japanese made hand painted tourist ukulele for Hilo Hawaii

My Hand Painted Hilo

hilo hand painted Ukulele
Japanese tourist Ukulele back
hand painted soprano ukulele
Tuned as best I can to g~C~E~A The strings are cheap Nylon but no make of string is going to help this one.

Hilo Hand painted and filtered for original colour soprano at Lardy's Ukulele Database

Filtered for a rough idea of what it would have looked like new!

Hilo Hand Painted

I have seen photos of quite a few of these and while I thought it was a bit twee I have always been impressed by the amount of work that goes into painting them. I don't know if the work was done in Japan or Hawaii, (but if I had to guess I would guess Japan) They are all roughly the same tropical beach scene and it always extends up the neck and over the sides (I'm sure I have seen one where the back was painted too!) I know they were produced for tourists and as such I shouldn't expect much as a musical instrument but as the scene started to grow on me I started to reason that:-
Some of the Japanese made instruments of the time are very good?
All of them have those "frilly" tuning heads on that look very similar to the ones on the Goya, so that's a good sign?
It's just a bit of fun, they don't go for much, how bad can it be?
So I got one! To answer the last question first - BAD!

The painting I could see had gone green - When it was originally painted the base colour was blue and at the end of the painting it was varnished with cellulose lacquer to protect the "artwork". Over time the cellulose lacquer yellows and the yellow over blue makes a fine shade of green. The cellulose lacquer can be removed to reveal the original colours but to do this properly is the work of experts and I don't think its worth that. (The alternative is to have a digital photograph and re-balance the colour knowing the clouds on the headstock should be white and assuming the yellowing of the varnish is fairly uniform...) - fair enough it gives it a bit of a surreal, just before a violent thunderstorm, look.

Its the quality of the build that disappointed me when it arrived. Not only is the action very high and the tuners, (which aren't very good and one of the buttons broke when I tried to tune it, so I have had to glue this), badly fitted, the real issue is that the bridge is so far out of position that it gives the harmonic above the 11th fret! Clearly it was made like this as the painting hasn't been disturbed and this combined with the high action makes it impossible to tune, the intonation is a whole tone out by the 5th fret This can only ever have been meant as a piece of tourist wall art

Well it makes a colourful addition to Clunker Corner even if it is the most unplayable Ukulele I have, but to answer the final question that comes up is I was trying to do a proper review, Would I get another one if I lost it? The answer is No! I have definitely learned my lesson now - if it looks like tourist tat, it is.