Sunday, May 06, 2007

New Fender Jazzmaster guitar! The story and unboxing photos

(More pics down below.)

Seems like I'm on a spending spree lately, doesn't it? The truth is my wife and I go without a lot of things that most people consider impulse buys - for example, we're a one car family, we don't travel much, and I've been wearing some of the same jeans since college. So we maybe save a little more than most people, which means we can splurge every once in a while.

When I was in high school, I played bass guitar. I had a band; we were pretty popular in my local area, and we played a lot of gigs and recorded a full-length demo tape in a local studio. Before that, I'd played alto saxophone since I was about 8 years old, so music's been in my blood for a long time. After my band broke up, I sort of toiled away by myself on a beat up old Gibson acoustic guitar that a girl had given me a few years earlier (don't ask) until I finally sold it about 4 years ago to help pay for a move. The last 4 years have been the longest I've been without a musical instrument since before junior high.

About 15 years ago, when I was still in college, I got my first taste of My Bloody Valentine. Their album Loveless absolutely blew my mind, with its unbelievably heavy and noisy bent power chords that somehow still managed to be melodic and satisfying and occasionally even a little groovy. I never knew music like that was possible. I resolved at that time to put together another band and just outright rip off their sound. Why not? Nobody else sounded like that; I figured it was as good a starting point as any.

As a huge bonus, I found out that Kevin Shields and Bilinda Butcher - the band's two guitarists - played Fender Jaguars and Jazzmasters, two guitar models that were no longer made because they were so unpopular, despite being absolute top of the line guitars in Fender's lineup. They were part of Fender's offset waist guitar line, designed to be more comfortable to play when sitting down. Nobody wanted them, yet these guitars, with their floating tremolo system and warm pickups, were largely responsible for this band's sound! Their imperfections - an abundance of feedback, occasional buzzing from the strings - could only add personality to this kind of music. I walked around my neighborhood and found a local store with two vintage models for under $500 each. That was too much for my college student financial situation, but it seemed like once I got a real job, I'd have no problem whatsoever replicating that sound.

Fast forward a couple years and prices for vintage Jazzmasters and Jags had gone through the roof. I'd missed my chance, largely because of the success of bands like My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr., most of whom also started out with the guitars because they were cheap. No more. My idea of ripping off MBV's sound was apparently not very unique, as demand for these guitars skyrocketed with both upcoming musicians and the collector market now involved. I put off my purchase indefinitely.

In the early 1980's, various companies had begun ripping off Fender's designs and selling outright copies to the Japanese market. Americans got wind of this as Jazzmaster prices took off and started importing the cheap but well-made Japanese models. In fact, one of Kevin Shields' early "Jaguars" was a Japanese copy - you can see him play it in the video for "Only Shallow". (He also owned a Japanese Jazzmaster.)

Some of the copies were so good that Fender actually went ahead and licensed production to Greco, one of the copy makers, who from then on were able to sell their copies as real Jazzmasters, Jaguars and whatever else they made under the name "Fender Japan". Obviously, with that licensing came certain further modifications to the guitars to bring them more in line with the American-made versions.

These days, Fender USA has put the Jazzmaster and Jaguar back into production due to increased demand, in the "American Vintage Reissue" line (often referred to in shorthand as "AVRI"). Prices start at $1,450 street for a new American model, while a vintage guitar will set you back $2,000 or more. (Since I wrote this post, Fender has also released a line of Mexican-made offset guitars.) Meanwhile, Fender Japan sells their Jazzmasters for 70,400 yen street, or around $600 before shipping (which can be significant). These are commonly referred to as "CIJ" Jazzmasters, for the "Crafted in Japan" stamp on the neck. (Earlier versions said "Made in Japan" and were referred to as "MIJ" models.)

There are some differences, though only a few are really meaningful. MIJ/CIJ Jazzmasters can easily be modified to be more or less the same as the American models, if you so desire. The overall build quality is already pretty much the same - meaning excellent.

One really nice thing about the Japanese models is that they're sold in color combinations that haven't been offered in the US for 30 years. If you want a new candy apple red guitar with matching headstock, you have no choice but to buy Japanese (though the current candy apple red is intentionally a bit darker than the original - looks really nice, though!). That was definitely what I wanted, based on this:

Beautiful! Hell, Bilinda could be playing a Japanese Jazzmaster there, for all I know.

At this point in my life, it's not so much that I want to copy MBV's sound anymore, and I'm probably not going to start a band - although never say never. It's more that I've just been away from music for too long... and it's always been a dream of mine to own this guitar. I'm planning on setting up a cheap home PC recording studio and recording my own stuff to post online, and who knows what after that. I can play guitar, bass and I'll figure something out with the singing... drums can be handled with computer samples. (Hey, I never said I'd be making vintage rock and roll here.)

Without further ado, some "unboxing" pics, especially for those of you wondering what you get when you order a Jazzmaster from Japan (I ordered mine from Ishibashi, who were very nice and helpful).

Japanese Jazzmasters come in a box, not a case. Mine was packed with an obscene amount of bubble wrap, secured so well that it took me 30 minutes to get it off:

FRA-GI-LE - must be Italian!

Ah, Engrish:

JM66-88 is the model number of the Japanese Jazzmaster, btw, and OCR is the color (Old Candy Red). Notice the serial # is on the box - you never know if this is gonna matter to collectors in the future! Keep that box! :)

More bubble wrap inside:

In lieu of a case, Fender Japan Jazzmasters come with a "gig bag". It's actually not quite as much of a joke as I was expecting - it'd work as a dust shield for extended storage, I guess - but yeah, it offers no protection to the guitar whatsoever:

Still, it's not like the handles are going to fall off or anything. You can carry the guitar around with this bag. Just don't bang it into anything.

Inside the gig bag, more packing material. Fender Japan is nothing if not thorough with the packaging:

Finally, the guitar itself!

It's really hard to see because my digital camera keeps wanting to turn the pickguard white, but the guard is actually "mint". It's very light green. This was a pleasant surprise, because it just adds a little more uniqueness to the design. I actually wanted red tortoise, and will probably still change it at some point, but I like the red and green combo. It's like Christmas!

Again, looks white but it isn't... bridge view:

You can see a little more difference between the guard and the white pickup covers and knobs here... still doesn't quite capture it, though (also noticing I've got a dusty camera sensor, grrr):

The matching headstock:

Part of the instruction manual - yeah, it's all in Japanese. This manual applies to all Fender Japan guitars, so you've got explanations of the pickups for all models on the left here, and explanations of the different types of tremolo systems on the right:

My Jazzmaster sitting on my dining table, where I happened to unbox it:

The tremolo unit - and no, the arm isn't quite in the socket all the way, I was a little too afraid to force it at this point! (I did get it to fit later):

On its stand, still with the protective plastic half-on the pickguard. Interestingly, this stand came with a warning label that said "not recommended for use on guitars with nitro-cellulose finishes", which would mean all Fender USA models. Mine should be fine, though:

The serial # on the neck:

The tuners - and you can see how the shiny poly finish extends up through the back of the headstock... it's a little different feel having the back of the neck finished like that:

Here she is with the plastic finally off the pickguard:

The mint pickguard does look a lot different depending on the angle of the light reflecting off it - it's pretty cool. This was taken right after the photo above:

And in the hands of a guitar god (yeah, right):

Well, that's it... now to start practicing!

SECOND UPDATE! Some time ago, Fender USA (aka FMIC) put a prohibition on exports of Fender Japan instruments to the USA. This meant that you couldn't buy a new Jazzmaster from Ishibashi as I did. However, according to this thread at, that ban has now been lifted on sales for "personal use". Good news!


  1. Anonymous6:49 PM

    Gorgeous guitar! Perfect for all of your shoegazing needs.

    I'm in the middle of building my own jazzmaster. My only beef with the standard design are the bridge saddles. I'm building mine with a more rigid mustang bridge.

  2. Thanks so very much for this blog! Especially the link to Ishibashi. I ordered the CIJ Jazzmaster in Vintage White, and I couldn't be happier with it!

    I'm changing the stock bridge to a modified bridge from Warmoth (for stability), but the tuners are top notch, and the pickups sound great.


  3. Anonymous7:08 AM

    what was your total bill + shipping?

  4. The total was very reasonable: Just under $800 (I rounded up). I really can't see why anyone would want to spend $1400+ tax for the re-issue (believe me, the Fender stock re-issue pickups aren't reason enough to cough up that kind of cash).

    I hope that helps.

  5. Anonymous5:30 AM

    That helps quite a bit, thanks...

  6. Anonymous4:27 PM

    exuse my English!
    Thanks so much for this blog! I finded this post very spontaneously, just trying to find out by Google how to wire a JAZZMASTER, beacause i'm gonna built guitar by myself with some parts of japanese crafted body and neck, Seymour Duncan antiquity pups, and my entusiasmus :)
    U'r interesting person, i guess.
    I'm a fan of MBV, of all of shoegesers, and my first expresiions of them was wery similar to yours. Also everithing about a JAZZMASTER. I'm from Ukraine, i was a pro musician and sound engineer, now i live in Brooklyn for 5 ears with my wife and... babysitting! :) But i have a home project studio a kouple nowleges how to built it and make it alive not with overprising..
    Anyway, there is my 2 accounts in MySpace, if u interesting.

    Tanks very much once more!

  7. Hey man,

    How is the Jazzmaster working out? Any chance that you have removed the pickup covers? I was reading that these CIJ models don't have the wide single coils but have regular single coil pu's under the wide shell. Just wondering how you like the guitar because I'm looking into grabbing one. Thanks a lot man.


  8. Hey Jesse,

    The Jazzmaster is mos definitely working out great. Yes, I have heard about the pickups being standard (strat) single coils. I have to admit, I don't like strats, but this JMaster has a ton of tone, and with the right amp (I've been using Ac30's and Matchless amps) it's got BALLS. I can't stress that strongly enough: This guitar screams. It's my definite go to git for the harder stuff. If you want to listen to examples go to my Myspace page:

    Happy listening, and good luck with the guitar!

  9. Hello!

    I want to buy a jaguar candy apple red, but I would like to find one with a matching headstock. Where did you buy your jazzmaster? I can't find any new jaguars with matching headstock =( Can you help me?



  10. Tom- try Ishibashi music store. I bought my JM there. Just send them an email, let them know what you're looking for.

    good luck.

  11. Thank you very much!
    I hope I find one there!


  12. Anonymous11:07 AM

    I am interested in buy a jazzmaster too, so I went to the webpage, and picked one out, and went to order, but the page wouldn't let me continue to the checkout? Is there a different page for overseas buys?

  13. Ishibashi can no longer sell new Jazzmasters to the United States. Fender won't let them. It's stupid.

    They will still sell you a used one if you use their u-box site and find one you like. Go to their main English page at and follow the instructions.

  14. That's absolutely incredible!, and not in a good way.

    Fender's just pissed off that nobody wants to purchase their ridiculously overpriced American model. It's a shame. That can't be legal, either.

    BTW, did you email Ishibashi, and get in touch with one of their sales reps? You can't simply purchase it through their web checkout.

    Oh yea, I but in some new custom pickups in my JM: A Chris Novak vintage wound JM in the neck, and a vintage wound P90 in the bridge. I'll take the pepsi challenge with any American made Jazzmaster. Seriously- my guitar is a MONSTER!!!! I highly recommend getting new pups.

  15. Anonymous9:52 PM

    i have been looking in the u-box, and i have found o couple of guitars. i click on them, and a bunch of pictures come up, and then at the bottom is some stuff written in japanese. from this point do you know how i would order a used guitar from this point(becuase i don't read japanese)?

  16. Click the link on the top left when you first get to the u-box page that says "FOR OVERSEAS CUSTOMERS". It will tell you what to do. You basically just need to send them an email.

    Don't be intimidated. They speak English and they're very nice. You may even get a native English speaker - my salesperson's name was Rachel, which is obviously not a Japanese name, and she sure sounded like a native English speaker to me.

  17. You've got to contact them via EMAIL. They will not let you purchase a guitar destined for the US unless you speak with a representative.

  18. Anonymous12:37 PM

    thanks, you have been very helpful! and your blog is awsome! thanks again!

  19. Anonymous5:32 PM

    I am currently saving up for a CIJ Jazzmaster and I was looking around on the web trying to find means of how I would go about ordering one. This blog is perfect because it just so happens I was looking to buy a candy apple CIJ Jazzmaster, the same one you bought haha. Thanks a lot!

  20. Anonymous9:50 AM

    HI I have also been looking for a jazzmaster but i live in Australia so does fender allow Japanese imports into Australia

  21. Anonymous10:25 AM

    Did you get to see MVB when they came to NYC?

    I travelled from Puerto Rico,and it was the best show ever.

    Also, How long did it take for the guitar to arrive to your house?

    Nice blog by the way.

  22. I did see MBV, yes!

    I do believe that show actually gave me tinnitus. I seriously have a low-pitched ringing in my left ear all the time now.

    As to your last question, it took about a week. But you can't buy them new from there anymore, you can only buy used. (You can still get them new from other sellers on Ebay.) It would probably take the same amount of time, though.

  23. The new "classic player" models made here in the States sell for about $750 or so. They've made great mods to the bridge, and are more stable from a tech's standpoint.

    You're better off getting one of these gits, and not bother with a Japanese model.

    BTW, the pickups will still need to be swapped out for a better sound. Go with Curtis Novak. He's the real deal.

  24. All covered in other posts :)

    I am not personally a fan of the Classic Players. I would still buy a Japanese model even if it was more difficult to get.

    I personally put Antiquity II's in my CIJ, just because of price, mainly. Novaks are a bit more expensive.

  25. Woo-hoo, see the update at the end of the post above! You can now apparently buy new CIJ/MIJ Jazzmasters from Ishibashi again.

  26. Anonymous11:26 AM

    Nice Jazzmaster! A well written report and a very happy host indeed! I'll have to say well done, well done!

    I've been meaning to buy a Jazzmaster and after searching the net, I found the most impossible, the most ridiculous price range I've ever seen! Well except for the Mexican range. I'd order a CIJ like yours but I much preferred a natural wooden neck. I'll be going to Australia soon (I'm a Bruneian) for at least a year before I go back so I'm looking to buy a Jazzmaster there only to find out, they don't have the Mexican version! I guess that's their way of making profits, sell the most expensive one!

    Do you have, by an chance, know a great place to order a Classic Player Jazzmaster and ships it to Australia? I already have a black Jazzmaster with a black pickguard in mind, going to look marvelous.


  27. I'm surprised a CIJ wouldn't be cheaper to Australia than a Classic Player. Unfortunately I am not sure where you can get a cheap CP model to Australia.

    However, be aware that the Classic Players have the exact same neck finish as the CIJ's. You're not going to get a plain wood neck. They are both finished in glossy polyuerethane.

  28. Anonymous12:20 PM

    But the CPs has the "natural wood look" comparing to the matching neck-body on the CIJ's, I just don't dig it. Found some images of the CP's and it had natural neck colour.

    The CIJ's should be cheaper than the CP's (sorry I got you confused), but it seems that the CP's are nowhere to be found!

    Another thing, does black pickup covers for Jazzmasters available for purchase? I've heard Fender only provided 'aged cream' for the Vintage Reissues but is it available for any other Jazzmasters range?

  29. Ah, you mean the non-matching headstock on the CP's? Fender Japan makes black with a non-matching headstock:

    The difference (visually) between that and the Classic Player is the pickguard. I don't like modern tortoise so I would prefer the mint on the CIJ, but it's personal taste.

    Black pickup covers exist but not from Fender. They're aftermarket. You can try here:

    However I don't know if a standard Jazzmaster pickup cover fits those Classic Player pickups, which are different than standard pickups.

  30. Anonymous12:44 PM

    :0 ah wow, Jeff that's awesome! I'm already crossing everything off my list from AVRI's to MIM's and focusing to the CIJ's! I also felt the need to mention on how I spent my last hour on your site reading posts about Jazzmasters.

    It's considerably cheap, and the ideal price for me. 84,000 Yen is under a US$1000! I surely can afford that one. I don't like the modern tortoise pick guard either, and much prefer the mint but I'm looking to replace that one with a black one. (Yes I'm going for the cool, simple all black Jazzmaster).

    The pickup covers should fit the ones on the CIJ's right? Does Ishibashi provide the parts that I need too?

  31. I would send them an email and ask them - they will be more than happy to tell you if they have what you need. They carry a huge amount of stuff but I am not sure about aftermarket stuff. Both the covers and the pickguard would be aftermarket. (Fender doesn't make black Jazzmaster pickguards either that I know of, although they do exist from other manufacturers.)

    Oh, and I guess you should ask them about knobs and tremolo tip too :)

    There is a guy on Ebay who is selling a full set of black Jazzmaster parts, if Ishibashi doesn't have them. If you just look up "black jazzmaster" on Ebay, I think you'll find it. Not the pickguard, but the knobs, covers and tremolo tip.

    The covers should fit on a CIJ, but the holes might or might not line up correctly and you might need to enlarge them with a file. It depends on what whoever makes those black covers was using as a template. They're only a little bit off if you need to file them, though. I did it on mine.

  32. Anonymous1:24 PM

    That's awesome Jeff. Thanks for everything! It's been really useful and helpful. I'll get on it!

  33. Nice article! Our pasts are similar, as MBV blew my mind in '91, and started my obsession with jazzmasters/jags too. After all these years, I gathered enough $ to buy an American Olympic white jazzmaster. It's on special order, and should be here at the end of the week. Again, like yourself, I also play bass...looking forward to writing some great stuff with the drum machine!

  34. I just bought my Jazzmaster =). Its a black one. Not the one with matching headstock and matching black humbuckers. That would have cost me. Well, I don't know, but a lot more! I love the sound =D. Of course, the first thing I did with it is de-tune the guitar, changing the pickup heights as well. It definitely sounds a lot better =).
    I was influenced to buy this because of the Sonic Youth, however, not the MBV. Though the MBV in my view are legendary in their obsessiveness over sound.

  35. Anonymous8:07 PM

    Ive been looking For Jazzmaster like this with the red matching headstock for a while now, but to no avail. Do you have any ideas in were I can look?


About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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