Back in the saddle. I needed to take a trip to North America over the past few weeks and was unable to write at all during that time.
A difference between the ukulele scene in North America and Japan became very evident to me while poking around music shops during my recent trip. There really is an awful lot more available in Japan in terms of published material on playing the instrument and music adapted for it.
First, most of the music stores that had anything are stocking the same "Jumpin' Jim" strum-and-sing books. There is nothing wrong with that unless you sing like a badger in a blender--like me. There are a few introductory books here and there, but you can pretty much find everything on Amazon or at Elderly Music. Perhaps that explains why the shops seem so desolate. Of course, if it is available at Amazon or Elderly, it is available here in Japan, too. This lack of published material goes some way to explaining why so many individuals and groups are putting songs up on the web in the English-speaking world.
Second, generally speaking, Japan really does seem to have quite a bigger variety of published material for the ukulele player. Not only is all of the English-language material available, but there are quite a few people publishing with reasonable frequency a variety of how-to-books and arrangement books. Some of these I have touched on earlier in other writings. I don't know if these books would be available outside of Japan due to copyright regulations, but I will start focusing a little more on those in this blog. The difference even in the local shop up the street and those I looked at on my trip is quite striking.
The same hold true for instruments also. All the shops on the mainland seem to pretty much stock Lanikais as their main ware. That is an interesting contrast with Honolulu, where you see quite a few more Vietnamese-made Tangis than most anything--at least the last time I was there. In Japan, brands under the Kiwaya umbrella are big, but looking around shops, it would be difficult to just assume they have the same sort of market share as Lanikai probably does.