Fujigen has built guitars for some of the biggest names in the guitar world for decades. Ibanez’s incredible Japanese instruments including the Jem and JS, for example. Or the beautiful Fender Japan instruments. The much-loved Heartfield Talon. But the company makes its own instruments too. FGN guitars have been available in Japan for quite a while but they’re a relatively recent entrant on the world scene. The J-Standard Odyssey JOS-FM-R is a great place to start because it blends elements of the traditional and the modern in the same instrument.
The first thing that strikes you about this guitar is that yes, it does look Stratocaster-inspired, but it has more than enough of its own character, and if you’ve spent any time looking around FGN’s website you will quickly pick up on the unique design elements. You’ll never mistake this for any other company’s guitar.
The body is basswood with a beautifully bookmatched flame maple laminated top and a three-ply pearloid pickguard that stops a little short of the treble-side cutaway, while lets you see more of the finish. The top is ringed by elegant cream binding, and the ‘Jeans Burst’ finish certainly looks great in photos but it’s even better when you see it in real life. The neck is hard maple and the fretboard is made of rosewood with 21 medium high frets inlaid with FGN’s proprietary Circle Fretting System (CFS). With this system the frets are very slightly curved like a smile, which allows for the same distance between each fret. The result is that it improves intonation and seems very slightly easier to play too. It is very subtle though and most players might not notice it, but might put its results down to ‘some kind of awesome guitar mojo.’
The scale length is 25.5”, and the strings are anchored to an FJTR-S2P bridge, a two-point fulcrum style with a push-in bar. The pickups are a trio of FGN models: two single coils and a humbucker. Switching is standard Strat-style with the exception of a mini toggle for coil-splitting the humbucker, and there are master controls for volume and tone, rather than having two tone controls.
There are all sorts of tones lurking in this guitar, from crystal clear cleans to smokey blues overdrives to raunchy 80s hard rock and beyond. Of special note is the quality of the single coils though; when you review as many guitars as I have you get used toown-brand single coils being a little lacklustre, but FGN has voiced these pickups very carefully and they sound great on their own and really vibrant when used together. The humbucker in the bridge position is relatively dry-sounding, tonally falling somewhere between a Seymour Duncan ’59 and Custom with pleasing upper midrange, just enough edge in the treble, and with tight, focused bass. When you flip it over to single coil mode it sounds sharp and punchy, with a little bit less output than the middle and neck pickups which means you can set up some cool ‘virtual channel-switching’ sounds if your amp’s gain level is set just right.
Here’s a little demo I recorded using each of the pickup selections
The playability strikes just the right balance between playability and robustness; this guitar doesn’t fight you but it doesn’t do all the work for you either, and this encourages you to really dig in and explore the guitar’s dynamic capabilities. The intonation seems nice and consistent, and the vibrato bridge operates smoothly and returns to pitch accurately. And the whole guitar in general just feels very ergonomic and very solidly made.
This is a great choice for those who want a Strat-style guitar but crave something a little different, a little more unique and a little more modern in construction and ergonomics without sacrificing classic tone. I’d happily strap one of these puppies on for all sorts of gigs – and the looks are as adaptable as the tone so this guitar would look and sound equally at home on rock, blues, country, fusion, shred and even metal gigs.