A lot has been said about the quality of Japanese Fender guitars. The bottom line, however, seems to be that often they're as good as or better than US models (in particular the 90's reissue models). US model superiority is largely a myth, though in general Japanese guitars are made of basswood, which is considered inferior to the regular ash or alder.
Be that as it may, the Japanese Fender factory started life as a copycat and didn't get on the 'official' side of things until somewhere in the early 80's. They have been producing fine guitars ever since.
For Japanese Custom Shop guitars, check out the regular Custom Shop section.

 

 

Type: 1977 Super Sound '68 Reissue Natural Ash Stratocaster
Serial #: H772967
Remarks: Greco was one of Japan's famous (or infamous) Gibson lawsuit copy makers in the 70�s and 80�s. Greco actually was pre-Fender Japan. In 1981 Greco stopped making Fender replicas (due to the impending lawsuit) and were bought out by Fender Japan in 1982. At that time those same guys switched and basically just changed the stamping and the headstock sticker to "Fender Japan JV-Series Guitars" a.k.a. the Japanese Vintage series.
It has a stock '68 style maple neck. The woods chosen were of the highest quality. It has the classic �68 4-bolt neck. The wood is old-growth wood with tight grain.
Above photo credits: An Ebay auction

Type: 1982 Squier JV (Japanese Vintage) Stratocaster
Serial #: JV021xx
Remarks: Neck date is 19 May 1982.
Above photo credits: The owner, Paul Rumble. Check out his Squier JV site.

Type: 1984 or 1985 Stratocaster
Serial #: E507230
Remarks: Check out the Fender locking bridge, which is quite unusual (and the nut looks unusual too). All chrome hardware.
Above photo credits: The owner, Jim Seguin

Type: 1985 Contemporary Stratocaster (second version)
Serial #: Unknown
Remarks: Two Carvin M22 humbuckers (not original). All electronics are rear-loaded; there is no pickguard. Originally with Floyd Rose tremolo and locking nut, now with string-through body design. Switch pots added, jack plug relocated to Strat position (was originally at the side). Micro tilt neck adjustment.
Above photo credits: An Ebay auction

Type: Probably mid 80's Stratocaster
Serial #: A023946
Remarks: When I found this picture I had it pegged for a contemporary Stratocaster (first version), however there is no mention anywhere of a such a guitar with two control knobs and only one humbucker. This might be a fake, I don't know. But it looks nice :-) The Japanese serial number details say that this should be an '85 or '86 guitar.
Above photo credits: An Ebay auction

Type: 1985 or 1986 Walnut Stratocaster
Serial #: A-014391
Remarks: This is a pretty heavy guitar, all made out of walnut wood. It's quite rare, too.
Above photo credits: Submitted by its current owner, Ty.

Type: 1985-1987 Contemporary Standard Stratocaster
Serial #: E646658
Remarks: None

Type: 1986 (give or take a year) Contemporary Stratocaster, first version
Serial #: Unknown
Remarks: All black, one knob (volume), all hardware black.
Click here for a headstock detail shot.
Above photo credits: An Ebay auction

Type: 1987 Contemporary Stratocaster, first version
Serial #: Unknown
Remarks: All black, one knob (volume), all hardware black. The pickup is a non-stock Tom Anderson upgrade.
Above photo credits: The owner, Lars A. Solberg.

Type: Contemporary Stratocaster (third version)
Serial #: Unknown
Remarks: These guitars were made from 1985 to 1987. They distinguish themselves from other Contemporary Stratocaster models (above) by dint of the presence of a pickguard and, in this case, the HSS pickup layout.
Comment by Strat Central visitor David Lewis: The Bridge on this guitar is a stock bridge from the factory. Made for Fender by Kahler. It is referred to as a "system 3 bridge". These are fast becoming rare because many owners lose the vibrato bar. The bar is a key element to this bridge as it serves three functions. Underneath the metal tip or cap is an "allen key" for adjusting the locking mechanism for the strings. The correct locking mechanism for this guitar, when equipped with this bridge, is known as a "pinch lock" as it has a tension bar that when depressed with the thumb pinches the strings instead of the traditional allen screws. On the end of the vibrato arm that fits into the bridge there is a larger allen wrench. This is used to adjust the bridge height and spring tension when using it as a floating bridge. The allen screw is located under the strap button on the back of the body. The most unfortunate aspect of these guitars is that within 2-3 years of the design change, Fender broke partnership with Kahler and moved on with Floyd Rose replacement parts. As far as design is concerned these guitars are superb. From my understanding in speaking with custom shop personnel, they were dropped because they were stealing the market from American Fenders. The three negative aspects of this guitar are: 1) the finish on the bodies was not as durable as it could have been, partially because of using softer basswood instead of Ash or Alder and partially because it isn't as thickly applied. 2) the pinchlock mechanism can be easily over-torqued and snap the tension bar which rides through a hollow nut. This takes away the ability to quickly change strings as compared to Floyd Rose products. 3) finally as I mentioned before, if you lose the vibrato arm...you are out of luck.
Above photo credits: An Ebay auction

Type: 1986 Stratocaster
Serial #: E645367
Remarks: This is a rather interesting Stratocaster. It has a Floyd-Rose type tremolo and a Seymour Duncan pickup at the bridge...but look at that interestingly shaped locking nut!
Above photo credits: An Ebay auction

Type: 1986 or 1987 '62 Reissue Stratocaster
Serial #: F006974
Remarks: None
Above photo credits: The owner, Brett Margollis

Type: 1989 Strat XII
Serial #: Unknown
Remarks: This model was introduced in 1988 and discontinued in 1993. Quite a bit like the Electric XII, but with a different design headstock and a Strat body. Has 12 individual bridge saddles.
Above photo credits: Found on Guitar Base

Type: Late 80's or early 90's Strat XII
Serial #: E856336
Remarks: None.
Above photo credits: An Ebay auction

Type: Japanese HM Power Strat, first version
Serial #: E841215
Remarks: There have been several different Japanese HM Strats. The HM Power Strat, first version, could be recognised by it having a single humbucker pickup, 2 controls, 1 coil switch, 24 frets and no pickguard. On the headstock you see the large Strat logo. The serial number makes this a 1984-1987 guitar.
Above photo credits: Picture kindly provided by John Simmons

Type: Japanese HM Power Strat, second version (year unknown)
Serial #: Unknown
Remarks: This type of guitar can be recognised by it having a humbucker and two single coils, a large Strat logo, 3 controls, a 5-way selector, 1 coil switch, no pickguard, and a large Strat logo on the headstock. The only way to distinguish the "Japanese HM Power Strat second version" from the US-made "US HM Strat first version" is by comparing serial numbers. Japanese axes should have serials starting with K, L, or even M. American guitars should have serials starting with E.

Type: 1990 Japanese HM Strat, first version
Serial #: Unknown
Remarks: The 'standard' Japanese HM Strat, first version, can be recognised by it having two single coils, a humbucker, 2 controls, 1 coil switch, 1 5-way switch, small 'Stencil'-type Strat logo, and no pickguard.
Above photo credits: Picture kindly provided by Mike Wheeler

Type: Japanese HM Strat, second version (year unknown)
Serial #: Unknown
Remarks: This type of guitar can be recognised by it having a humbucker-single-humbucker pickup configuration, 2 controls, 1 5-way switch, a black laminated pickguard, and an uncharacteristic 'droopy' headstock with elongated Fender logo.

Type: 1989 or 1990 Japanese HM Strat, second version
Serial #: J027821
Remarks: Here's a real one instead of a picture from a brochure. The finish has kindof a 'marble' effect to it. This was a colour available standard.
Above photo credits: Picture kindly provided by the owner, Paul Abrams.

Type: 1989 or 1990 Japanese HM Strat, second version
Serial #: J039437
Remarks: Another nice real one, with better photography.
Above photo credits: Picture kindly provided by the owner, Paul Abrams.

Type: 1992 (?) Squier Hank Marvin signature Stratocaster
Serial #: L020199
Remarks: The well known Fiesta Red Hank Marvin signature model. It's based on a 1958 Stratocaster. It's got modern tuning pegs, and the frets directly on the fretboard.
Above photo credits: Picture kindly provided by Teddy Maricq

Type: 1992 or 1993 "Short" Stratocaster
Serial #: L022171
Remarks: This is referred to as a 'short Strat'. It's not a 3/4 scale guitar; it's about 24" (with 22 frets!) as opposed to the usual 25 1/2", whereas a short scale guitar like the Duosonic is 22 1/2". Neck radius is flatter than an ordinary Strat. The neck is attached with a different kind of neck plate than usual, with a slanted corner to allow higher neck access. The back of the neck says Made in Japan, the neck plate USA. Nonetheless this is not a cobbled-together axe. Two controls only (master tone, master volume), 2-post bridge with modern style saddles.
Above photo credits: The owner, Richard Westaway.

Type: 1993 "Short" Stratocaster
Serial #: Unknown
Remarks: A white version of the above.
Above photo credits: An Ebay auction

Type: 1994/1995 Floral Stratocaster
Serial #: Unknown
Remarks: Stratocasters with this flowery pattern are known as 'Floral' Stratocasters. This one is a reissue of an older (probably late 60's or early 70's) model, judging by the three-bolt neck and large headstock.
Above photo credits: An Ebay auction

Type: 1994/1995 Tigerstripe Stratocaster
Serial #: Q 006580
Remarks: A blue tigerstripe Strat. Pickup configuration of HSH provides a unique sound. The humbuckers are Seymour Duncan.

Type: Probably mid-90's Foto Flame (?) Stratocaster
Serial #: N1022672
Remarks: In the mid 90's, Fender Japan designed a transfer-print process to give 'normal' wood (usually basswood or alder) a flame-maple effect. I think this might be one of those. Other than that, this particular one features lace sensor pickups, Sperzel locking tuners, maple fretboard and strap locks.
Above photo credits: An Ebay auction

Type: 1996 Ventures tribute Stratocaster
Serial #: 10282
Remarks: Two-piece swamp ash body, charcoal burst finish, gold plated hardware, 22-fret rosewood fretboard with block inlays, "C" profile neck. It's also got active midrange boost (there's a battery compartment on the rear). There were three Fender Ventures model guitars, Click here to see them all.
Above photo credits: Taken from MIJ Fender Stratocasters and an Ebay auction

Type: 1996 Hank Marvin signature Stratocaster
Serial #: V296949
Remarks: Great guitar, with a fat 50's neck and a light-weight Swamp-Ash-body. The owners says there have been two runs each of 500 units. This instrument should not be mixed up with the '92 Squier-, the high-price Custom-Shop- and the today's Mexico-instruments.
Above photo credits: The owner, Pit Schmidt.

Type: 1997 '68 Reissue Stratocaster
Serial #: A000509
Remarks: Natural finish ash Stratocaster with vintage tremolo and tuners, large headstock, U-shaped neck. Previously owned by the Strat Central webmaster, who genuinely believes everything good that people say about Japanese Strats :-)
Click here for a close-up of the headstock, with signatures of John Petrucci (across the Fender logo), Steve Vai (above the Stratocaster logo) and Joe Stump (across the Original Contour Body text). Yngwie Malmsteen's signature is on the back.

Type: 1997 (?) Ritchie Blackmore signature model
Serial #: Not applicable
Remarks: Alder body, maple neck, rosewood fingerboard (scalloped), 21 frets, Seymour Duncan SSL-4x2 pickups, olympic white. This model was introduced in 1997.
Above photo credits: The above picture was found on the Fender Japan website.

Type: 1998 '68 Reissue Stratocaster
Serial #: A030405
Remarks: This is the younger cousin of my own guitar (a bit up on this page), submitted by Matthew Glanville (its owner). Although I do think the body is ash, the grain is quite different. Neck date stamp says March 1998.

Type: 2000 Nylon-string Solid-body Stratocaster
Serial #: Unknown
Remarks: The Japanese Fender factory has taken up manufacturing of this special model, a solid-body nylon-string Stratocaster (do notice that there are no pickups and only a volume knob). It requires a 9 volt battery, is made of basswood, has a scalloped maple neck and 6 Mike Christian (US) pickups.
Click here for a close-up of the original model, built around 1997/1998 by the US Custom Shop for Yngwie Malmsteen.
Above photo credits: The above picture was found on the Fender Japan website; the detail picture was found on the Official Yngwie Malmsteen Web Site, used with permission.

Type: Stratocaster (year unknown, specific type to be determined)
Serial #: Unknown
Remarks: This Stratocaster has a Kahler Floyd Rose tremolo, Gotoh tuners, modified black Grover tuner knobs, Schaller strap locks and an EMG pickup system.
Above photo credits: An Ebay auction

Type: 60's Reissue Foto Flame Stratocaster (year unknown)
Serial #: Unknown
Remarks: None
Above photo credits: Picture ruthlessly lifted off Ed Roman's Guitar Site

Type: 2000 Richie Kotzen signature model
Serial #: Not applicable
Remarks: Light weight ash with frame maple laminated maple cap. Maple fretboard, DiMarzio custom pickups, steel block bridge, Gotoh pearl tuners. There's also a Kotzen signature Telecaster.
Above photo credits: The above picture was found on the Fender Japan website.

Type: 2000 Richie Sambora signature model
Serial #: Not applicable
Remarks: These guitars are exactly the same, except optically. The Richie Sambora model is recognisable by the star inlay in the maple fretboard. Floyd Rose original bridge, Gotoh pearl tuners, front and middle pickup RS special, rear pickup DiMarzio PAF Pro. The black version finish is called 'black paisley'. They have an alder body with round cut heels.
Above photo credits: The above pictures were found on the Fender Japan website.

Type: 2000 Ritchie Blackmore signature 'set neck' model
Serial #: Not applicable
Remarks: Light weight ash body, maple neck, 22 frets, rosewood fingerboard (scalloped), USA Lace Sensor Gold pickups, olympic white.
Above photo credits: The above picture was found on the Fender Japan website.

Type: Squier Strat VII (year unknown, but definitely 2000 or earlier)
Serial #: Unknown
Remarks: A interesting hardtail (non-trem) 7-string Squier Stratocaster.
Above photo credits: An Ebay auction

Type: 2001 Iron Maiden Strat
Serial #: Unknown
Remarks: This model features a vintage-shaped neck, Seymour Duncan pickups (JB Jr. in the bridge and Hot Rails in the neck and middle) and a chrome pickguard. The headstock sports their signature logo.
Above photo credits: The Official Fender Web Site

Type: 2003 12-string Stratocaster
Serial #: Unknown
Remarks: A 12-string guitar that looks and plays like a Stratocaster, has Texas Special pickups, a newly designed bridge assembly which makes intonation very easy, and the fantastic look of the Burgundy Mist finish with matching headstock. It is very well made by Fender Japan, has enough twang and jangle to keep anyone happy.
Above photo credits: The owner, Erik "The King of String" van Bers.

Type: 2005 Limited Edition Antigua Stratocaster
Serial #: Not applicable
Remarks: "C" shape maple neck, large headstock, 21 medium jumbo frets, Fender/Schaller Vintage �F�-Style Tuning Machines, 3-ply Antigua pickguard. Another love-it-or-loathe-it finish.
Above photo credits: The above picture was found on the Fender Europe website.

 

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