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Japanese violins and bows


glebert
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Visiting my mom's house and I was looking at my great-grandfathers violins. Guessing they are pretty much "the usual" as far as inexpensive trade instruments from Europe but saw one of the bows stamped "Made in Japan." I was wondering how good or bad Japanese instruments and bows are relative to European items. Since it said "Made in.." I assume it is after 1914, but that is not guaranteed. My great grandfather died in 1947. Don't have any pics of it right now, but it did not seem cheaply made.

Thanks,

Greg

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I have found that some  of the Japanese violins can sound really nice.  They tend to also be made quite accurately as far as stop/neck lengths.  Like some cheaper 19thC French violins, the overstand often seems low and is compensated for in steeper angle to the bridge.  Often more acute than the norm. They are (IMHO) kinda ugly though, and I get NO customer walking in wanting one.  Not much bragging cred to say you have a Japanese Violin.  As far as bows, In my very limited experience with japanese bows, I have never seen one worth even rehairing.  I would like to know if that is the norm, or just MY experience.  Any other dealers find resistance with the Japanese violins to customers?

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33 minutes ago, Jeff White said:

...Like some cheaper 19thC French violins, the overstand [of Japanese violins] often seems low and is compensated for in steeper angle to the bridge....

I've heard that this is because Mirecourt makers were brought to Japan to train the Japanese violin factory workers.

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The way the McKinnley Act was written:..... From 1896 to 1921 Japanese instrument were usually labeled "Made in Nippon"..... in 1921 the Act was modified to require the English spelling of the country of origin so "Made in Japan" from then on.

I have a "Made in Nippon" rescue that plays well but is relegated to our wilderness cabin... works a just as well as a Coyote Call as it does for Scots Fiddle Tunes.

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11 hours ago, Brad Dorsey said:

I've heard that this is because Mirecourt makers were brought to Japan to train the Japanese violin factory workers.

Sitting here in Japan and knowing the person who digged his nose in all this stuff i can only say that against any positive proof 'French workers who trained Jaoanese factory workers' is a complete fantasy story. 

Just from my memory: at least up to 1918 Suzuki was basically the only large scale stringed instrument manufacturer in Japan. If there was any influence it was from Germany visible at the dark brown varnish. Their production numbers peaked in the decade after WW1. 

Only later the Suzuki company split into two branches in two different locations. I can't tell all the details from the top of my head but could look it up.

For bows the Suzuki company needed to make them because imported stuff was simply by far too expensive in those days (pre ww2) for Japanese customers. In lack of pernambuco wood they used cherry wood. Really not worth rehairing.

maybe I should start a thread about all this on MN.

 

.

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12 hours ago, Jeff White said:

I have found that some  of the Japanese violins can sound really nice.  They tend to also be made quite accurately as far as stop/neck lengths.  Like some cheaper 19thC French violins, the overstand often seems low and is compensated for in steeper angle to the bridge.  Often more acute than the norm. They are (IMHO) kinda ugly though, and I get NO customer walking in wanting one.  Not much bragging cred to say you have a Japanese Violin.  As far as bows, In my very limited experience with japanese bows, I have never seen one worth even rehairing.  I would like to know if that is the norm, or just MY experience.  Any other dealers find resistance with the Japanese violins to customers?

Quality of Suxuki instruments varies largdly from the production period. The brown violins with clean factory work seem to be the best. 

Later they tried to press the tops and though the 'ugly' brown varnish disappeared the sound was not as good any more.

Here in Japan those old Suzukis are sometimes treasured as family heritage though they know that the  market value is basically close to zero. Since Japan is a culture of new things for most of the daily use items, cheaper violins fall in the same category. They would rather buy a brand new factory instrument than something old and cheaper.

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1 hour ago, Andreas Preuss said:

Sitting here in Japan and knowing the person who digged his nose in all this stuff i can only say that against any positive proof 'French workers who trained Jaoanese factory workers' is a complete fantasy story. 

Just from my memory: at least up to 1918 Suzuki was basically the only large scale stringed instrument manufacturer in Japan. If there was any influence it was from Germany visible at the dark brown varnish. Their production numbers peaked in the decade after WW1. 

Only later the Suzuki company split into two branches in two different locations. I can't tell all the details from the top of my head but could look it up.

For bows the Suzuki company needed to make them because imported stuff was simply by far too expensive in those days (pre ww2) for Japanese customers. In lack of pernambuco wood they used cherry wood. Really not worth rehairing.

maybe I should start a thread about all this on MN.

 

.

Andreas, These never seem to be labeled, other than branded "made in Nippon" or "Japan".  Did the suzuki co. brand or label these?  I've never seen an older Suzuki that was labeled as such.  So, are you saying that all the Japanese production violins in the late 19C and early 20thC were from Suzuki?

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dating Japanese violins : 

 

-         Japan - A violin labeled : After WWII (1945 – 1952) , during the US occupation of Japan; items made for export were marked "Made in Occupied Japan" or perhaps "Occupied Japan"

Labels with "Nippon" would be from (1891 – 1914)

Labels with "Made in Nippon" would be from (1914 – 1921)

Labels with "Made in Japan" would be from (1921 – present)

Labels with "Occupied Japan" would be from (1945 – 1952)

 

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10 minutes ago, Jeff White said:

Andreas, These never seem to be labeled, other than branded "made in Nippon" or "Japan".  Did the suzuki co. brand or label these?  I've never seen an older Suzuki that was labeled as such.  So, are you saying that all the Japanese production violins in the late 19C and early 20thC were from Suzuki?

As a matter of fact, or what I know, Suzuki had the monopole of producing factory made instruments in Japan. Until when, I can't tell you right now but must have been at least up to the world financial crisis in 1929.

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8 minutes ago, mood2000 said:

dating Japanese violins : 

 

-         Japan - A violin labeled : After WWII (1945 – 1952) , during the US occupation of Japan; items made for export were marked "Made in Occupied Japan" or perhaps "Occupied Japan"

Labels with "Nippon" would be from (1891 – 1914)

Labels with "Made in Nippon" would be from (1914 – 1921)

Labels with "Made in Japan" would be from (1921 – present)

Labels with "Occupied Japan" would be from (1945 – 1952)

 

Looks good. 

Though I have seen a 'nippon' violin I thought it was made during the occupied period from poor local materials in lack of better European wood. (Could be I was wrong)

I would be curious to see pics of a violin from the occupied period with the according brand stamp or label.

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The most common labels that I see, aside from Suzuki, are:1-"copie de...Strad" just like a Mirecourt label, and 2: The large oval label that says, "Imperial". Still, they all look like they came from the same place.

I have one decent "Nippon" branded bow, and the rest are as Adreas says.

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54 minutes ago, glebert said:

Thanks for all the replies, this is very informative. I guess my bow will be a good candidate/victim for trying to learn to rehair. 

That will make your life more difficult than needed. The worst bows are the most difficult to rehair.

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2 hours ago, duane88 said:

The most common labels that I see, aside from Suzuki, are:1-"copie de...Strad" just like a Mirecourt label, and 2: The large oval label that says, "Imperial". Still, they all look like they came from the same place.

I have one decent "Nippon" branded bow, and the rest are as Adreas says.

Is the type wood on your decent bow different than most other Nippon bows?

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2 hours ago, duane88 said:

That will make your life more difficult than needed. The worst bows are the most difficult to rehair.

Now there is a paradox for you. "I always wanted to learn to rehair bows, but I spent 30 years waiting to find a decent one that no one minded me screwing up." :) Somewhere I read that if you are going to learn to rehair you are going to screw up a lot of bows, so It's all good. This one only has a couple hairs intact, so it is useless as it anyway. 

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9 hours ago, Jeff White said:

….These never seem to be labeled, other than branded "made in Nippon" or "Japan".  Did the suzuki co. brand or label these?  I've never seen an older Suzuki that was labeled as such...

Usually they are labeled "Made in Japan" or "Made in Nippon" with the label placed on the treble side.  Sometimes the labels state that it is a Strad copy.  I have one labeled as an Amati copy.  I have hade several with Suzuki labels like this:

P1070458.thumb.JPG.cca4f2a854fb20d98b94d9ee051d9c1f.JPG

The top of the label shows pictures of prize medals presumably won for excellence in violin making.  To the right is the familiar Suzuki logo made of three entwined letter Ss.  To the lower right it says "No. 1."

In the United States, many labels in these violins were partially obliterated or entirely removed by anti-Japanese patriots during World War 2.

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10 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

...If there was any influence it was from Germany visible at the dark brown varnish...

Usually they do have an undistinguished dark brown varnish, but not always.  The violin whose label is pictured above is an attractive red-orange.

P1070459.thumb.JPG.d4c9b5777984cc555e0d2e0b521b1a46.JPG

I've also seen a few with nicely shaded varnish.

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3 hours ago, Brad Dorsey said:

Usually they are labeled "Made in Japan" or "Made in Nippon" with the label placed on the treble side.  Sometimes the labels state that it is a Strad copy.  I have one labeled as an Amati copy.  I have hade several with Suzuki labels like this:

P1070458.thumb.JPG.cca4f2a854fb20d98b94d9ee051d9c1f.JPG

The top of the label shows pictures of prize medals presumably won for excellence in violin making.  To the right is the familiar Suzuki logo made of three entwined letter Ss.  To the lower right it says "No. 1."

In the United States, many labels in these violins were partially obliterated or entirely removed by anti-Japanese patriots during World War 2.

Brad, I haven't seen any with this label, most of mine have the "Imperial" stamp in them, or, are the exact same violin as the "imperial" stamp, however, without the stamp.  Your suzuki in the next pic is the typical orange kiso, nagoya etc suzuki.  I'm talking about older than that.

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The violin wasn't introduced in Japan until after the Meji Restoration(late 1860's-early 1870's) and Suzuki established the first violin making factory before 1900.

I don't think that you will find violins much older of Japanese manufacture than the ones labeled as Masakichi's with the ugly brown varnish.

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  • 1 year later...
On 10/9/2018 at 5:58 AM, duane88 said:

The most common labels that I see, aside from Suzuki, are:1-"copie de...Strad" just like a Mirecourt label, and 2: The large oval label that says, "Imperial". Still, they all look like they came from the same place.

I have one decent "Nippon" branded bow, and the rest are as Adreas says.

I’ve recently acquired a violin that I knew nothing about except for the inside label, Made after Paul Dennis, which gave me no clues. I submitted photos to a Facebook group and have been informed that it is Japanese made prior to 1930’s with a Japanese Maple back. 
it has a lovely loud voice. I’ll try to upload some photos. 

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The vast majority of Japanese bows that I've seen were horrible not even qualified to be plant stakes. There have been, however, a few rare exceptions. I have no idea what wood they were made of but a couple were quite nice, strong, well shaped and silver mounted. Well worth rehairing and playing, but as I said, rare exception.

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