoto invited Noboru Arai to visit his factory and play the guitar there so the rest of the company could hear first hand how the guitar sounded. Mr Arai and Hiroyoshi Hashimoto were friends, so he could borrow it to study. He was so fascinated with the guitar that he started to do heavy research on it. Hiroyoshi Hashimoto decided that he would design a guitar like this.









By 1953 Teisco had its own range of jazz guitars. These had the Teisco brand name on them. The guitars were still built by Shinko-Shoji and the electronics were installed by Arai Ompa Co. But the instruments now had the Teisco name on them. It’s assumed that the models available at this time were the EP, EP-2, EP-3, EP-4, EP-5 and EP-6. Shinko-Shoji had now become a sub-contractor to Arai Ompa Co. Arai Ompa Co. was still also manufacturing Hawaiian guitars and jazz guitars mikes. 


In 1954, Arai Ompa Co. made their first solid electric guitar, the TG-54. It was modelled after the 1952 Les Paul that Noboru Arai owned. A lot of effort went into the design. The sound of the TG-54, sounds quite similar to that of the Gibson Les Paul. Yutaka Hikita was one of the engineers that contributed to the development of the TG-54 pickup. He would later leave Arai Ompa Co. in 1964, to establish a pickup company.


After the development of the TG-54, Arai Ompa Co. started to make a lot of solid body guitars. Models such as the T-57 (a guitar for junior players) and the J-1 to J-5 (other solid guitar models). The models changed a lot around this time, and many prototypes were made.







By 1954 Teisco had been in business for 6 years. It had grown to become one of the major manufactures in Japan of Hawain guitars, Jazz Guitars, Solid body Guitars and amplifiers. The picture to the left dates to around 1954. It was provided by Yutaka Hitsuda, who was in charge of engineering at Arai-Ompa.


This photo was taken in front of Arai Ompa factory, which was converted from a boxing gymnasium.. You can see the Arai signboard at the back above the door. On the right hand side of the photo there is the TEISCO logo.


The people in the photo are the key people at Teisco at this time. Hiroyoshi Hashimoto is on the very right raising his arm. Doryu Matsumoto is sitting on the car next to Hashimoto.

Yutaka Hitsuda is at the back on the left, holding a Hawaiian guitar.


There are two big guitars in this photo. Both guitars were made by Narudan. The big guitar in the front has a position mark in the 10th fret. The Fiat (car) was owned by Hiroyoshi Hashimoto.


In 1955, Arai Ompa Co. officially changed its name to Nippon Onpa Kogyo Co. Ltd (Japan Soundwave Industry). Initially when the company was set up, the tax office said instrument companies had to pay a lot of tax. The tax office explained what commodity tax was. It did not exist before. So they registered as a laboratory. However if their sales went to high, they would have to pay more tax. Initially, they tried to not to make lots of guitars, and use laboratory. But by 1955 it was time to change into a Corporation.


This is the time in America when rock and roll was in. Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, and the likes of Little Richard were very popular. In Japan, Hirao Masa-Aki debuted as a guitar player and singer. He created the “Rockabilly” boom in Japan with Mickey Curtis and Keijiro Yamashita (both guitar players and singers). Amateur bands around the country started to play country and Rockabilly music more and more. Then, society gradually got into Rock and Roll music. This started the demand for electric guitars to increase. Then, the electric guitar boom started in Japan.


In 1958 Nippon Onpa Kogyo moved to Tokyo. It was around this time some of the first known exports to the US occurred. These were by a gentleman called Mr. Rose. He purchased Teisco instruments and supplied them to various pawnbrokers. (It’s speculated that these may have been branded Teisco) No more is known about this.


In 1959 the company had partnered with Bill Barnett & Jack Westheimer and begun to supply guitars to Westheimer Sales, whom supplied them to various distributors across the USA. During this time Jack Westheimer guided and influenced Teisco to improve the quality of its guitars. When ever one of them would travel to Japan, they would take a couple American built guitars with them, to give to them for ideas. The imported guitars carried the Teisco brand name and possibly some other alternative names. It’s believed that they were the exclusive importer in the US of the Teisco brand until 1963. There were other companies that also purchased Teisco built guitars, but used different brand names on their guitars.


By the late 50’s Teisco had established connections in the US to export their guitars. Brand names like Mellowtone and Feather were used by the US distributors. These brands ceased in the early 60’s.


Up to this point, the body of Hawaiian guitars and solid guitars were made by various timber (wood work) companies. These wooden bodies went to painting professionals for creative paint jobs. Then, Nippon Onpa Kogyo assembled guitars with its painted wooden body. At that time, wood work professionals were faced with a big challenge because their main job was making furniture. Being asked to make fine wooden bodies for musical instruments was not easy; however the quality they produced was excellent, despite having no previous experience making them. Hiroyoshi Hashimoto encouraged them make Semi-acoustic guitars. He tried to touch their professional honour. They managed to do it. However they could not make a lot. So an alternative solution needed to be found for Nippon Onpa Kogyo to expand.


In 1960 saw the introduction of the T-60 model. This had a hole in the headstock and hole on the body as a grip. Around this time, Nippon Onpa Kogyo stopped doing business with Shinko-Shoji (Narudan). After that TEISCO started to take the jazz guitar bodies & necks from a company called Maruha in Kyusyu.


In May 1960, the Fujigen factory in Nagano was started. The founders were Yutamka Mimura and Yuichiro Yokouchi. Initially, Fujigen made classic guitars, but around the 1961, they wanted to expand their business making electric guitars as well. Hiroyoshi Hashimoto meets with the owners of Fuji-gen and discussed the idea of Fuji-gen being a subcontractor to Nippon Onpa Kogyo. They approached Doryu Matsuda about the idea and to seek his approval. He accepted and Fujigen then became a supplier to Nippon Onpa Kogyo.


Fujigen took orders from Nippon Onpa Kogyo and became one of their main suppliers. Yuichiro Yokouchi received the first order for the EB-1 & EB-2 base guitars. These are 1 pickup and 2 pickup models. It had a nice smooth shape. They also made the EP-8 (and possibly the EP-9) models. These were semi-acoustic models. Nippon Onpa Kogyo trained Fujigen on how they wanted their electric guitars made. The factory supervisor at Fujigen, Tadashi Maruyama, took all the details from Nippon Onpa Kogyo.


By 1961 Fujigen later experienced a problem during the manufacturing of the guitars. The wooden body didn’t dry out properly, which caused the neck to shrink a little. There were also some defect dimensions. Hiroyoshi Hashimoto had complained to them about his concerns with the quality of their products. The Fujigen’s factory supervisor Tadashi Maruyama discussed these problems with Hiroyoshi Hashimoto and Doryu Matsuda. During the course of their discussions, the two heads got along well and even strengthened their business relationship over time. Then one day, Doryu Matsuda offered Tadashi Maruyama a proposition. He encouraged Maruyama to run his own guitar making factory under the umbrella of Nippon Onpa Kogyo. The new factory was called TEISCO Gengakki (“Gen” meaning string, and “gakki” meaning instrument). Nippon Onpa Kogyo helped provide the initial capital for the foundation of course. But Teisco Gengakki was set up as a separate company to Nippon Onpa Kogyo. They went to Toyoshina in Nagano Prefecture to see the potential land area for the factory. The frame was built and the machinery was brought. The paint process was set up as well. Nippon Onpa Kogyo was so relieved because they would soon no longer need to obtain the wood working from Fujigen.   


Around this time, semi-acoustic guitars were in high demand. As a result, production was unable to meet the endless orders. So, Nippon Onpa Kogyo asked a few suppliers to help make the guitar body these included: Maruhagakki; other wooden furniture makers; Narudan, Maruha; and Fujigen. It was becoming more difficult to secure suppliers for the wood working.


Around 1961/1962 Teisco began to export guitars to Gar-Zim Musical Instrument Corporation in Brooklyn, New York, using the brand name Zim-Gar. The company was owned by Larry Zimmerman. It’s not known if Gar-Zim was in direct contact with Teisco or if there was a third party involved. The majority of Zim-Gar branded instruments had different model numbers to those used on Teisco branded models. But the guitars were the same. Gar-Zim ceased importing Teiscos by 1964. The reason why they stopped was unknown. They started to import from other manufactures.


In 1962, TEISCO Gengakki started to mass produce the woodworking for the guitars. Now that TEISCO Gengakki was in operation, the relationship with the other suppliers, including Fujigen would end. TEISCO Gengakki made the body, the neck, and painted the guitar. After that, the guitar was sent to the NIPPON ONPA KOGYO factory to be completed and ready for sale. They also started to make electric organs and wireless systems for instruments.  Nippon Onpa Kogyo started to expand its range of new solid body electric guitars.


Photos from the Teisco Gen Gengakki factory.















The Ventures band had become very popular. Their music had greatly influenced the desire for electric instruments. This was the start of the electric guitar boom. Guitars were selling very well, with solid body guitars being the main type of instrument sold during this time.


Around 1962-63 the heads of Teisco visited America. They meet with meet with Bill Barnett & Jack Westheimer of Westheimer Sales. They came to discuss several things that they wanted. Nippon Onpa Kogyo wanted to expand their business stake in the US and wanted to supply the Teisco Brand to more than one distributor in the US. There were some other terms that Teisco wanted from Westheimer that Jack and Bill didn’t believe they could accommodate. As a result of this meeting, it was agreed that WS would continue to import Teiscos; however they didn’t see the point of two companies selling the same name. There fore Westheimer Sales would use the brand name Kingston on their Teiscos that they import.  This name was formally used on drums. These would be the first Kingston branded guitars. During this time Jack began to search to find an alternative suppler to replace Teisco. At this time there were not that many electric solid body guitars builders around. By 1964 they would later cease importing Teiscos and use the Kawai Company.


It was also around 62-63 that Teisco started to supply guitars to Buegeleisen and Jacobson, inc using the Kent Brand. Some of the Teisco solid bodies also appeared in the 1963 Kent Catalogue. They also supplied some semi-acoustic guitars as well. But by 1964 Buegeleisen and Jacobson had decided to exclusively import guitars from Guyatone.


The period between 1961 to the end of 1963 saw Teisco guitars exported to the US using a variety of names to different companies. The two most common US companies that purchased guitars from Teisco during this period were Saint George and Zim-Gar.


The Gemtone brand was sold in Canada.


Brand names supplied to Australia included Supper Twin, Top Forty and Toptone.


In May 1964, the first electric guitar with a built in amplifier and speaker was created, the TRG-1. It featured a gold foil pickup. It was available in two versions, one with a tremolo and one with a hard tail bridge.  It could use the internal amp or plug into an external amp. In this year they released the TG-64, which was a guitar that followed in the footsteps of the T-60. It had a hole in the upper body. (Referred to as a monkey grip) It was Teisco’s flag ship model at the time. 












Mr Hashimoto said there were army barracks located around Teisco’s factory. Military boys would come into Teisco’s shop to browse the guitars. On one incident, some boys stole some guitars from the shop. The TEISCO manager chased the boys to the army camps and caught them. However, on further investigation, the TEISCO manager discovered that these army boys were actually really good at playing the guitar. Despite trying to steal from TEISCO, these army boys were given an opportunity to play the guitar at designated shops selling TEISCO guitars. Music shops in Ikebukuro, Tokyo and Nagoya were just a few of the shops these boys performed demonstrations in. They played strange music, which sound was like TEKETEKETEKE…. It was very interesting for me. In Nagoya, people said it was such a noisy sound, but customers came gradually anyway. Also, I added Japanese translation for their guitar sound when playing American music. It was popular as well and I enjoyed it a lot.  These demonstrations were successful triggering guitar sales to significantly increase. We would travel all over Japan doing these demonstrations with these army boys to promote TEISCO guitars and unfamiliar guitar sounds to the Japanese people.  They would play songs from the Venturers, which were different from Rock’ Roll music. So Venturers music came to us before being famous in Japan.


In October of 1964 Nippon Onpa Kogyo officially changed their name to TEISCO Corporation in order to focus on branding and brand image.


Also, that year, “The Beatles” released their debut album. Their popularity inspired people to learn to play guitar. This increased the growing market for guitar builders. The electric guitar boom was not exclusive to Japan. This boom was also prevalent in America and Europe. Rock’n Roll music and instrumental music was very popular in America and Europe.


In 1965, when The Ventures came to Japan, the electric guitar boom spread all over Japan at a phenomenal rate. Before this, when people talked about electric guitar makers, there was only the TEISCO, Guyatone and Kawai. However, during this boom, other makers started to make electric guitars as well, such as Zen-On, Victor, Columbia, Pleasant and Fuji Gengakki (Nippon Onpa Kogyo’s subcontract company) started to do business in the U.S. too. TEISCO and Guyatone electric guitars were actually very different from the other electric guitars makers, in that the quality and sound was supreme compared to other minor manufactures. Teisco had been in business for 17 years by this time and was well established in the instrument manufacturing industry.


Yamaha also wanted to enter the electric guitar market. Before they could establish the manufacturing of their own guitars, they bought a batch of TB-64s from TEISCO. Yamaha later sold these guitars as their own, YB-64’s. They also ordered the YG-6 model. Other various wood making businesses started to make electric guitars as well. Soon after this, Yamaha would release their own range of electric guitars.




In April 1965, a significant event occurred. TEISCO made a sales contract with an American wholesaler, Weiss Musical Instruments (Later to be renamed WMI Corporation). WMI would become the main distributor of TEISCO guitars for the whole of America. Before this contract, TEISCO had individual contracts with various wholesalers. The WMI partnership allowed TEISCO to export to the U.S. in bulk.


Sylvain Wiendling of WMI created a new brand name for the guitars, “Del Rey”.  The term is Spanish for "of the king”. This was the initial brand on the first guitars imported. The logo was a waterslide or sticker. This soon changed and became “Teisco Del Rey”. From then on, all shipments from Japan to America were rebranded with “Teisco Del Rey”. WMI’s aggressive promotion of TEISCO guitars through magazines resulted in an increase in demand for guitars. This in turn increased the number of guitars Teisco was exporting.


WMI tried to purchase as much stock as possible, which made it difficult for other competitors in the USA to obtain guitars from Teisco. WMI virtually became the exclusive importer of Teisco built instrument and were the exclusive importer of Teisco Del Rey instruments.. 


The photos to the left are from a reception in LA with members of WMI Corporation and Teisco.





WMI supplied various outlets across the USA and Canada with Teisco Del Rey Instruments. These included K-mart and Bennett Brothers. WMI was also able to negotiate a contract to supply Teisco guitars to Sears, which had the Silvertone brand. These were the first imported solid body guitars sold by Sears.


During 1965 TEISCO sponsored a movie called “Ereki no Wakadaishō”. This translates to “The Young Stars of Electric Guitars”. The leading roll was played by Yuzo Kayama. During the film he was filmed playing an electric guitar. Yuzo Kayama became the new face for the electric guitar in Japan. All the cast members were supplied with TEISCO instruments and amplifiers. The Teisco logo was placed every where possible, even on the drum set, even tho Teisco didn’t supply drums at this time.


During the movie there is a battle of the bands contest. They performed the song “Black Sand Beach”.You can see the full clip here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vf6OIJTIZn4



Teisco also promoted the brand through TV programs and other media opportunities. TEISCO held guitar playing contests. Japanese Television programs like "Go! Go! Go!" broadcast these contents. They were similar to "Hullaballoo." Many people would play music from The Ventures. Hiroyoshi Hashimoto appeared on the program to present the winner the prize.

This was the peek era of the electric guitar boom in Japan. Electric guitar sales did very well during this time. It was said that anything that was in the shape of a guitar or resembled a guitar, would sell well.








In addition, TEISCO expanded heavily in Europe. They made a sales contract with BSS Wholesalers in Denmark and used this as a base point. From there they expanded and Teisco’s guitars were sold in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands and Germany. The picture to the left is from a music store in Denmark that sold Teiscos, as well as other Japanese guitars.


During this time, Hiroyoshi Hashimoto did guitar designs for sales to the overseas market. He needed to focus more on sales though, so he employed a guitar designer by the name of Hiroshi Kitagawa. Guitars made after 1965 have a distinctively different design than previous models. The electric guitar boom reached its peak in 1965. TEISCO guitars were doing really well, but one incident significantly damaged the electric guitar boom in Japan.




In October of 1965, the educational committee in Tochigi prefecture (northern Japan), banned electric guitars because they were just too popular causing a lot of pressure for many parents. Parents thought electric guitars were a symbol of delinquency. So, electric guitars were no longer allowed for minors. It is hard for current society to understand what happened then and why, but this incident actually resulted in a national-wide ban of all electric guitars for minors. It caused sales to drop and the electric guitar boom to end in Japan overnight. As a result, some manufacturers went bust. TEISCO survived. On television, electric guitar players were considered outlaws. With a few electric guitar players known to do drugs, only added fuel to the fire. In addition, many schools banned electric guitars.


Hiroyoshi Hashimoto said; “The boom was gone since that time. On TV, Ryuho Hosokawa said “THE ELECTRIC GUITAR WOLUD DAMAGE JAPAN.” Electric guitar was like a symbol of bad people. There were some guys with drug and electric guitar. After that school banned electric guitar.”


Although the electric guitar boom was over in Japan, TEISCO built a new factory in Okegawa city, Saitama prefecture in 1966. This factory had reinforced concrete, air-conditioning, the newest facilities and features available. It had 20,000 square meters of floor space.  Also, the head office moved to Mita Minato-ku Tokyo. In that year, TEISCO made a new product line-up: K-series, Spectrum 5, V-series and SM-2L. However, sales of these guitars were not good, reaching only half of the previous year. Also, the overseas electric guitar boom started to subside, causing overseas exports to decline significantly.


In 1966, The Beatles came to Japan. The leader of the music world changed from The Ventures to The Beatles. The Beatles popularity peeked and changed the music industry. British beat and vocal groups influenced by The Beatles, started forming and became increasingly popular. Music preferences changed from the solid electric guitar to more British “Pop” music with semi acoustic style electric guitars. This caused a decrease in popularity of solid body guitars. 


TEISCO meet the challenge with to new high class Semi-acoustic electric guitars. These being the Vegas 40 and Vegas 66. However, the sales of these models were not good.  Teisco continued to make a lot of guitars, but the situation was getting really bad. Production was greater than the demand and guitars had to be stored in a warehouse in Okegawa. It soon became full of guitars that were ready to be sold.


During the guitar boom electronic shops that sold stereos and radios, were selling guitars. Since the electric guitar used an amplifier, it seemed to fit into the product range of electronic dealers. Before this musical instrument shops sold instruments and electronic shops sold electric products. But this changed by 1966 and electronic shops stopped selling guitars and amplifiers due to the declining popularity of the electric guitar.


In December 1966, due to poor sales and the excess stock that had accumulated, Teisco’s business was in jeopardy. TEISCO went bankrupt in January of 1967. The company was bought out by Kawai Gakki (A competitor in the guitar industry).


Kawai was founded in 1927 by Koichi Kawai in Hamamatsu, Japan. Kawai started guitar manufacturing around 1954 and eventually became a significant player in the 1960s Guitar Boom. Kawai was previously one of Teisco major competitors. By acquiring the Teisco Company, Kawai now had contracts with the two largest guitar distributors in the US, those being Westheimer Sales and WMI Corporation.


After TEISCO was taken over by Kawai Gakki, the company name was changed to TEISCO Shoji (a commercial company), in Hamamatsu. This occurred in the early part of 1967. The TEISCO factory in Saitama prefecture continued their business under the Kawai Gakki umbrella. Hiroyoshi Hashimoto remained at TEISCO, as a guitar designer.


A lot of the designers and builders left Teisco due to the changes and went to join other companies. Some even started their own company. Examples of these new companies that were;

·       Fisrtman – Later to become Mosrite Japan.

·       Idol

·       Honey


These new companies used similar styles to Teisco and are often confused with Teisco built guitars. They even sourced parts from the same suppliers and may have even sources parts from Kawai/Teisco its self.


Originally, TEISCO Gengakki received orders from TEISCO. But after TEISCO was bought over by Kawai Gakki, these two companies were under different management. Being a separate company, TEISCO Gengakki did not join the Kawai Gakki group. TEISCO Gengakki then started to make guitar bodies for TEISCO Shoji and other companies.


The office of TEISCO Shoji was in the Kawai head office in Hamamatsu. However, it did not work well because the factory was in Okegawa, and body was made in TEISCO Gengakki in Matsumoto. The factories were too far away from each other.  The decision was made for Kawai to make the body and neck for TEISCO Shoji. TEISCO Shoji coordinated the workload of the factories by product type being manufactured.


Now that Teisco shoji was sourcing wood working from Kawai. TEISCO Gengakki’s main customer started reducing their orders. TEISCO Gengakki was already suppling other companies like Honey and Fisrtman, but these orders were much smaller compared to Teisco Shoji. To try and maintain production levels, TEISCO Gengakki started to make the whole guitar in July 1968. The new brand was called the Excetro.


During 1967, group bands started to boom. The Wild Ones, The Tigers and The Blue Comets were gaining popularity. The guitar business was gradually becoming more active. It was like the second wave of the electric guitar boom came. Hiroyoshi Hashimoto organised electric guitar contest by radio, not on TV. They produced wonderful guitars but it was not good as the time before the Kawai take over.


TEISCO Shoji had to appeal to the customers again to identify TEISCO brand again. This was done by developing a new product line. The first of line-up of new products was the FB-2. It was based on the design of the violin bass used by The Beatles. Another model was the DG-67. This was a solid body guitar. TEISCO Shoji continued to sell the Vegas series and most solid guitar models that were stored in the Okegawa warehouse. Hiroyoshi Hashimoto’s efforts produced good sales for TEISCO Shoji, and people started to acknowledge the value of the TEISCO brand.


In 1967 the guitar boom in the US was fading. There were sufficient guitars to meet the need of the market. Prior to this, if you wanted a guitar you had to buy a new one. Now that people had electric guitars for a few years they became more readily available second hand. This reduced the need to buy a new guitar. So the guitar market changed. This affected all guitar builders in the US and Japan. This led to many guitar manufacturers being forced to close down.


In mid 1967, TEISCO Shoji released the “Spectrum 22”. TEISCO Shoji was still continuing to produce high quality guitars for the professional player.


In January of 1968, TEISCO Shoji started to sell two kinds of semi-acoustic guitars. One was called “May Queen”, and the other one was called “Vamper”. These models were exported to the US with the Kimberly brand. Before this Kawai was suppling the Kimberly brand with there own guitars, but this changed and they started to supply guitars from TEISCO Shoji to Kimberly.


In mid 1968, a guitar and bass called the “Firebird” was created. It featured a wildly large designed body. The “Phantom” was also made with a long horn character. The “Michelle 26” was the first electric acoustic guitar made by TEISCO Shoji, in conjunction with TEISCO Gengakki.


In January 1969, the second guitar boom started to fade. This boom was started with The Beatles, when they released their new song called “Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. Now Jimmy Hendrix appeared as the new hero of music and outdoor festivals were popular. This represented the hippy culture. In addition, the Vietnam War caused many people to be against war. Folk songs against the war were very popular. Acoustic guitars became much more popular due to these sorts of songs. Because electric guitars didn’t sell very well, Japanese guitar makers, such as Guyatone, Honey, First Man and Idol Instruments were forced to close down.


TEISCO Shoji was still able to release two new products: EV-49T and EV-52T, which had an onboard active graphic equalizer. TEISCO Shoji didn’t show any improvements in sales after the release of the “EV” models. These were the last guitar models designed by Hiroyoshi Hashimoto.


In 1969, WMI had TEISCO Shoji start to supply guitars with the brand name Kay. WMI had purchased the rights to the brand name Kay in 1968, when Kay went bankrupt. WMI wanted to use this name on the guitars that they were importing, with the aim of phasing out the Teisco Del Rey name. 


In 1970, Kawai Gakki changed its company structure. TEISCO Shoji became a part of TEISCO Corporation, a subsidiary of Kawai Gakki. Hiroyoshi Hashimoto moved to the Tokyo (Shinjuku) office and visited the Okegawa factory in Saitama about two or three times a week. TEISCO started to focus more on keyboards around this time. In the Okegawa factory, keyboards were being manufactured such as the Teschord, Dreamatone, and the Power Amp. Hiroyoshi Hashimoto retired from TEISCO during this year.


TEISCO Corp. continued operations after Hiroyoshi Hashimoto’s retirement, and to this day, Okegawa factory is still in operation. However, after Hiroyoshi Hashimoto’s departure, TEISCO Corp. stopped their guitar business altogether. After 21 years of manufacturing strings instruments, Teisco Corp. no longer produced guitars. However this was not the end of the Teisco branded guitars.


It’s speculated that the last guitars built by TEISCO Corp were guitars pieced together from all the left over parts at the Teisco factory. These are often referred to as Kawai parts guitars. They usually contain mid to late 1960’s guitar bodies with early or late 1960’s parts. There was not many of these made and were only sold in Japan.


After Hiroyoshi Hashimoto’s departure Kawai changed the approach for Teisco branded instruments. The Teisco branded instruments would now be fully built in the Kawai factory. The range of existing Teisco models was reduced and the guitars available were changing to reduce manufacturing costs. Only the best selling models like the EP-8T and tulips were continued.


Kawai looked at the trending market and decided that they would not try to compete in the high end market, as Teisco Shoji was previously doing. Up to this point Teisco Shoji was designing some of the most interesting guitars of it’s time. There was a great pride in these guitars. But by the end of 1969, these types of designs were stopped. The more conventional style guitar models were continued and the more bizarre ones were deleted. From this point the new designs for Teisco branded guitars were focused on beginner level instruments. The new Kawai designed models were more like the Fender style guitars, but with the traditional Teisco style electronics and features. These included the ET-220 and ET-440.


The next significant blow to the Japanese guitar industry occurred in 1971.  But this story started just after WW2 when the US government established a fixed exchange rate with the Japanese Yen. This was done to help re-build the Japanese economy. In the mid 60’s this exchange rate was about 360Yen to one US Dollar. However in 1971 when President Nixon decides that the Japanese Yen shall be floated as the US economy could no longer subsidise the Japanese Yen, the exchange rate dropped overnight to about 230 Yen to one US Dollar. This caused an approximate 56% price increase on exported products.


A lot of guitar manufacturing left Japan due to increase costs. Most went to Korea. Kawai moved its Teisco and Kay guitar manufacturing to Taiwan. It had acquired a factory there during the mid 1960’s. The designs are almost identical to previous Teisco models that Kawai produced. However the range of guitars was significantly reduced.


With the learner range of models now being made in Taiwan, Kawai decided that Teisco would compete with other guitar manufactures by producing lawsuit era copies of Fenders and Gibson’s. These all carry the Teisco brand and were sold in Japan.


The construction of these guitars consisted of plywood bodies and neck. All other Japanese manufactures were making solid body guitars with one piece necks and 1 to 3 piece bodies. So the guitars built were not of the same standard as other Japanese manufactures. The production of the Teisco branded guitars ceased around 1974. At this point the Teisco brand name on guitars and basses would disappear for 25 years.


Teisco Corp. still used the Teisco brand name for professional sound equipment like mixers and PA amplifiers etc. This was only marketed in Japan. This continued into the early eighties, when Kawai stoped producing PA equipment. It was also used on Keyboards and synthesisers until the early 1980’s.



In 1999 the Kawai Company reissued popular Teisco models from the 1960’s. These were only released in Japan. They were made for 1999 and 2000 before being discontinued.




1999 Teisco Re-Issue Catalogue


2000 Teisco Re-Issue Catalogue




The Teisco Factory



The Teisco factory in the 1960s

The demolition of the Teisco factory (1970’s / 80s??)


The Teisco factory site in 2013





The Original Teisco Factory sign was saved.









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(Last Revised: 29th of Oct 2014.)


© 2013 MAI Music Publications