I’ve been meaning to write this up for ages now since I became the proud keeper of this early 1980’s Tokai. It is a very beautiful, if a little road-worn, instrument which was at the upper end of the range when first produced. As such, it has a wonderful two-piece "ash" body. I’m not clear yet whether this is genuine ash or "sen ash" which was commonly used in higher-end Japanese guitars and which is actually from the ivy family rather than ash as we know it in the west. Either way, it is a wonderfully resonant piece of wood which rings like the proverbial bell.
Despite the nasty abuse to the edges of the body, the neck is in great condition with very little fret-wear. It has the most pronounced v-neck profile I’ve encountered and is a dream to play, though I don’t have the set-up quite correct yet. Suspect I need a trip to the very wonderful Chandlers.
Two of the pick-ups (the neck and middle) are the stock pick-ups for that model which are "E-stamped" and, I believe, were made by DiMarzio. The bridge pick-up is a puzzle. It’s odd in as much as the pole-pieces are even height (not staggered like the others) and the wires are cloth-covered (in the fashion of original 1950’s pickups). I don’t know what it is but the guitar has great tone in the neck/mid combination – a gritty, twangy strat tone which is both hollow and deep. The neck and neck/mid positions are warm and mellow.
Immediately, it’s leapt to number one position in my list of favourites, with my Classic Player 60’s Strat a close second.
Dare I say, there are only two strats left on my wish list: a Fender Jimmie Vaughan Signature strat (which I tried once in Atlanta and foolishly denied in favour of a Highway One which I subsequently sold on) and a genuine 1964 Fender Strat (a beaten up "player’s" guitar will do).
But then again, of course the Eric Johnson signature is meant to be sublime…