Matsujiro Hoshino founded a bookstore in 1908 that sold books, sheet music, and musical instruments. Starting in 1921, the store began importing instruments from Europe and the USA, including classical guitars from Salvador Ibanez of Spain. Yoshitaro Hoshino succeeded his father in 1929 and expanded the company’s instrument imports to include mandolins from Italy and drum kits from Ludwig in Germany.
When demand for guitars outstripped supply, Yoshitaro decided to produce guitars himself, with his four sons joining the family venture, which resulted in the establishment of Hoshino Gakki. The company built a factory near its headquarters to produce its own guitar line, which could accommodate up to 30 employees. The “Salvador Ibanez” guitar was henceforth known as “Ibanez.” The company exported many guitars to other Asian countries, and in 1937, it had a monthly output of over 1,000 guitars.
Following World War II, during which the factory was destroyed, the company resumed importing musical instruments in the 1950s. It wasn’t until 1962 that Jumpei Hoshino decided to begin producing his own guitars again, and a new factory was built that also produced amplifiers and electric guitars.
The company was named “Tama Seisakusho” in honor of Yoshitaro Hoshino’s wife. Ibanez became Hoshino’s primary brand, but the company also produced guitars for other Western companies, and drum kits were produced under the brand name “Tama.” However, in 1966, it was decided that guitars would no longer be produced for other companies, a move that was eventually followed by other manufacturers like Fujigen Gakki and Teisco.
In 1967, the first Ibanez guitars were imported to the USA by the Elger Company. These guitars lacked a logo and featured many buttons and switches. In the late 1960s, the guitars were given a “spaghetti-style” metal logo on the headstock.
By 1970, Ibanez had shifted its focus to producing cheaper but comparable models of well-known American brands like Gibson, Fender, and Rickenbacker. This era was known as the “Pre-Lawsuit era.” Despite being less expensive, Ibanez replicas were of high quality and became a strong competitor to American brands.
In the 1980s, Ibanez introduced its own designs, including the Performer, Musician, and Iceman models. This period is sometimes referred to as the “Golden Years of Ibanez,” and many guitars from this era are highly sought after by collectors. If you’re looking to buy a guitar from the ’80s, one of the first steps in assessing its authenticity is to use the Ibanez serial number lookup tool.
For over 50 years, Fujigen has been a partner of Hoshino, building Ibanez electric guitars. Since the early 1990s, Ibanez guitars have also been produced in South Korea, with the EX series appearing in 1991. As the quality of Korean guitars proved to be just as good as those made in Japan, Ibanez began producing other models there in 1994. Today, Ibanez guitars are also produced in China.
As it did 100 years ago, Hoshino Gakki still has its headquarters in Nagoya, and the research and development department is also located there. From the successful copies of its own models in the 1970s and 1980s to the present day, Ibanez has been a solid and essential big name in the music industry.