Archaeological Find on the Japanese Road November 2017

On the Pacific Road…

Riding the night in the high cold wind

On the trail of the old lonesome pine…

I just completed my annual Autumn visit to various Asian countries. As business landscapes continue to shift, these trips become more important than ever…but often the more things change, the more they stay the same. When I started this company some years ago, much of our business was with Japan and I was going there five times a year. Though sources have shifted, I still enjoy visiting old business friends in Japan. The trips to small shops and factories in the highlands of Gifu prefecture and up to Nagano (the Japanese Alps) are wonderful as the leaves change color in the hardwood forests of the upper altitudes.

The changes in the musical instrument business have been remarkable in Japan. The large factories are gone, replaced by smaller shops with highly skilled luthiers making top quality electric guitars, mandolins, and ukuleles in a small but sophisticated high-end domestic market. One of the old factory buildings has become a warehouse that now holds some lower-end guitars imported from Indonesia and Vietnam.

Deep in the bowels of that warehouse, a startling discovery was made a few weeks ago: a treasure trove of banjo parts purchased in the mid-1980s by a factory that did not foresee the imminent collapse of the almighty U.S. dollar. The parts were there ’til now, wrapped in newspapers that the archaeologist (that would be me!) would use in lieu of carbon analysis to pinpoint the age. The warehouse owner contacted the grim reaper of repossessed musical instruments in Japan, Mr. Haruoki Nakaya. Mr. Nakaya called Hosokawa-san and two weeks later there we were—Nakaya, Hosokawa, and Keldsen, surrounded by tone rings, two-piece flanges, bracket hooks and nuts…all perfectly preserved!

So…all we have to do now is to figure out what to do with all those banjo parts! Any ideas?? If you have something in mind, send an email to my attention at:

Richard Keldsen

San Francisco
November 2017