B.C.’s Yusuke Kawakami is a world-class guitar maker

Inside the Craft explores B.C.’s finest instrument builders

Every time master luthier Yusuke Kawakami finishes building a guitar and gives the instrument to its new owner, he feels like he is giving away his baby.

“My guitars go to Japan, go to [the] states, sometimes go to England, but they feel like my kids,” said Kawakami during CBC North by Northwest’s new seriesInside the Craft.

“Sometimes when they bring them back for repair I think, ‘Welcome to home! Welcome to home sweet home!'”

Inside the Craft explores the relationship between musicians and instruments and shines light on some of B.C.’s finest instrument builders.

Kawakami operates a guitar and ukulele workshop in North Vancouver. He first moved to Canada from Japan in 2002 to work as a luthier — a builder of string instruments — for the company Larrivée Guitars.

Since then, he has found commercial success and Y. Kawakami Guitar designs can be found all over the world. A company in Japan makes about two dozen guitars of his design every year.

Kawakami’s love and admiration for the instruments were clearly evident as he whittled away at a guitar neck and explained the craft to CBC host Sheryl McKay during the interview.

“This is my baby, but for the owner, they paid, they think it’s their baby,” said Kawakami.

Because he feels that sense of loss so strongly, he said he knows that being a luthier is the only job for him.

“This job, it’s not big. Without me, the world continue, of course. Nobody needs me,” he said.

“But I really love this job. [Guitars] are a small part of life, but for me it’s a huge part.”

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