Discover & Learn
An Insiders Look into Ishimori
One of the ligatures most commonly chosen by American saxophonists is the Woodstone/Ishimori. However, Ishimori is more than just a company that makes exceptional ligatures; this multi-faceted company has a rich tradition of bringing world-class craftsmanship to everything it produces and repairs. This article will briefly outline the history of the company and the products and services it provides, along with information gathered in an interview with the current owner.
In 1951, Zenkichi Ishimori opened the Ishimori Wind Instrument Repair Shop in the Shin-Okubo district of Tokyo. The shop was primarily focused on repair using their own hand-made products and tools. Shortly after the shop opened, Zenkichi became ill, and his son, Minoru Ishimori, took over the company at the age of 17. At this time, the company began collaborating with international musicians, such as Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Sonny Rollins, and Jerry Mulligan on repair techniques used throughout the world. Under Minoru’s guidance, the company began repairing and reselling used musical instruments, a practice that was not as common as it is today. By 1968, the company was able to do all repairs and overhauls in-house, and also began selling fully adjusted new instruments.
A new building was built to accommodate the increased instrument sales and ever growing repair shop. The new shop also included a basement performance space and private studios for lessons. At this time, Ishimori began to gather data about existing ligatures, and developed many ligature prototypes. Many saxophonists tested these prototypes and gave feedback to Ishimori. In an interview with the author, the owner said that Ishimori went through at least one hundred prototypes to create the design of their current ligature. (The photo on the right displays a few of these prototypes.) After the final development of the ligature, the other product lines that they created began to expand dramatically.
Currently the Woodstone brand includes many types of ligatures for saxophone and clarinet, reeds, thumb hooks, thumb rests, neck screws, mouthpieces, reed cases, instrument care supplies, and their very own alto and tenor saxophones, to name a few! Any saxophone and clarinet accessories that a musician might need for their instrument, this company is able to produce at the highest level. In addition to selling their own products, Woodstone offers many top brands of major music retailers, including Selmer, Yanagisawa, Yamaha, Harrison, Vandoren, D’Addario, Breathtaking, and many more!
It is common for some people to refer to the company as Ishimori and for others to call it Woodstone. Both are actually correct! The company’s name “Ishimori” is written in Japanese as: 石森. These kanji mean stone, 石, and woods/forest, 森, which is why the company is why the company’s original products are referred to as “Woodstone.”
There are now two buildings associated with the Ishimori. One of the buildings (see picture to the left) serves many purposes: the main floor of the building serves as a showroom, which includes new and used saxophones, woodwind accessories, and three small rooms to play test products. The basement is a small performance space that seats about fifty people and also includes a small bar. Legendary musicians such as Bob Mintzer, Branford Marsalis, Frederick Hemke, and Andreas Ottensame have presented recitals and masterclasses. The second floor has studio spaces for private lessons, and the third floor is used for repairs. While Ishimori specializes in saxophone and clarinets, they do repairs on all wind instruments. The other building is where the products of the Woodstone brand are made. Unfortunately, due to privacy concerns, no pictures were allowed inside the manufacturing building.
When asked what the future has in store the company, they said they are currently developing prototypes for their very own soprano saxophone. The soprano saxophone will join their very own hand-made saxophone line that is modeled after the famous Selmer Mark VI. The owner also added that they stay very busy at Ishimori, and try every day to keep up with the demands of ligature sales. The shop estimates that it sells approximately 10,000 ligatures a year worldwide. Asia and Europe are the largest consumers of these ligatures, closely followed by the United States.
If you are ever in Japan, this shop is definitely worth visiting, not only to see and try their incredible products, but also meet the extremely professional and kind staff at Ishimori Wind Instruments.
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