For collectors and sewing enthusiasts, vintage Japanese sewing machine brands offer an exciting look at the evolution of the home sewing machine and a wide variety of very functional and interesting machines. Learn which sewing machines were made in Japan and discover the models that are the most collectible.
Which Sewing Machines Were Made in Japan?
After the end of World War II, the United States occupied Japan and helped to re-establish its economic security. Part of this economic reconstruction included support for manufacturers, including those that made sewing machines. If you have a sewing machine made during the 1940s, 1950s, or 1960s, it may have been made in Japan. It could even be a Japanese clone sewing machine, which can be an exact reproduction of known US brands and models like Singer sewing machines. Here's how you can tell if your sewing machine was made in Japan:
- A vintage Japanese sewing machine will almost always carry a "Made in Japan" or "JA" stamp somewhere on the body. Look at the underside of the machine in particular.
- Vintage Japanese sewing machines often came in colors US-made machines did not. If you have a candy-colored or unique looking machine, it could have been made in Japan.
- Although there were so many vintage Japanese sewing machine brands that it's impossible to list them all, you may see a stamp or badge from one of the larger manufacturers listed below.
Most Significant Japanese Sewing Machine Manufacturers
There may be more than 5,000 different vintage Japanese sewing machine "brands," which can make it especially challenging to identify your machine. That's because Japanese manufacturers would produce the machines and then re-badge them as store brands or other names. However, the following are some of the most significant manufacturers.
Still a major manufacturer of sewing machines, Juki Corporation began production in 1945. They produced sewing machines for home and industrial use, and they launched one of the first home serging machines on the market. You'll find many vintage Juki sewing machines on the used market, including industrial models and sergers.
Toyota Sewing Machines
While Toyota is famous for its cars, many people don't realize that it has manufactured sewing machines for decades. These machines, which the company sold mainly in Europe, are renowned for their reliability. There are sergers, as well as regular machines, and some models are heavy duty machines for sewing leather. Models include the Raidomatic Streamliner, the Renaissance, and many others.
Maruzen Machine Company
The Maruzen Machine Company is another major vintage Japanese sewing machine brand. Starting in 1949, the company produced sewing machines that were often rebranded by retailers like Sears & Roebuck and Frister & Rossman. Most machines do not carry the Maruzen Machine Company name, but models include sergers, heavy duty sewing machines, and more.
Brother Industries, Ltd.
Originally called the Nippon Sewing Machine Manufacturing Co., Brother has been producing sewing machines for export since 1947. Still one of the foremost sewing machine brands, you can find vintage Brother sewing machines in straight stitch, heavy duty, serger, and many other styles. Brand names include Brother, Baby Brother, Jones, and Jones-Brother.
Janome is another Japanese sewing machine company that has been making machines for export for many years. In addition to vintage Janome sewing machines, the company also made New Home and Kenmore sewing machines at their factory in Japan. In 1979, they were one of the first companies to introduce a programmable sewing machine, the Memory 7.
Koyo Sewing Machine Company
The Koyo Sewing Machine Company manufactured sewing machines for several brands. These included the Free Sewing Machine Company, Standard Sewing Machine, and many others. You can often find the Koyo name on the bottom of machines made by this company.
Happy Industrial Corp.
Happy Industrial Corp. began producing sewing machines in 1945 and is still in business today. In addition to making machines under its own name, the company has made machines for a variety of other brands. Notably, Happy manufactured many vintage Montgomery Ward sewing machines throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
Vintage Japanese Sewing Machine Brands Are Part of History
Although there are too many vintage Japanese sewing machine brands to count, there are several important manufacturers that contributed to the sewing machine industry. These are just a few of the important sewing machine brands with a place in history, but understanding their role can help you identify antique sewing machines and learn more about the times in which they were produced. For more on sewing machine history, learn about vintage White sewing machines.