1981 Tokai ES-150J



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The ES-150 was Tokai’s top 335 model when they introduced their new ES line in 1981 and in my opinion is one of the best and most accurate copies of the original ES-335’s one can find, bar none.

In 1981 Tokai introduced a new ES line of semi hollow body models built to be as close to the original ES-335’s as they were able to. To accomplish this, Tokai closely studied original ES-335’s made from 1959 to 1964, characterizing their research as ‘exhaustive’. The result of this work was the introduction of two new models, the ES-100 and ES-150, each of which came in two versions.

This is a 1981 ES-150J, the top model at introduction.

For the body Tokai followed the earliest models with three ply laminate top, body and sides. The top and back using maple in all three plies, and the sides maple and mahogany. The center block follows the originals using a solid maple block sandwiched between pieces of kerfed spruce which attach to the top and bottom, and running the full length of the guitar. The bridge and tail piece mount directly into the maple block to deliver sustain like a solid body. The pickup guard is a five ply long style, the same as would be found on a 1959 ES-335.

Following the originals, the neck is one piece mahogany, but with an Ebony fretboard, fret edge binding and mother of pearl dots located in the exact same locations as the originals. Per Tokai, the neck profile ‘remains absolutely faithful to the production cut on guitars made in ’59 and ‘60’.

The ES-150 was treated as one of the top models Tokai released and finished the guitar in Cashew Lacquer, the LS-200 being the only other model to receive this finish in 1981. Cashew Lacquer is made from cashew shells and is very close to traditional urushi lacquer. Putting an ES-150 side by side to an ES-100 which is finished in Nitrocellulose Lacquer, one can see the Cashew Lacquer is something really special as it gives off a beautiful amber glow. Cashew Lacquer is difficult to apply, so it is rarely used and typically only found on top models. It can still be found today on some very high end Japanese made acoustic guitars.

The 1981 ES-150 came in Rock and Jazz versions, the difference being the pickups installed. This guitar is a Jazz version with its original pickups in place and the rock version came with DiMarzio PAF pickups. I find the jazz pickup quite versatile, not quite as hot as the DiMarzio, but a good candidate for Blues, Classic Rock and of course Jazz. These early ES models also came with orange drop style PIO caps and shielding foil on the underside of the top.

These guitars were made to be true to an original ’59 335 and built to the highest standards by Tokai. At forty years old it is one of the closest experiences you will find to an original ’59 335. The Tokai ES-150 are especially rare, with the ES models disappearing completely from the Tokai catalogs between 1985 and 1986.

This guitar appears to be all original and has its original Tokai case. It is in excellent condition, with some minor scratches and dings as one would expect in a forty year old guitar. The entire guitar has aged beautifully. This guitar has all the look and beauty of a vintage guitar.

The guitar has received a full set up, with frets freshly polished, relief (truss rod), action and intonation adjusted. Pots, jack, and switch were cleaned and nut relief checked. Entire guitar was cleaned, including nut slots and fret board, which was also oiled. There is no buzzing or dead spots anywhere on the neck. The guitar plays and sounds fantastic, with a true to the original neck profile that is a pleasure to play. This guitar needs nothing.

This is one of the most accurate and highest quality copies of a '59 335 and with forty years of real aging. It’s also one of the highest models from a top Japanese manufacturer at the peak of their game. This guitar will meet the demands of both the professional musician and very serious collector. This is a model I will always have one of for myself.

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