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Piano's made in Occupied Japan


I noticed your comments at

Are you familiar with piano's made in Occupied Japan? I have recently acquired one. I did not have to pay for it but it is in less than fair condition. Do you know much of thier value? Is refinishing it a poor idea? It really needs TLC and I am tempted to fix it up for personal use / display.

As a collector, I think you have a real prize

I'd like to know if there is a brand name on your piano, but will answer your question with what I know. Unfortunately, it's not all that much. Until September of last year, neither I nor the president of our Occupied Japan Club (or any other members I contacted) had any knowledge of full-sized pianos being made for export during the Occupation.

I received an inquiry from someone via the Gotheborg site, asking me the same question you are and started searching for info. If it's not listed in any of my books or I don't have something in my own collection, I go to those that have written the books on OJ for assistance. When they expressed their doubt that it was authentic, I asked my questioner for and received a photo of the piano from him. Those photos included very clear shots of the MIOJ mark (2 of them on the piano). It looked authentic enough to me to delve a little further.

During the 1980s, our Occupied Japan Club was run by Mr. Gee, and he put out newsletters 4 times a year. Not only was he interested in the items, current market value and the variety, he was absorbed with the history and background details on what was actually happening in Japan at the time after the war when they were trying to rebuild their country. He traveled to Japan, physically visited the manufacturing plants, researched old records, etc. I saved 4 years' worth of his newsletters (1984-1990) and went back through them, looking for any reference to pianos.

In the May 1986 issue, Vol. 11, #5 of the "Occupied Japan Collectors Club" newsletter by Mr. Robert Gee, he discussed wood items made for export and stated:

"One of the first items offered to me was a "SIXTY-SIX KEY PIANO." The frame, various woods with a mahogany venier, why I didn't purchase this was due to the freight cost, more than the price of the piano."

Thus far, that's all I have - BUT it is verification of their existence. Your inquiry about the full-sized piano is the 3rd I've had in less than a year, but I still feel they are quite rare. The problem in trying to put a value on it is the space needed to contain it, condition and cost of transporting it.

As for refinishing it - if you have it done by a professional, and you want it for your own use or display - no problem. However, it seems that the patina on old wood has it's own value and if removed, may bring down the market value if you decided to sell it. Then again - if done properly, it may increase it. That would depend on the interest of the buyer.

If it were mine, I would do the minimal restoration that would insure it would not continue to deteriorate, taking special care NOT to cover/fade the Made in Occupied Japan marking. If I had one that I wanted to sell, I would probably place an ad in the OJ Club Newsletter first, asking for $400-500 ($300 if the condition was really poor) and see what happened. You can always use e-Bay as a last resort.

I'm sorry I can't be of more assistance, but that's all I know. At least you have a reference to confirm it's authentic. As a collector, I think you have a real prize.

Ms. Sam Armijo