Interview with Hideki Ishikawa, director and founder of Japan’s Nakatsugawa Korg Museum

Hideki Ishikawa

New episode dedicated to the discovery of Research Centers, Museums and Recording Studios where electronic music in all its forms is studied and practiced. My journey started with the Museo del Synt Marchigiano (here you can find the interview). After that, I virtually moved to Fribourg in Switzerland, where I interviewed Vincent Borcard, director of the SMEM Swiss Museum for Electronic Music Instruments (the interview here). Thanks to him, I learned about a studio located in Australia: the MESS Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio. The co-director and co-founder of the firm is Byron Scullin. With him, I exchanged a few words (the interview here). Now my journey has arrived in Japan, in the city of Nakatsugawa, where I got to interview Hideki Ishikawa, director of Musee KORG design & history, popularly know as Nakatsugawa Korg Museum. Before inviting you to read the interview, I would like to thank Luciano Feliciani for his help in translating from English to Italian:

Here the Italian Translation

When was the Nakatsugawa Korg Museum founded and why?

First, the official name is “Musee KORG design & history“; “Nakatsugawa Korg Museum” is a popular name. Because it is called that way by the Korg headquarters in Japan
I also usually use this name.

The museum was completed in May 2021. On Instagram from December 2020. I opened “@korg_museum” and started to send information.
From October, when Corona infections have dropped significantly in Japan I have started to open to the public for those who wish.

Reason for establishment:
① With the longest history as a manufacturer specializing in electronic musical instruments, Korg has a unique charm not found in other manufacturers.
Product exhibition from the 1960s to 1990. Fumio Mieda, the main designer at the time, and people in Korg testimony reveals its charm.
There is no other Korg museum like this.

Fumio Mieda at Korg Museum

② Also, by exhibiting synthesizers from around the world from 1970 to 1985, I will look back on the transition of synthesizers around the world in the analog era.

What was the inspiration for the Nakatsugawa Korg Museum?

This museum was opened by myself at home.
Important points on the way to the museum
Let me explain in order, going back more than 40 years ago.

① In the latter half of the 1970s, I started listening to synthesizer music with my brother. When I bought the first synthesizer, I got Korg‘s general catalog ‘VOL.5’ (1979).
The catalog overwhelmed other companies with its excellent design in both products and catalogs.
With the music of Jean-Michel Jarre that I loved listening to Korg made a strong impression on me, who was 11 at the time.
And M-500SP came to my house.

② In 1987, when I was studying interior design at an art school in Tokyo, I once again felt the awesomeness of Korg design around 1980.

How was the with a wonderful design that could be exhibited at MOMA Born Out Of Necessity?
The question swelled.
And I actually started to buy those products.

③ When I returned to my parents’ home in Nakatsugawa City, Gifu Prefecture in 1999, I was skeptical that exterior design could not be taken up in the world of electronic musical instruments.
That’s not the case with other product designs.
Certainly, because it is an electronic musical instrument, sound is first and electronic circuits are second.
But that’s it. And there is no evaluation of Korg design at all.
Then I decided to create a Korg Museum and convey its splendor to the world.
This was the beginning of a long way to the museum.

Where is it?

Nakatsugawa City, Gifu Prefecture, Japan. Almost the center of the long and narrow Japanese archipelago.
It is about an hour by train from Nagoya, one of the three major cities in Japan.

What instruments and collections does the museum have?

① 111 products, which is about 95% of Korg products from 1963 to 1981.
From small footswitches to the two-key organ BX-3.
Only 6 products are missing.

Korg products from 1982 to 1990
12 models with important exterior design.

③ Synthesizers of the world from 1970 to 1985.
60 models from Minimoog to Ensoniq Mirage.

Are there any interesting stories about the Nakatsugawa Korg Museum?

First of all, it will be interesting to everyone that this museum was built by myself at home. More than 20 years have passed by the completion.

I have built a partnership with Korg headquarters.
While listening to Fumio Mieda and the people inside Korg about the episode at that time, the museum may lend out the materials needed by Korg.
In addition, Mieda and Korg staff have visited the museum several times. The museum has just been completed. From now on, there will be more interesting episodes.

What is the best way to experience the museum?

Of course, you have to actually come to the museum.
Basically, it is possible to tour on weekends by appointment.
Please contact me from the Instagram message.

Is it open to external collaborations?

That is also possible.
Contact me via Instagram message.
Last year, a member of the progressive synth rock trio “MOORI” who came to the museum played only vintage Korg products.

Do you have any possible developments in mind? For example a book or a documentary that tells its story through interviews and videos? 

① Opening of the Korg Museum website.
At the moment, Instagram is the only source of information from the museum, but I am planning to open a website and plan a web museum that can systematically introduce the history and products of Korg.

② Future goals
・ Café
Those who come to the cafe can also see the museum.

・ Publication of photo books
I would like to introduce the museum’s collections artistically. An art photo book from the perspective of exterior design unique to the museum.
At the same time, I will also introduce a number of testimonies that convey Korg‘s ideas.

Do you have any projects or exhibitions in progress?

I received a 700S exhibition request from the Korg headquarters last year, so I am preparing to set up a special exhibition corner.
This 700S is a synthesizer owned by Masahiko Sato, a jazz pianist who represents Japan, and has been modified such that the waveform of the synthesizer can be output externally.
Masahiko Sato was studying abroad in Berkeley in the late 1960s and was one of the earliest Japanese to use synthesizers.
In addition, he is also an important person for the early Korg, such as defining the “prototype No. 1” manufactured by Mieda in 1968 as a synthesizer.
At the Korg Museum I will create an exhibition corner with the theme of “Korg and Masahiko Sato”.

Link: Nakatsugawa Korg Museum Instagram Profile

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