I finally also got the chance to visit Tokyo's famous guitar street, Meidai-dori in Ochanomizu (pronounced something like "Oshanomisu"). Here is a somewhat verbose report of the experience.
The street is very simple to find, as it extends just south of Ochanomizu JR station. A very good link with a map of the area can be found here: Ochanomizu map
- best use Babelfish or so to translate.
What can I say, it is
pretty overwhelming. The street has several small shops that are indeed packed bottom to roof with guitars. But seriously, after a first shock it's not as crazy as it seems. It's about 10 stores in less than half a mile, yes, but it's overseeable after visiting a few times. Still, I am glad I got my own J Custom (a 2007 RG8470F FE) from Rich before the trip, I might have gone mad otherwise
It seemed fun for the store staff when my wife took nerd pictures of me, but it felt uncomfortable standing in a store by myself taking pictures of individual guitars and price tags, so the quality is not always great, I'm sorry.
The shops at Ochanomizu are packed with instruments of all price ranges. Yet, since Japan is a very rich country, expensive luxury guitars are as abundant as nowhere else I've ever been. In some of the shops, the main customer was dressed in suit and tie, which was odd to say the least. Case in point - Yngwie Malmsteen replica, with dedication note from the master himself at the Fender flagship store in Ginza, Tokyo - check out the price tag:
More Ibanez-specific, as this was a unique oportunity to see many Ibanez guitars of several years and models at once and in different stores.
- Ibanez is not as prominent or dominant as one might think. I was at first disappointed, as I expected some J Customs in every store. Wrong. But when they had them, man, then they had them good. Compared to the US, prices are not lower in Japan, if anything, then stuff is actually more expensive there than in the US.
- Many of the new MII models are eye-catching, most impressive were the new RG350QM models with the quilted maple veneer tops. And their quality is not as bad as their reputation (see below).
- I passed several used and NOS golden age S-models - an S1520 in some kind of killer honey color, a mint S540LTD in blue, a case queen yellow Frank Gambale model (overpriced with almost 2k...), a player green-ish S7420, a NOS S2120X in VV, a modded S470, and so on. So they are around, but not sure if more abundantly than in the US.
- There are some other killer NOS or used Ibbis around - I played a nice but quite beaten RGT Prestige, a PGM500, as well as a 2007 RGT320F in Black Onyx with EP, by looks one of the most stunning RGs (the p/us were so-so, however). Very tempting but at 280.000 JPY way overpriced.
- The 2008/2009 J Custom models are the most common J Customs hanging around in stores, as expected. I saw all versions (DiMarzio, SD, EMG) in all colors, prices usually started at around 210.000-220.000 JPY.
- At Ishibashi, they had their house-specific 2008 IRG8470, one in blue and one in Hesonite Garnet hanging in the store. The blue is pretty light, not as dark as I expected from online pictures. Hesonite Garnet on the contrary looks boring on photos, but I found it rather classy in real life.
- There are plenty of 2007 and earlier J Custom models with Edge Pros still around, most frequently RG8470ies in Red Spinel or Prominence. Often the prices were around 180.000 JPY, even less for used ones in various conditions (cosmo wear, anyone?). Cheapest I saw was a 2005 RG8270 in Red Spinel that was quite a player, for around 110.000 JPY.
- I saw not a single NOS or used 7-string or neck-through J Custom, and upon inquiry some of the staff had never even seen such a thing...so they must be rare indeed.