Hoshino Gakki (Japanese: 星野楽器は) is a musical instrument manufacturer and wholesaler based in Nagoya, Aichi, Japan. The company's formal name is Hoshino Gakki Co., Ltd. It was founded early in the twentieth century as Hoshino Shoten (Hoshino Bookshop) by Matsuhiro Hoshino. It would grow to become one of the first Japanese musical instrument companies to gain a significant foothold as an exporter to the United States and Europe. It is known primarily as the owner of the Ibanez guitar and Tama drums brand names.
In 1908 Hoshino expanded from selling mostly textbooks to include a musical instrument department which primarily sold foot-powered organs to Japan's schools. This new branch was run by Matsuhiro's son, Yoshitaro Hoshino, who was in his early 20s. By 1929 as the guitar was gaining popularity in Japan and throughout the world the company began importing guitars from Salvador Ibañez in Spain. At around this time the company was rechristened Hoshino Gakki Ten (Hoshino Musical Instrument Shop). By this time Yoshitaro's eldest son, Ryohei, was becoming involved in running the company. Eventually Yoshitaro's other sons, Junpei, Masao and Yoshihiro (who serves as a director as of 2020) would all work for the company.
Throughout the 1930s the company continued to grow despite the worsening worldwide economic conditions and political upheaval in Japan. The company soon began importing instruments from Czechoslovakia, Germany , Italy and the United States in addition to the Spanish Ibañez guitars. Even with these new sources demand outstripped the supply and so in 1935 the company began producing its own stringed instruments in Nagoya. The company decided to adopt the Ibanez name (dropping both the "Salvador" and the Spanish "ñ") for these new home-grown instruments. Also in 1935 the company began exporting instruments to its Asian neighbors. By 1937 the company had increased production to as many as 1,000 guitars per month, and by the end of the decade they started exporting to the United States in limited quantities.
This period of prosperity for the company would be interrupted first by a fire which destroyed the company's manufacturing facility in 1939 and shortly thereafter as Japan was plunged into World War II. During the war the company's manufacturing prowess was redirected from "nonessential" musical instruments into making essential goods for the war effort. Eventually as all four of Yoshitaro's sons were pressed into military service, the company was forced to cease operations. To make matters worse, the company's plant was again leveled, this time by Allied bombers.
After the war the family began rebuilding the business, although they found themselves in a much more competitive business environment. By 1950 the company had resumed its domestic wholesaling operations, but it was clear that the newly competitive domestic market alone would not be enough for the company to thrive, so they got to work on rebuilding export relationships. Among the first items the reborn company was successful in exporting were plectrums, which they were able to sell for a premium since Hoshino's were still made from real tortoiseshell while most competitors had switched to synthetics. By 1955 the company discontinued its domestic business to focus completely on foreign markets.
In the late 1950s the company was exporting guitars under the Star, Imperial and Royal brand names in addition to Ibanez. These guitars were produced by Tokyo Sound Company (electrics) and Kuroyanagi Gakki (acoustics).
By 1960 the company had consolidated its distribution around the Ibanez brand, although they would continue to sell guitars with other nameplates. This period could be considered the beginning of the modern era of Ibanez.
In 1962 the company once again found that their outsourced suppliers were unable to keep up with demand. Junpei Hoshino, who had assumed leadership of the company when his older brother, Ryohei, died in 1960, formed Tama Seisakusho, Inc. (Tama Manufacturing Company). This new manufacturing subsidiary was named after Yoshitaro's wife (and Junpei's mother) and was run by Yoshitaro's youngest son, Yoshihiro. A 44,000 square foot (5,800 square meter) manufacturing facility was built to make stringed and percussion instruments.
Within a few years the company once more decided that it was more profitable to contract stringed instrument production to other companies and in 1966 the Tama production facility was refocused on solely percussion instruments, which would come to be sold under the Tama brand. This ended Hoshino Gakki's second period of guitar manufacturing, and henceforth the company has been almost exclusively a wholesaler of guitars and other stringed instruments produced by other companies. Tama Seisakusho would be renamed Hoshino Gakki Mfg. Co., Ltd in 1981.
By the late 1960s Hoshino's electric guitars were produced almost exclusively by FujiGen Gakki, a supplier with which Hoshino has maintained a very close relationship and Teisco, which eventually folded, with many of its employees moving to FujiGen..
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s the vast majority of Hoshino's electric guitar and bass production was produced by FujiGen. They continued to source acoustic guitars from a number of Japanese suppliers throughout these decades, but specifics of those relationships and which guitars were made where remain shrouded in some mystery.