Fender Japan does it again with two striking signature Stratocasters for alt-rock star Ken

Fender Japan Ken signature Stratocasters
(Image credit: Fender Japan)

Fender Japan has introduced two new signature Stratocasters for electric guitar star Ken to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his alt-rock band, L’Arc-en-Ciel.

The standard and custom shop models – the Experiment #1 and Paisley Fantasy – add to the annals of Fender Japan’s near-mythical six-string collection, which seems to be getting wackier and wilder with every release. 

Owing to the anniversary theme, both axes are inspired by guitars from Ken’s past. The Experiment #1, which brings a decidedly sleek vibe courtesy of its Kintsugi Japanese pottery inspiration, is a recreation of Ken’s “favorite” Stratocaster.

Meanwhile, the Paisley Fantasy is a custom shop reissue of the guitarist’s original Paisley guitar, which was constructed by Master Builder Greg Fessler in 2016.

Given that it’s a Custom Shop model, the latter instrument has a way to go before it gets its full release: the first shipment is expected in October, but subsequent installments are not expected to be shipped until 2024, according to Fender Japan.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the striking Paisley Fantasy Stratocaster first.

Fender Custom Shop Ken Stratocaster Paisley Fantasy

The Paisley Fantasy Stratocaster is so early in development that the picture provided by the Fender Japan website is in fact of Ken’s original Master Built unit. Having said that, expect the Custom Shop version to flash an intricate and complex black-and-gold artwork similar to the original, which was drawn by Milwaukee artist Sarah Gallenberger.

With a color-matched headstock, the Paisley Fantasy features an engraved neck plate, gold hardware and a maple neck/fretboard combo that boasts an original grip design. The usual single-coil starting lineup is retained, and features black pickup covers, black volume and tone control knobs and a black five-way selector switch tip.

Whereas Ken’s pictured Paisley creation flaunts a pickguard-less design, the upcoming reissue will instead feature an “original shape acrylic pickguard” and Fender V-Mod II pickups.

It may be a few years away, but it’s already one of Fender Japan’s most visually arresting and aesthetically striking creations to date – no mean feat, given its current catalog of guitars.

The custom shop Paisley Fantasy is set to cost 2,290,200 Yen, which is approximately $16,100.

Fender Ken Stratocaster Experiment #1

Speaking of aesthetically striking creations, Ken’s new Experiment #1 Strat couldn’t be more different from the above, though offers its own unique vibe that is inspired by Kintsugi Japanese pottery – the art of repairing broken pottery by mending breakages with powdered gold.

Such influences can be seen from the white body and gold hardware pairing, as well as the gold-painted elbow contour. Further gold can be found inside the rear spring cavity, as well as the back control cavity, which is covered in clear acrylic to reveal the guitar’s interior.

Again, it flashes a gold neck plate engraved with Ken’s CHLion logo, and flaunts a transparent pickguard – held in place by gold screws, naturally – that houses the direct-mounted V-Mod II and Fat ‘50s single-coils, five-way selector switch and three control knobs.

According to Fender Japan, the model also has a “blender for front and rear pickups”, and features locking tuners, a personally designed neck profile and a color-matched oversized headstock, as well as a six-saddle vintage synchronized tremolo.

At a glance, it’s not too dissimilar from Fender’s recently reissued Aerodyne Special series, though clearly ups the aesthetic ante with lashings of gold.

The Ken Experiment #1 will be available this October, but unfortunately only to those in the Fender Japan market area.

As it's a standard model, the Experiment #1 is slightly cheaper than its custom shop sibling, weighing in at 385,000 Yen (approx. $2,700).

To find out more about both models, visit Fender Japan.

The guitars join Fender Japan's growing list of wacky instruments, which includes the sensationally styled Scandal signature models, the bold-looking Limited International Color Series and Hama Okamoto's signature Squier Katana bass.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.