A Visit to Tokyo’s Guitar Shops

One of the amp rooms at Big Boss Guitars.

When I travelled to Tokyo, the guitar shops absolutely shocked me.

“You’re a musician,” you might say. “All you guys get nerdy around instruments.”

Well, those who know me will tell you that I am jaded. I can walk through a Guitar Center with a few hundred bucks to burn and walk out with — absolutely nothing. I am hard to impress. And my current gear is primo stuff that earns its keep – ESP and Carvin guitars — amps by Fryette, THD and a custom frankenamp built by an electronics genius friend.

But then, a few minutes’ walk from Jimbocho Station in Tokyo, I find a place called Big Boss Guitars. It climbs five stories into the first few floors of a 20-story (or so) building. It sprawls into an annex.

Inside, I find rarities that I have never seen in the U.S. That’s right, not even in Hollywood on the famed Sunset Strip. Big Boss Guitars destroys the Sunset Strip – even with its Mesa/Boogie, Carvin Guitars and original Guitar Center stores – as a pretender.

From the second I walk in, it’s like 80s metal never died. There’s nary an indication that grunge, indie, shoegaze and various other forms of low-fi droning exist.

You're looking at close to $20,000 worth of heads in this photo. And that's not counting the Mesas that are barely in the frame. I can tell you first-hand, too, that Diezels sound amazing.

What do I see” Where to begin … how about an Emppu Vuorinen signature ESP” This thing doesn’t even exist on the U.S. edition of the ESP website! There’s a used Egnater TOL amplifier, which I rarely even see on eBay, much less in a random guitar store. There’s a BC Rich that looks like it’s chiselled from white basalt. Everywhere I look, a new treat. Every floor holds wonders — well, except for the acoustic floor.

I wander to the next storefront, and get my mind boggled by more effects pedals than I’ve ever seen in one place. And more amplifiers.

Here’s the downside: The prices are murder. I wonder what my crazy late 80s Charvels would sell for here. My Carvin could probably make me a mint (because it is a magnificent instrument, my own version of Ned Stark’s Ice).

I return home to Phoenix. I haven’t set foot in any guitar shop since Tokyo. And after that, I barely have any reason to.

This post just might contain affiliate links. Fear not, they’re non-spammy and benign. Hey, I have to keep this thing running somehow!

By Wandering Justin

Writer. Traveler. Gastronomic daredevil. Fitness fan. Homebrewer. Metal dude \m/. Cat and dog lover.


  1. I can understand you. I just came from that unbeliavable road, I decided to visit it after reading this post.
    In 4 hours I tried everything, including Nuno Bettencourt and Guthrie Govan’s signatures and a renaissance lute.
    I think that I won’t visit a music shop when I’ll come back to Rome.
    Of course tomorrow I will visit again that wonder.
    P.S. Thank you for your post, very useful!

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