History

KIWAYA company in 1910's.The man on the right side(near bicycle)is Kitaroh Okamoto; the founder of KIWAYA.

KIWAYA is a specialized ukulele company.
This company has many faces: producer, merchandiser, music school, the ukulele museum.
Their policy is "Offering Happiness through the Ukulele".

However KIWAYA was not been a specialized ukulele company until the early 1950's.
Ryouji Okamoto is the current CEO of KIWAYA who joined KIWAYA in the late 1950's.
At that time KIWAYA started to step forward into the ukulele market in Japan.

KIWAYA was established in 1919 as a maintenance service company for gramophones in Tokyo.
The founder of KIWAYA, Kitaroh Okamoto was changing the business model from gramophone maintenance toward becoming a music shop in the 1940's.

Famous ukulele- the first season model(1950's)

In 1957, Ryouji Okamoto joined KIWAYA as the president, and he led KIWAYA's transition to become a musical instrument company.
Then, the boom of "Hawaiian music" swept all over Japan.
The ukulele was fashionable, so a lot of companies made various ukuleles. For example, TOSHIBA, a world leader in high technology and electronics today, made ukuleles in those days.

Then Ryouji also produced KIWAYA's first brand ukulele under the name "Famous".
Ryouji named this ukulele with the dream for it to be famous.
However, the times were about to change. When the "Famous" ukulele was born, the boom of Hawaiian music was starting to fade.
It was the beginning of the glacial period of the ukulele ...

When KIWAYA's "Famous" brand ukulele began to sell, rockabilly was gradually gaining power.
After Elvis Presley was introduced in Japan, Japan was flooded with rock 'n' roll music.
The era of the electric guitar had come.
As Hawaiian music was declining, the sales of ukulele were falling, too.
Most of the ukulele wholesalers and makers stopped making ukuleles, and transitioned from the ukulele business to another business and some of them went bankrupt.

After rockabilly, the era changed from "Elvis" to "The Beatles". People did not need the ukulele any longer. They needed the guitar.
In spite of this situation, Ryouji never gave up. He loved the ukulele very much.
"I never want to give up such a pretty musical instrument", he thinks back.

Ryouji made efforts to keep the ukulele alive in Japan.
He went to some Japanese Hawaiian music players in order to improve the ukulele, and he sold to many little ukulele clubs all over Japan.
Ryouji also went to some local authorities in order to propose developing music education programs using the ukulele.
He made "mini-size guitars" by using "baritone ukulele" bodies and he sold them.

Through Ryouji's steady efforts, the "Famous ukulele" existed as the only ukulele in the Japanese market.
In 1990's, the ukulele's sounds were heard through commercial films on TV. Some musicians in Japan became interested in the ukulele.
The main stream was not Hawaiian music but Jazz, standard, and pops. This originated from Herb Ohta(Ohta-san), a jazz ukulele player of world-wide renown.

So the boom of "ukulele" began.
While the TV program " how to play ukulele" was on the air, the sales of Ukulele by KIWAYA climbed higher than ever before.
Most people equated "ukulele" with the "Famous" brand.

Ryouji Okamoto & Kyoko Hara

In 2002, Ryouji became the CEO of KIWAYA. He assigned Kyoko Hara, his oldest daughter, to be the president of KIWAYA.
The new president Kyoko Hara had various plans.
She expanded the KIWAYA Ukulele School which was started in 1998; it now has 40 classes, and about over 300 students.
Kyoko opened the KIWAYA website in 1999, started the Ukulele contest in 2004 and founded the KIWAYA Ukulele Museum "RAKU" in 2004, one after another.

She has recently started services of lending ukuleles as a part of her achievement to promote ukulele. "I would like to have anybody experience the joy of playing ukulele."
Offering the services for free, she has successfully opened the door into ukulele to the people and spread the joy of ukulele to local communities.
President Kyoko Hara has cooperated with the new generation's ukulele craftsmen, releasing various ukuleles now. She has been leading KIWAYA to be a powerful specialized ukulele company.

Ryouji Okamoto

In 2006, Ryouji Okamoto was introduced into NAMM(The National Association of Music Merchants)'s Oral History Project as "Father of Japanese Ukulele". NAMM's Oral History Project was started in June 2000 in an effort to capture and preserve videotaped interviews of some of the music products industry's greatest contributors in the world.

KIWAYA's quality check system.

Ryouji Okamoto has contributed to the popularization of the ukulele in Japan for a long time.
He is known as "Uncle Famous", ("Famous" is the name of KIWAYA's brand of ukuleles in Japan.)
It is a great honor to be introduced into NAMM's Oral History Project.

KIWAYA UKULELE SHOWROOM has been renewal in 2011.

President Kyoko Hara insists, "KIWAYA has a unique place in the history of Japanese ukulele and has fostered the Japanese ukulele culture. We've made good quality and good sounding ukuleles in Japan.
So, we can propose to the people who love ukulele all over the world, "Offering Happiness through the Ukulele"."
She is aiming to popularize ukuleles made in Japan in the global ukulele market.

KIWAYA's dream is not to be "Famous" but rather to "Offer Happiness through the ukulele all over the world".
And now, since the 3/11 Earthquake (Tohoku Earthquake on 11 March 2011), KIWAYA has been working on the services enthusiastically to offer opportunities to people in Tohoku region struck by the Earthquake and Tsunami.