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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Maya Guitar Mystery

It's not often I get a possible three makers for a badged guitar, but that's the current situation I have with Maya guitars.

Maya guitars were manufactured in Japan in the 1970 decade.  I always thought that Chushin and Maya Guitar Company were the manufacturers responsible for producing the badge.  Not so!

Recently I discovered evidence to the contrary in the form of a new unknown company:  Tahara.  And it seems pretty ironclad.  So what's the problem you ask?

The problem is that there are three manufacturers who have been cited as being the producer of the badge:  Chushin Gakki, who may have produced a few Maya guitars here and there, the Maya Guitar Company which existed in Kobe, Japan, and finally Tahara, which was eventually sold to Saga Musical Instruments.  Saga has published a letter stating that Tahara did in fact, produce Maya guitars during the 1970's.

Chushin Gakki often did work for other larger manufacturers back in the 1970's, usually those with contracts from American companies like Charvel.  We know that some Maya guitars were made by this company, because they were shipped to foreign countries, including America, where they were sold.  These Maya guitars are copies of the famous El Maya badge.

So the problem arises between Tahara and the Maya Guitar Company (also known as Maya Musical Instruments).  Tahara did not exist long, less than a decade.  Maya might have been some sort of collaborative effort or association, whereby various companies worked together on a project.  Maya also existed for a relatively short period of time.  So who gets credit for the Maya guitar badge?  The case for Tahara seems far more substantial in light of the evidence provided by the company now in existence after Tahara's demise.  But I truly wonder if perhaps Maya existed as a company and if they had as a collaborator Chushin Gakki and Tahara.  It's a marvelous tangle to unwind.  Were there Maya guitar badges that were different from El Maya?  Were Chushin Maya's different than Tahara Maya guitars?

It's something I'll be looking into over the next few months.  If I figure it all out or find someone who knows the answer, I'll share it with you here.

Maya.  A badge with an uncertain maker.


  1. Interesting, thanks for posting.
    I was obsessed with the Maya company for a while, but didn't find too much.I posted everything I gathered about them on that Ibanez collectors forum page I've sent you.Seems like there is more to it.

    Perhaps Chushin produced hardware (bridges, tuners...)for Maya Musical Instrument CO?

  2. Found this one, did Chushin make some Fenders recently?

  3. Chushin -Fender 2009

    Sorry, I know this is not about Chushin as much as Maya factory, but thought it was interesting info.

  4. Chushin - Azumi badge

    I have the identical inspector's hon on El Maya and Bambu neck pickup cavity, although the date varies the "yamada" inspector is the same.
    They also made Fresher and Robin it seems. You can find it on the web.

    Chushin - Ibanez
    "Most Ibanez models with this serial number format were made by FujiGen Gakki. Exceptions are the Ibanez Blazer models which were made by Dyna Gakki and the Axstar by Ibanez models AX40, AX45, AX48, AXB50, AXB60, AXB65, AX70, AX75 which were made by Chushin Gakki. The Ibanez Axstar AXB1000 model was made by FujiGen Gakki.[3]"

    Seems like Chushin did a lot of quality work for everybody.

  5. Chushin - Axstar by Ibanez

    "In around 1985 Ibanez found its sales flattening out and needed something new to pep them up. The result was a new series called the Axstar. Two models were conceived, both to be made for them by Chushin in Japan, rather than the usual Fuji Gen Gakki."

  6. " "Maya (see also El Maya.) instruments made ​​in Japan by the mid-seventies until the mid-eighties. The Maya covered a range of guitars guitars guitars from entry-level to average quality, solid body, archtop semi-hollow, and is characterized by original designs based on classic designs from the most famous Americans. The company "Maya" also produced a second brand called "El Maya," which included models such as Fender, which is original models of good quality "Some catalogs found on the web actually show that in addition to Fender-style models, there was also a wide choice of Gibson copies (including models such as the Marauder, S-1, L-6) and Rickenbacker bass."

    ""According to other reports found in the Forum the brand would be the orbit of the group Hoshino (owners, among others, Ibanez brand)."

  7. Hey Megmag! Thanks so much for all that info! That's what the blog is supposed to be about...everybody pitching in to make the page as accurate as it can be. I can't do it alone! So thanks from all of us out there who love and cherish MIJ guitars! We owe you, man!

  8. No problem Torch.

    I am still digging for the Chushin product sheet I saw, with exact dates,models and numbers of guitars produced (prior to 1995). I remember "bambu" was made in few hundred copies total, I don't remember El maya though. I compared two El Maya's EM1300 yesterday and they both have the same stamps as two Bambus. I also found out that red stamp "三条" is probably the name of other inspector "Sanjo". Maybe you can find out about Yamada and Sanjo, and track them down. Chushin Bambu's (CB615}don't have the red stamp however. Still, I don't know if Chushin supplied the hardware (which is identical) for Maya Musical Instrument CO or made high quality El Maya models, it's still uncertain. I will post more info as I find it.

    Sorry if I spam too much, but you can filter those links and hopefully get some history out of it.


  9. If you take a closer look at those Chushin -Fender trade papers, you'll find that they actually ship guitars (qty. 292) to USA. Outsourcing eh.

  10. Hey Memag-It's my understanding that El Maya is the name they put to guitars shipped to the UK, with Maya the name used in the Americas. Why they decided to do that I've no idea. Chushin only made El Maya for the most part in my research, although they did produce Maya guitars for a short time. Tahara produced Maya guitars exclusively. Whether or not that was because Maya contracted with both companies or because Tahara got overwhelmed being a small company, I'm not sure. Still, it's a fun tangle to sort out.

  11. And Maya factory? Did they make El Maya's at all.
    I read that El Maya was meant for local market and Maya was an export brand? Also El Maya models seem to be of higher quality than Maya's in general.

    On the side note, I put Bambu (Chushin) in operation today, and all I can say is WOW, what a fantastic guitar.I am having a hard ( but sweet) time deciding which I prefer best, El Maya Future4 or Bambu CB615.Both really fantastic players.


  12. I found that Rokkomann owned "Maya" brand, didn't find "El Maya" proof however.I still want to know what happened in Maya factory.

  13. Ok, BUT they didn't buy the badge until 76 and I really wonder if Mayas were being made before that sale of the badge. Rokkomann was a distributor as far as I can tell...not a maker, although, that's been debated. There's been information out there that Maya company was destroyed by an earthquake in the 1990's but I've never been able to confirm it. Jedistar claims El Maya guitars were made by an affiliate company (Chushin?) which seems reasonable in light of the talent available at Chushin (look at the quality of that Bambu!) So I guess what we're left with is did Maya actually MAKE the Maya badge at one point? We just don't know for sure. I am pretty sure they never made El Maya at this point because of the quality. Chushin clearly had more experienced luthiers based on the work they produced.

  14. I agree on El Maya and Chushin, since everything so far points to Chushin. Still so many things left unknown, so little time. I contacted Rokkomann, we'll see if I get some info on Mayas.


  15. Torch, here is a flyer, I saved some time ago.
    It is clear that "El Maya" (and thus Maya Musical company) was present and operating in 70's.
    Could it be that "Maya" was indeed just an export brand by Rokkomann?

    I contacted Metropolitan Music Company as well.
    I will try to find answers.

  16. Not something new, but let's pile it all here, and pick through the haze.

    "El Maya is distributed by Rokkoman Co., Ltd. They use the El Maya brand for mostly domestic market, also Maya for
    overseas market. We could see some of El Maya in overseas market. But these are through neck or set in neck type

  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. Hey Memag....sorry it's been a few days, but my work schedule's been crazy all week! I'll take a look at what you sent and share my thoughts/findings later this weekend.

  19. My first 'decent' guitar was an old used Maya in 1983, it was a not hugely accurate Tele copy, cream with rosewood f/board and already quite rusty & worn, I would say a good few years old. This was in the UK, and I remember the shop managed to look them up for me in a distributors catalogue, which I think was Stentor, but it's a long time ago. Here's a pic in case it helps in any way : Just adding to the pile of info that may help :)

  20. Thanks for all the information. I don't yet see the light at the end of the tunnel regarding El Maya guitars, but I can at least see the tunnel has an end.

    I recently bought an El Maya Les Paul, that is, with a few exceptions, a very accurate early 60's replica. The differences are a bolt-on neck, maple fretboard and the El Maya badge on the headstock. It looks, feels and plays like a wet dream. The lack of information on the brand has been rather frustrating, but I now feel that I know a little more. Thank you for all your effort.

  21. Hi - can you post this Blog at The Vintage Guitar Community at Our members will love it!
    It's easy just cut and paste the link and it automatically links back to your website. You can also add Classifieds, Photos, Videos, etc. It’s free and easy…
    We are looking for contributors to share stuff with our members. Please help.
    Email me if you need any help or would like me to do it for you.
    James Kaufman, Editor

  22. I have an old Maya 12 String that I just had refurbished for the 3rd time since 1970 (when I bought it used). It takes silk and steel strings and is the most beautiful sounding 12-string I have ever heard -- this last clean-up brought out wonderful warm tones. I love this guitar! :)

  23. Hi Torch, I'm hoping you can share any information on this Maya semi acoustic f holed bass guitar.
    I've owned it since 1977, bought in the UK, in my teens I adapted it to suit me being left-handed (I play a right handed guitar). Originally it had a black scratch plate, raised; a hand rest plate and a hard case, unfortunately lost. I added two extra block pickups and a three way switch.
    I've read your blog on Maya Company in Japan and it's confusing issues relating to the Maya's original creator. I'm totally at a loss to my investigation into my Maya, I hope these photos (link below) will enable you to give me some information on this particular Maya bass.

    Thanks, yours sincerely

  24. The above link to see the photos isn't working, so here is one that is...


  25. The Maya copy of the Epiphone Texan[which looks like a Gibson J50 but has the longer 25.5'' scale]featured a solid spruce top and high quality nickel-plated distinguished-looking Grover-like tuners with metal tulip buttons.They also did some nice 335-type instruments and Mastertone-type bluegrass banjos[as with Ibanez etc they were only short of a decent USA-type 3-ply hard maple rim and better quality USA bell-bronze tone ring re providing a pro with a 'keeper instrument'].I can't therefore understand why some contributors here are loathe to recognise that Maya's activities extended up into the realms of instruments that could be described as 'good quality'.

  26. Maya Mj200n acoustic, done research on the actual name and mythology of the guitars name and think it has deep spiritual consequence , history reflects the name has significant traces to Kobe as a town and mount Maya. I have picked up three references to this, warship Maya built at Suzuki shipyard in Kobe sunk killing sailors, Maya guitar (knock off)factory destroyed by fire in earthquake (Kobe) Tenji temple on mount Maya burnt by pyromaniac, I believe the use of the name of Budda's mother for the wrong reasons have lead to this mythical mystery which still has to unfold if not taken seriously.(Just saying) D.V Fox.

  27. I have a weird Maya I got in June of this year.It's a fretless Steinberger bass copy.The Maya logo is on the front.There are no marks or imprints saying where it was manufactured. It's not a bolt on neck & it may be made out of a resin type material. It has 2 single coil pickups. I can't tell if it uses the double ball end strings or not. It has the Steinberger type fine tuners by the bridge. I got it from a well known local guitarist named Paul Hammond. His dad found it at a flea market. I can't figure out where the guitar strap would go as I can't find strap buttons. It is very well made & sounds nice. The intonation is really good. I've been wondering if it is some oddball prototype

  28. If any one has any idea's about this Steinberger /Maya contact me at

  29. Hi, a lot of maya acoustic guitars are labeled in the inside "maya / made by takamine". it adds a little bit more of the mistery about this brand. i own an el maya and a maya bass and i love them! and like all of you i want to know more...