Acoustic guitars are durable yet delicate instruments. They can withstand some amount of physical exertion, but without the proper care and maintenance it won’t take long for them to fall apart on their own.

But whether it be from poor maintenance or a careless swift kick in the soundboard, most busted guitars that can’t be tidied up for resale are destined to meet a cruel, lonely end at the dump.

At least, that’s what your correspondent thought until he met piano tuner Katsuhiko Yamamoto, proprietor of Yamamoto Piano Service in Setagaya, Tokyo.

Mr. Yamamoto, unwilling to resign discarded acoustic guitars to their dark fate, takes these broken instruments and transforms them into fantastic dollhouses.

I first met Mr. Yamamoto at Setagaya Boroichi, a flea market held on the 15 and 16 of December and January each year. The market began in 1578—over 400 years ago—as a tax-free market in Setagaya, then a small castle town in the Musashi Province.

Today, the market is a designated national cultural treasure and every year tens of thousands of people come out to eat, shop and enjoy the atmosphere.

It was while walking through this bustling crowd that I came across Mr. Yamamoto’s shop on the market road.

The inside is lined with old toys and used instruments, all of which have been brought back to life by Mr. Yamamoto himself and are offered at reasonable prices: a few thousand yen for acoustic guitars and even pianos can be bought at below one hundred thousand.

And on one particular wall hang 8 old acoustic guitars that have been hollowed out to create the stage for charming homemade dollhouses.

According to Mr. Yamamoto, each dollhouse takes several months to complete. After drawing a rough plan, he bores a hole in the guitar and decorates the inside using whatever parts and pieces he’s accumulated.

Mr. Yamamoto commented that it’s accumulating these parts and pieces that takes up most of his time as finding an item that matches his vision for a particular dollhouse is no easy task, even among the estimated 700 vendors that set up shop during Setagaya Boroichi market. He told me he is currently on the hunt for old-fashioned woven rushes to create the tatami straw mats for a new Japanese-style room dollhouse.

He also shared that in order to create a miniature knife for the piece, he has started filing a small piece of metal that was embedded in the broken guitar itself.

While listing to Mr. Yamamoto speak, I felt a slight remorse thinking back on guitars that I, upon breaking, quickly discarded without thinking twice. Here was a man who took what I regarded as junk and turned into something new and beautiful. And watching him smile as he shared his work just made me all the more impressed.

Mr. Yamamoto allowed me to photograph his work and share them with you on this site. He also let me photograph him at work, but I’ll save those for next time. Until then, please enjoy the Broken Guitar Dollhouses of Yamato Piano Services!


▼ Broken acoustic guitars reborn as dollhouses
▼ Japanese Doll Festival

▼ The World Of Disney

▼ Bar and restaurant

▼ The bakery at Christmas

▼ The sewing room

▼ The bear room, with a sparkling BEAR sign!

▼ Another whimsical Christmas scene

▼ Old-fashioned Japanese shop. Take note of the ‘exterior’ as well!

[ Read in Japanese ]