Friday, December 5, 2014

Bison Golden Era Reissue: mystery vintage Japanese guitar #1

Bison Golden Era Reissue. No bells ringing? I didn't think so. There are very few of these out there.  It was a good idea to name them after an animal that can only be found in small numbers.

I found this one on Yahoo Japan in 2011 and owned it for a while before selling it on to someone in Singapore. From there it went to France and again changed hands, currently residing with General Unrest at Japan Guitars.

Since this guitar surfaced I have seen a couple of others. One was sold in the US and one was in Hawaii and was on Ebay.

I have done a lot of looking in Japanese and couldn't find anything about the brand. Based on the low serial numbers and absence of anything but LP examples it looks like a special run for a store or possibly a new line of guitars that started and never took flight in 1980. It is easy to see why when Tokai, Greco, Aria Pro and Burny models were available in large numbers.
The next question is which manufacturer made it. Looking at the pots, caps and stamped Maxon pickups the answer would seem to be Fujigen. However, looking at the Tokai-stamped tuners, the serial number stamping and the neck base there are some doubts. Look at this odd Tokai listed for sale by Guitargai.  It has the same Golden Era reissue name but different script.  They were making Tokais in Nagano around this time so perhaps the Bison was a collaboration between different factories in Matsumoto.

Here are some photos of the bits and pieces. Keep on the lookout for these rare LPs.

From guitargai website
Looks a bit like a fat LS-80 neck base
Typical Fujigen wiring and caps from early to late 80s

Fairly rough routing and drilling. 

Dowel-reinforced tenon similar to Fujigen style at the time

Maxon ceramic magnet pickups. Could be U-1000.

Filing marks typical of Fujigen fret binding finishing.

Beautiful lightly flamed maple

Typical Tokiwa hardware found on Fujigen guitars at the time

Yes, it is a solid top. No veneer here.

Nice variation in the top in different lighting

With Fujigen cousin EGF-1200.

With a pair of DRY-Z installed

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