Fender Japan, Ltd. was the joint-venture between Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, Kanda Shokai (神田商会) and Yamano Gakki (山野楽器) which operated the Japanese business of Fender musical instruments from 1982 to 2015. The venture involved the domestic production and sale of Fender instruments for the Japanese market.
The venture ended on March 31, 2015 and Fender itself, through its company Fender Music Corporation (Japan), took over the Japanese business effective April 1, 2015 with Fender-manufactured product line. The Japanese-made Fender guitars sold by Fender Music Corporation (Japan) have since been categorized as the "Japan Exclusive" series.
In the late 1970s, Fender was facing competition from lower priced Japanese-made guitars. The higher priced Fender guitars were made in the United States and could not compete with the lower prices of Japanese-made Fender copies. In Japan, Fender was also losing sales to Japanese guitar brands such as Tōkai, Greco and Fernandes. Since Japanese labor and production costs were much lower than in America and to compete with the Japanese made guitars, Fender moved the lower priced Fender guitar production from America to Japan. Fender began negotiations with several Japanese musical instrument distributors.
In March 1982, Fender Japan, Ltd. was officially established as a joint-venture between Fender, Kanda Shokai (神田商会) and Yamano Gakki (山野楽器).
Kanda Shokai is a musical instrument wholesaler with no retail outlets of its own. It also owns the Greco brand name and one of the conditions in the Fender Japan agreement was for Kanda Shokai cease production of its Greco Fender copies. Yamano is a musical instrument wholesaler/retailer with its own retail outlets and was once a part of Orville by Gibson venture. These two companies do not manufacture guitars, they order them from Japanese guitar factories and distribute them through retail outlets. Yamano distributes through its own retail outlets and also various other retail outlets, while Kanda Shokai distributes through various retail outlets, including the Ishibashi chain of music stores in Japan.
At the beginning of Fender Japan venture, Tokai was seriously being considered as the manufacturer, but after a breakdown in negotiations, FujiGen Gakki was chosen instead. Some FujiGen-made Fender Japan models between 1982 and 1996 have necks made by Atlansia.
Tōkai Gakki and Dyna Gakki took over the manufacture of the Fender Japan models in 1996/1997. The Tōkai-made Fender Japan guitars were not exported, but some of the Dyna-made Fender Japan guitars were. Dyna Gakki have made various guitars for Kanda Shokai's Greco brand.
Terada made the Fender Japan acoustic guitars such as the Fender Catalina.
According to a Fender representative, it was stipulated in the Fender Japan contract that if there was a change of manufacturer from FujiGen Gakki to another guitar factory, then the production inscription in the guitar would be changed from "Made in Japan" (MIJ) to "Crafted in Japan" (CIJ). Most of the Japanese-made Fenders up until 1996/1997 were MIJ Fenders.
The first CIJ Fenders started around 1992, when Dyna Gakki (one of Kanda Shokai's main guitar makers) took over some of the production requirements of Fender Japan. This resulted in the CIJ inscription appearing on some Japanese Fenders during this period. Dyna took over because FujiGen was expanding its own factory operations. CIJ was used entirely on Japanese Fenders produced from 1996/1997 until 2015, after Tōkai and Dyna took over the Fender Japan manufacturing contract. The Fender Squier range was also brought in line with the Japanese Fenders at around the same time (1996/1997), with the CIJ inscription being used.
1982: Fender Japan starts production with FujiGen Gakki having the manufacturing contract. The "Made in Japan" (MIJ) logo is used.
1984: CBS sells Fender to its current owners and while waiting for a new USA factory to begin production, Fender Japan models and leftover USA stock were mostly sold in the USA for a few years.
1993: The first "Crafted in Japan" (CIJ) models start appearing due to Dyna Gakki taking over some of the manufacturing while FujiGen Gakki were expanding their operations.
1996/1997: "Crafted in Japan" (CIJ) is used instead of "Made in Japan" (MIJ) because Tōkai Gakki and Dyna Gakki take over the manufacturing contract from FujiGen Gakki.
2015: Fender, Yamano and Kanda Shokai end the Fender Japan joint-venture on March 31, 2015. Fender took over the Japanese business effective April 1, 2015.