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About This Listing

Yukinobu Chai Classical Concert Guitar No15 1975

This guitar was made in 1975 by Master Luthier Yukinobu Chai. Yukinobu’s career started in late 1960s and over the years he became one of the highest respected luthiers in Japan. Most likely the major reason for that were very moderate prices for his wonderful instruments.

In that respect Yukinobu had business philosophy very similar to that represented by Ryoji Matsuoka, Kazuo Yairi or brothers Hiroshi and Mitsuru Tamura. In 1983 top Masaru Kohno model 50 or Sakazo Nakade Master 50 were priced 500 000 yen. In 1984 top Masaru Kohno model Maestro or Sakazo Nakade Master 80 were priced 800 000 yen. By 1985 Yukinobu Chai and Tamura brothers were still pricing their top models at 500 000 yen even though their instruments sounded no different than those made by the “elite” luthiers. In 1985 top R.Matsuoka models were M200 & MH200. Kazuo Yairi's top model was YC200.

In early 1980s Yukinobu became the major supplier for Niibori School of Guitar Ensemble, making not only whole range of prime (regular) models but also many alto, soprano, bass and contrabass guitars. Since Yukinobu's passing in 2011, his workshop is managed by his son Yukio, a great luthier on his own. Yukinobu's most famous pupils are Ichizo Kobayashi, Tatsuro Kobayashi, Sakae Ishi and Kuniyoshi Matsui.  

In early/mid 1970's Yukinobu was still relatively unknown luthier and his prices were actually lower than those proposed by Tamura brothers for similar grade guitars. Until 1974 Yukinobu's model 10 was made with solid figured Brazilian Rosewood b/s. Until early 1976 his model 10 was made with Jacaranda (straight-grain Brazilian Rosewood) b/s. During the same era (1975/76) Yukinobu's models 6 and 8 were made with solid Indian Rosewood b/s.      

In 1975 model 15 was either Yukinobu’s top model or second from the top one. By 1977 the same grade guitar would be labelled as model 20, by early 1980s as model 30, by late 1980s still as model 30 but with straight grain BR b/s, while figured BR was reserved for model 50.    

This guitar being priced 150 000 yen in 1975 was worth nearly 200% of starting yearly salary of Japanese college graduate. Yet, just like many other less prominent Japanese luthiers of that era, Yukinobu Chai simply had to deliver much more for the same price in comparison with Masaru Kohno models. In fact, you will never find Kohno No15 or No20 that would sound even close to guitar you are looking at. This guitar can be compared only to Kohno’s top model No30 from the same year.   

This guitar offers immense volume and super response, combined with simply breathtaking tonality: sweet, colorful, ringing and somewhat metallic (violin like) trebles, deep somewhat metallic and full of overtones (cello like) basses, all well balanced, with superb note clarity and separation, and all with very impressive sustain. When chords are played this guitar behaves like Symphony Orchestra. It is simply gorgeous instrument to play.

If you wanted to purchase similar class brand new guitar made by leading Japanese luthier, you would have to pay no less than $8000. If you ordered such guitar made with old stock solid figured BR, 50 years old Yezo Spruce top and shellac finish it would be priced at least $12000.

This guitar remains in "excellent for its age" overall condition. In fact, besides rather light string splash mark below the bridge (string E1), body of this guitar doesn’t bear any conspicuous dents or scratches. Very importantly its quite slim neck is straight, fingerboard and leveled frets remain in very good condition, while action is very "player friendly".

What is visible to naked eye (and greatly exaggerated on the pictures) are "fingertip-like" discolorations, S shape mark, few “splash spots” etc. embedded within the finish on the back, sides and headplate. Such discolorations are quite common on Japanese guitars of that era, especially on those made by Yukinobu and exclusive to guitars made with Brazilian Rosewood b/s. During that era Japanese makers were using their own “secret finish formulas” commonly called Cashew lacquers. These substances were usually applied by paint brush, covering the wood with very thin coat but were somewhat thicker and stickier than shellac, hence later far more resistant to scratches and wear. Yet, over the years, some of them developed various internal discolorations. These features certainly don’t affect tonality or playability of this very precious guitar.  

While the back & sides are coated with cashew lacquer, the soundboard of this guitar is French polished with regular shellac.        


Top: Very Tight Grain Solid Yezo Spruce/Shellac

Back & Sides: Highest Grade Solid Figured Brazilian Rosewood/Cashew lacquer

Neck: Mahogany

Fingerboard: Ebony

Scale: 650 mm

Nut width: 51 mm

Its action is set to 3.50 mm under E6 and 3.00 mm under E1, with plenty of extra room on the saddle.

This guitar will be shipped in used hard-shell case in still very good condition.    

  Real Value of Japanese Vintage Guitars

The key to understand value of vintage Japanese guitars is to acknowledge galloping devaluation of Japanese yen in 1960s & 1970s. This devaluation was somewhat slower in 1980s. The best measure of this devaluation is Starting Yearly Salary of Japanese College Graduate (SYSJCG).

SYSJCG in 1965 was 19 600 yen, in 1969 – 34 600 yen, in 1970 39 200 yen, in 1972 – 62 300 yen, in 1975 79 200 yen, in 1977 86 200 and in 1980 - 100 000 yen.

During 1960s and most of 1970s model numbers of Japanese guitars were strictly interconnected with their prices in Japanese yen. In late 1970s and during following decades model numbers were no longer strictly associated with their prices. Many Japanese guitar makers introduced model names instead of model numbers. Others were still using model numbers with addition of letter abbreviations or other symbols.

The best and only logical approach while evaluating real value (real grade) of vintage Japanese guitar is to compare its price in Japanese yen with SYSJCG during the year guitar was made.

Any guitar priced 100 000 in 1970 (labelled usually as No10) would be priced 200 000 yen in 1975 (relabeled to No20 or 2000), 300 000 yen in 1977 (labelled as No3, No30 or 3000). Starting in 1977 Masaru Kohno introduced his new models No40 priced 400 000 yen and No50 priced 500 000 yen. By 1984 Kohno started using model names instead numbers and was raising their prices as he was pleased. Model 50 became model “Maestro”, model 40 became model “Special”, model 30 became model “Professional-J”. Naturally other Master luthiers were doing the same name/price changes.

Knowing all of that, you can bet on that Masaru Kohno No50 made in 1982 is practically the same grade instrument as Kohno No20 made in 1972, or Kohno no 30 made in 1976. Kohno No40 made in 1982 is exactly the same grade instruments as Kohno No15 made in 1972 or Kohno No20 made in 1975.

It is very important to mention that if modern era luthiers are using 40 years old woods to make a classical guitar, its price is at least $8000.

Product Specs

Listed4 months ago
ConditionExcellent (Used)
Excellent items are almost entirely free from blemishes and other visual defects and have been played or used with the utmost care.learn more
Made In
  • Japan

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