Get Your Groove On! A Thrifty Guide to Buying Guitars in Japan

ByWilliam Farrow
Jan 24, 2022

Get Your Groove On! A Thrifty Guide to Buying Guitars in Japan

For those who love to hit, pluck, strike or strum their instrument of choice, moving to Japan can provide a few challenges. Short-term expats looking at only a few years in the country may not want to risk damaging their beloved instrument during the moves in and out of the country, or the size of the instrument may make importing and exporting an unwieldy and costly choice.

Or perhaps you are reading this article because you are interested in learning an instrument and want a frugal start. Today’s article will be focusing on the world of guitar and bass. Smart shopping can result in a quality instrument for a fraction of the prices found in most music stores.

I Prefer to Try Before I Buy…Any Tips?

Japan’s secondhand stores are a veritable treasure trove for your average guitar or bass player. A little legwork around your city can reveal beautiful gems at nearly criminal prices. Your author is still regretting not instantly buying a 6-string Warwick bass priced at 40,000 yen a few years ago.

With one of the largest music scenes in the world and no end of people chasing their rockstar-tinged dreams, Japan has a high turnover of guitars and basses in the used market. Checking up on your local stores can reveal new stock from time to time. If a trip to one of the major cities is possible, your options will explode and become almost overwhelming.

Of course, asking to try the instrument before purchasing it is never a problem, so feel free to ask if a particular one catches your eye and budget.

Some easy-to-find secondhand stores:

  • Second Street: One of Japan’s largest chains of secondhand goods, Second Street will sometimes carry instruments depending on stock. In my personal experience, shopping here revealed the biggest gaps in quality, so that I would urge a little caution.
  • Hard Off: This chain specializes in computers, instruments, and other electronic goods. I have seen some great instruments at bargain prices here.

Knowing your local chains requires a bit more searching but can have rewarding results. An example is Nagoya’s Sairyo Ichiba (Sairyo here is a fantastic pun. Sairyo normally means “the greatest,” but the Kanji used here means “Good to use again”).

Can I Order Online?

Yes! Busy rock stars have their options as well. The sites can be navigated via right-click and “Translate to English” for those unable to read Japanese. Still, please be sure to double-check the purchasing methods, shipping, and returns fine print before finalizing any deals.

  • Second Street has an online shop with a selection of guitars and basses.
  • Hard Off has an internet option through their Off Mall website.

Of course, online shopping gives you options such as Amazon and Rakuten as well.

I’m Ready to Rock!

Before you let your E string rumble through the streets and announce to your neighbors that the king of rock has come to claim the glorious throne of thunder and steel, we would be remiss if we did not provide a few disclaimers:

  • Please check your housing contract! Some apartments, especially ones with thin walls, will expressly forbid instruments. The usual workaround here is having a proper set of headphones if your instrument is electric (Guitar, Bass, keyboard in this case. Drums are a tough sell even if electric). If you are not sure, ask first.
  • This guide is primarily for guitar and bass, but we want to remind our pianists: Your piano may require special proofing before being placed on the floors. In general, you will need to negotiate the conditions of your piano with your landlord.
  • Even after having your instrument approved, keep your neighbors in mind. Pleasant neighbors will make any overseas stay much better!


Did you go ahead and get that instrument you have been dreaming of? Or would you be interested in a music shopping guide with a different focus? Let us know in the comments below!

Santeri Viinamäki, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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William Farrow editor

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