Do you know “Maywa Denki,” a unique and creative Japanese inventor?

Have you ever seen or heard of a strange-looking electronic musical instrument with the shape of a musical note? The “company” that invented the eccentric instrument called “Otamatone” is based in Japan. Let’s take an in-depth look at this “company.”

Electronic musical instrument Otamatone, which looks like a toy, became a huge hit with accumulated sales of one million units. Maywa Denki, headed by Nobumichi Tosa, is the mind behind the array of truly “nonsensical” products, including the famous Otamatone.

Otamatone became a huge hit with its humorous look and easiness to play. Otamatone series / ¥2,200~ (incl. tax)

The name “Maywa Denki” sounds like an actual electronics company name (as “denki” means “electricity” in Japanese), but it is actually an art group. It develops “nonsense” devices (that’s how Maywa Denki describes its products) and showcases them at live performances, exhibitions, etc. It has also been gaining attention outside Japan not only by successfully setting up and carrying out the “Maywa Denki Nonsense Factory” exhibition in Beijing, China in 2021, fully remotely from Japan, but also by doing live performances in Hong Kong, the U.S., etc. Not only the group, but also Mr. Tosa, who leads the group, is truly unique. The blue workwear, which evokes the image of the typical uniform of small companies that played a tremendous role during Japan’s high economic growth period, is his trademark. He calls his works “products” and calls the live performances, in which he appears, “product demonstrations.” It is probably because, at bottom, he possesses Japan’s creative spirit that he inherited from his father, who was an owner of an electrical parts factory. Maywa Denki has developed other unique products besides Otamatone. Let’s look at some of them.

“SUSHI BEAT” is a series of sushi-shaped electronic gadgets. You can turn the power on by holding and squeezing it as if you are making a sushi. Each SUSHI BEAT sushi features different sounds, so you can create an ensemble by playing them together. SUSHI BEAT (JOU) / ¥6,600 (incl. tax)

“GumBass” is a compact-size fretless bass guitar. What makes it unique is the fact that the string is a rubber band used for packing. GumBass Compact Model <Beech> / ¥15,000 (incl. tax)

Of course, both SUSHI BEAT and GumBass can play sounds. Maywa Denki has also released products in collaboration with popular Japanese band “ZUTTOMAYONAKADEIINONI”.

SUSHI BEAT in collaboration with ZUTTOMAYONAKADEIINONI. Each of the four SUSHI BEAT sushi contains original sounds titled “Kansaete Sushi Kuwa” created by ZUTTOMAYONAKADEIINONI. <ZUTTOMAYONAKADEIINONI> x <Maywa Denki> SUSHI BEAT “Kansaete Sushi Kuwa” / ¥8,800 (incl. tax)

A shamoji (rice paddle)-shaped bass guitar (left) and a shamoji-shaped DIY bass guitar kit (right) in collaboration with ZUTTOMAYONAKADEIINONI. <ZUTTOMAYONAKADEIINONI> x <Maywa Denki> SHAMO BASS KYO / ¥16,500 (incl. tax) <ZUTTOMAYONAKADEIINONI> x <Maywa Denki> SHAMO BASS KIT / ¥4,950 (incl. tax)

In July 2022, Maywa Denki opened its “Maywa Denki Music Machine Shop” in Akihabara, in a famous building that houses many electronic parts shops. Moreover, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of its debut, it will be holding an exhibition at Kure Municipal Museum of Art in September 2023 and at Sapporo Art Park in December 2023. You will get to see up close the musical instruments invented by Maywa Denki, so definitely visit one of the exhibitions if you find the products interesting!

■DATA Address: Tokyo Radio Department Store 2F, 1-10-11 Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo Opening hours: 12 a.m.~6 p.m. Closed on Tuesdays Mail. [email protected] Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/maywa_denki/ (Information as of August 2023)