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Buying a new Yamaha flute - in Japan?

Flute History and Instrument Purchase

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blowtorch711
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Buying a new Yamaha flute - in Japan?

Postby blowtorch711 » Fri Nov 13, 2015 1:16 am

So I've been thinking about buying a new Yahama flute, and I'm leaning towards the 321. I'm looking for something better than the clunky old Armstrong 104 I've had forever. I hear good things about the Yamahas in general, and played one for about a minute at a local flute show. It seemed pretty good, but it was hardly a fair evaluation.

I'm looking for something that's easy to play, and that has a nice tone (or more precisely, something that is easy to get a nice tone out of). Is the 321 a good choice for that?

As luck would have it, I'll be visiting Japan for a week in a few moths. It occurred to me that Yamahas come from there (I know, they're not made there). That got me thinking...are there any interesting variant models sold in Japan that might be a good choice for me over the garden variety 300 series sold here in the USA where I live? Any good deals to be had on a Yamaha flute in Japan (ie a factory outlet store)?

The US dollar is currently pretty strong against the Japanese currency, although I have no idea what the market conditions are for instruments in Japan. None of this may make any sense at all, but I figured it was at least worth asking about.

Would it make any sense, provide good options, or a good deal if I went flute shopping while in Tokyo?

Thanks for any advice & opinions.

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Phineas
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Re: Buying a new Yamaha flute - in Japan?

Postby Phineas » Wed Nov 18, 2015 8:29 am

If you have time, take a trip on the Shinkansen down to Hamamatsu. Yamaha has a big showroom there. I lived not far from there for a while, and spent my share on money. You will not only have to opportunity to save a few bucks on a Yamaha instrument, you will also see and be able to try out different models that are not available in the US.

Since you will be in Tokyo, do not forget that Muramatsu, and Sankyo have showrooms there as well. If you are into Electronics/computers, make sure you make it to Akihabara as well.

blowtorch711
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Re: Buying a new Yamaha flute - in Japan?

Postby blowtorch711 » Fri Nov 20, 2015 9:40 pm

Well, it's a short trip, and I don't think a side trip to Hamamatsu will fit well. That said, I have found (online) a shop in Tokyo that looks pretty intriguing - Shimokura. Prices look VERY good - I am looking at mid-range Yamaha flutes - 400, 500 and 600 series - which are much higher end than I would have considered. But the prices there look like they are way less expensive than in the US (like, 40% off what I see in online flute places based in the US). As an example, I see 500-series Yamahas at prices from $2700-$2900 at a well-know online place here in the USA. That's more flute than I need and than I would pay for. But in Japan, I see 500 series Yamaha flutes selling for around $1400 (new) - gotta admit, that is v-e-r-y tempting!

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pied_piper
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Re: Buying a new Yamaha flute - in Japan?

Postby pied_piper » Sat Nov 21, 2015 10:11 pm

Don't forget about the duties payable upon re-entry to the U.S. It probably won't be as much as the price difference, but it will increase your total cost a bit.
"Never give a flute player a screwdriver."
--anonymous--

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Phineas
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Re: Buying a new Yamaha flute - in Japan?

Postby Phineas » Mon Nov 23, 2015 9:53 am

Don't forget about the duties payable upon re-entry to the U.S. It probably won't be as much as the price difference, but it will increase your total cost a bit.
From my experience, if you take it out of the box, get rid of the factory packaging and play on it, you will not be hit with duties. However, if you want to bring it back to the states new in the package, there is no savings!!!

I learn that the hard way!

Phineas

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pied_piper
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Re: Buying a new Yamaha flute - in Japan?

Postby pied_piper » Mon Nov 23, 2015 11:31 pm

From my experience, if you take it out of the box, get rid of the factory packaging and play on it, you will not be hit with duties. However, if you want to bring it back to the states new in the package, there is no savings!!!

I learn that the hard way!
If discovered, CBP can seize the item(s). It's also possible to learn about the criminal penalties for deceitfully avoiding the duties.

From Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Customs_d ... ted_States
"Certain civil penalties apply for failures to follow CBP rules and pay duty. In addition, goods of persons subject to such penalties may be seized and sold by CBP. In addition, criminal penalties may apply for certain offenses. Criminal penalties may be as high as twice the value of the goods plus twenty years in jail."
"Never give a flute player a screwdriver."
--anonymous--

blowtorch711
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Re: Buying a new Yamaha flute - in Japan?

Postby blowtorch711 » Tue Nov 24, 2015 1:27 am

From my experience, if you take it out of the box, get rid of the factory packaging and play on it, you will not be hit with duties. However, if you want to bring it back to the states new in the package, there is no savings!!!

I learn that the hard way!
If discovered, CBP can seize the item(s). It's also possible to learn about the criminal penalties for deceitfully avoiding the duties.
I'm sure that's technically true, But I have to wonder about just what are the chances of getting caught with an (almost) new flute upon arrival. Assuming you don't bring the box/packaging it came in, it seems extremely unlikely. People travel internationally with instruments all the time. Am I naive to think the CBP guys have little knowledge of (and little interest in watching for) musical instruments bought in Japan?

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Phineas
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Re: Buying a new Yamaha flute - in Japan?

Postby Phineas » Tue Nov 24, 2015 7:21 am

If discovered, CBP can seize the item(s). It's also possible to learn about the criminal penalties for deceitfully avoiding the duties.
I use to do this all of the time.

Rules for customs.

1. ALWAYS DECLARE SOMETHING! If I buy gifts for others, I claim them. If I am bringing back things for someone else I claim them. If I do not have anything I claim $100.00

I have been through customs without claiming anything. They went through my stuff with a fine toothed comb!!! Even though I really did not have anything to claim. I learned my lesson after that!!

Here is a quote the the http://www.cbp.gov/travel/international ... -duty-info

Household Effects & Personal Effects - Customs Duty Guidance

Household effects conditionally included are duty-free. These include such items as furniture, carpets, paintings, tableware, stereos, linens, and similar household furnishings; tools of the trade, professional books, implements, and instruments.

You may import household effects you acquired abroad duty-free if:

You used them abroad for no less than one year.
They are not intended for any other person or for sale.

For Customs purposes, clothing, jewelry, photography equipment, portable radios, and vehicles are considered personal effects and cannot be brought in duty-free as household effects. However, duty is usually waived on personal effects more than one year of age. All vehicles are dutiable.
Lots of people travel with musical instruments. How can anyone prove that you did not bring it with you in the first place? They can't. When you travel abroad with a musical instrument, there is no registry that you have to submit for the instruments you carry. Often, the same instruments I purchased in Japan went back and forth through customs several times.

When I moved back from living in Japan, I brought back several instruments and a bunch of electronics. I purchased there. No duties!! The only issue I ever had was LEAVING Japan not entering the United States. That was due to a restriction of exporting certain types of Bamboo. So I could not take the handmade Shakuhachi out of Japan.

blowtorch711
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Re: Buying a new Yamaha flute - in Japan?

Postby blowtorch711 » Wed Nov 25, 2015 12:35 am

So...couple things...

First, I acknowledge that one probably should declare a new instrument bought abroad upon returning home to the US. Reading the bits above, it looks like there's no duty on an instrument (classified as "household goods") if...you used them (household goods) abroad for a year or more. Well, unfortunately, I'll be in Japan less than a week, so that kind of fails right there. OK, fair enough.

Technically, I think if customs suspects any of the stuff you're bring with you upon returning to the US is subject to duty (even if it doesn't look brand new), they can demand you prove that you already owned it before you left ("got a receipt for that camera, sir?"). Practically, though...almost everyone returns back to the US with something of value (most of which they took with them on the trip) - an expensive camera, a laptop, a mobile phone, etc. They could demand you produce proof (a receipt) showing you already owned that before you went abroad. But how often does that really happen?

How many people buy stuff overseas, get "a good deal" and then just bring it home, without declaring it and paying duty? I think that's pretty common - but more common for a camera, a watch, some jewelry, etc. - just not quite as often with a musical instrument.

Personally, I have regularly flown in from abroad with my bag stuffed with various expensive gizmos that I brought from home (cameras, tablets, scuba gear, etc., some of it pretty expensive). Nobody has ever asked me about anything other than food items. I think they're mostly looking for things that could spread pests or impact agriculture.

I dunno...I usually don't take chances. Then again, the price on that Yamaha 5xx is v-e-r-y tempting!

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Phineas
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Re: Buying a new Yamaha flute - in Japan?

Postby Phineas » Wed Nov 25, 2015 7:23 am

How many people buy stuff overseas, get "a good deal" and then just bring it home, without declaring it and paying duty? I think that's pretty common - but more common for a camera, a watch, some jewelry, etc. - just not quite as often with a musical instrument.

Personally, I have regularly flown in from abroad with my bag stuffed with various expensive gizmos that I brought from home (cameras, tablets, scuba gear, etc., some of it pretty expensive). Nobody has ever asked me about anything other than food items. I think they're mostly looking for things that could spread pests or impact agriculture.

I dunno...I usually don't take chances. Then again, the price on that Yamaha 5xx is v-e-r-y tempting!
Well, I lived and travel through Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Philippines, Guam, etc.... For almost 4 years straight. You could argue the ONE YEAR thing, but that is very vague. Not once has ANY customs agent ever ask me to see a receipt. When I came home from China the first time I went, the only time I got questioned is when I had batches of similar items...which I claimed!

The whole idea behind duties is to keep people from importing/reselling items with out paying the duty fees/import tariffs. Also to keep illegal things from being imported and exported.

To each their own. I can only tell you about my personal experiences. The duty is 3% usually. For a $2000.00 flute, that would be $60 dollars. Even if you pay that, you are still coming out ahead anyway. Where I use to loose was cashing in foreign money. You bring back any yen, and you will pay a 25% to 30% in exchange fees to convert it back to USD....but that is another thread!

Phineas

blowtorch711
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Re: Buying a new Yamaha flute - in Japan?

Postby blowtorch711 » Mon Dec 14, 2015 3:06 am

I agree with your post(s) above, Phineas. I am currently leaning towards going flute shopping in Tokyo - the prices look so v-e-r-y tempting.

I guess my questions now are mostly around the choice of flute and the process/environment in the shop. First, about the flute...

Here's my criteria...pretty basic stuff:
Closed hole. C-foot. No gizmo key. Split E. Reliable, easy to play, easy to get a nice tone.
I have read (I forget where) that Yamaha flutes below the "professional" models are built in Indonesia; to get one that's actually made in Japan, you need the 500-level and up. Of course, those are expensive! But less expensive in Japan, it appears.

I've been looking over models/prices in a large Tokyo shop. It's a bit tricky, as the pages are all in Japanese (which I do not speak) but google translate lets me get most details (although like all machine translations, it's sometimes confusing, occasionally hilarious).

The one that has caught my eye is the YFL-517. 500-series, so considered "professional level" and (I'm pretty sure) is hand-made in Japan. Here's how their blurb translates:

"Handmade flute "ideal" specifications and "finesse" series inherited the playability is attractive timbre good pronunciation property with a course deep. Standard equipped Type Am head tube in the heavier sense of resistance, it can smooth playing combines the goodness of the deeper expressive power and control. YFL-517 will be silver head tube, カバードキィ ("Kabadokyi" ?), in with E mechanism."

This model does not seem to be sold in the US (sold in Japan, UK, Germany). On various European websites (in English, thankfully), I see it's specs as:
closed hole, offset G, split E, solid silver "type AM" headjoint (0.38 mm), silver plated elsewhere, standard wall thickness 0.40 mm, C-foot. Drawn & curled toneholes. I got no clue what "Kabadokyi" means.

I'm seeing prices in the EU for this flute for around US$2500-$2900 via online shops ("list price" US$3400 - yikes). Other 500-series Yamaha flutes from the large US-based online vendors are US$2700 and up. It looks like I can pick this up in Tokyo for under US$1500 (advertised as tax-free for foreigners who can show their passport). I'm thinking day-um, that sure is tempting! From far away, this sounds like a really nice instrument.

Of course, I would be buying this in a place where English may or may not be widely spoken, so communication may be limited, trying it out for a short time, then getting on a plane a few days later. Yeah, it's got a warrantee, but I don't visit Japan very often. I'm sure the shop is legit (big place) but it's inconveniently located. I know a very good local flute technician who I'm sure could fix any shortcomings that might appear, and it's a Yamaha -known for reliability, I think. So there are some risks, but it looks like a heckuva deal - this is a much higher quality instrument than I would ordinarily buy if not visiting Japan.

Any tips on how to go about trying the flute before making a purchase decision? Since you've lived in Japan and know something about flutes, your insights would be very valuable. Is it customary/acceptable to ask to try several of the same model side-by-side to see if there are noticeable differences? (After all, this will be in Japan - you know, politeness is a big deal there) This looks like a big shop, I can easily imagine it being crowded, chaotic, noisy, intense...not an ideal environment to evaluate an instrument. As a clueless foreigner, I'm sure they would cut me some slack, make allowances for my ignorance and bad manners, and as a customer of course treat me with more respect than I probably deserve... Any suggestions you can offer about the process?

Thanks for your help!@

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Phineas
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Re: Buying a new Yamaha flute - in Japan?

Postby Phineas » Mon Dec 14, 2015 8:51 pm

Any suggestions you can offer about the process?
Do not over think it. Anytime I wanted to try out an instrument, there were no issues. I have found in most cases, retail shopping in Japan was a real pleasure and the people are very helpful. Just do not be over bearing and learn a little about Japanese culture. Politeness words, etiquette, etc.... The basics will take a long way.

As far as the flute, I use to own a YFL517. If will be everything you expect it to be. I down sized after I got my Miyazawa Legacy which is also a handmade closed hole flute only available in Japan.

blowtorch711
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Re: Buying a new Yamaha flute - in Japan?

Postby blowtorch711 » Sat Dec 19, 2015 4:54 pm

Thanks for the input. I've been to Japan once before, so I understand the service culture a little, and I agree that shopping there is generally a great experience. Actually, after just a few days in Japan, I reached the conclusion that pretty much everyone working there - from shopkeepers to trash collectors - seems to take their job very seriously, and they appear to make a real effort to be very good at what they do (a delightful change from the cultural norms back in my homeland of the USA). So yes, I do know at least a little about the appropriate greetings, polite gestures and other norms (well, still a baka gaijin, I'm sure) and try to be as polite as I know how.

My question was more around the etiquette specifically around purchasing an instrument. When shopping for a flute, for example, is it acceptable (and routine) to ask them to bring out several copies of the model one is considering, and playing each of them for a few minutes, to compare and see if there are any noticeable differences? The 500-series is, I believe, at least partially hand-made (in Japan) and although I'm sure any differences are probably subtle, I'd feel more comfortable if I get to pick from among several copies, rather than having them just take out one, hand it to me and that one being my only choice.

Ideally I'd like to have 20 minutes in a room that's not filled with lots of other noise (other people playing instruments) to warm up, and try playing multiple copies of the model in question. Not sure how realistic all of that is - from the look of the website, I'm guessing the shop is a busy place with a lot going on in a relatively small space (which is kinda the Japanese way for many things).

Finally, a question about this particular flute: it says "AM headjoint". I've seen a lot of discussion around EY headjoints (they seem highly regarded) but I've seen very little about the AM. You know anything about that? Do you recall if yours had the AM, and if so, how would you describe it?

Many thanks for all your input on this stuff, it's VERY much appreciated!

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Phineas
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Re: Buying a new Yamaha flute - in Japan?

Postby Phineas » Sat Dec 19, 2015 9:26 pm

Finally, a question about this particular flute: it says "AM headjoint". I've seen a lot of discussion around EY headjoints (they seem highly regarded) but I've seen very little about the AM. You know anything about that? Do you recall if yours had the AM, and if so, how would you describe it?
The headjoint that came with mine was an EC. Never played on and AM before.

blowtorch711
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Re: Buying a new Yamaha flute - in Japan?

Postby blowtorch711 » Wed Feb 17, 2016 11:11 pm

Just got back a few hours ago. Short version: all went well.

I bought a new YFL-517 (hand-made in Japan for the Japan market, closed hole, C-foot, silver Am headjoint) in Tokyo last week, for less than half of what a 500-series Yamaha would have cost me here at home in the US. It plays very nicely, and already sounds better than my old Armstrong 104. I tested several YFL517s for almost 2 hours in a relatively quiet room in the music shop, picked one, bought it, and had no hassles at all - it was easy (even though nobody in the shop spoke any English). I didn't really get a chance to play it much for the rest of the time we were in Japan (out of consideration for neighbors in adjoining hotel rooms and my long-sufferering wife - plus we had a busy schedule). Had no trouble getting it back to the US, no questions asked, it was a breeze. Got home a few hours ago, just played the new flute for an hour or so, it's quite nice. Great buying experience, glad I did it.

Thanks for the advice here. I'd recommend this option to those going to/through Japan - can save a bundle and get a nice horn. :D


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