Japan Manufacturer Codes (MITI?)
The Japan 757 forum post was started in 2009 and provides a good discussion of the three-digit numbered codes that appear on many radios exported from Japan, primarily in the 1960’s. That post began an effort to determine the origin of the codes and to compile a list of codes and models. This post expands that effort and includes a list of codes and manufacturers sorted both by code and by brand.
This post is made possible by the work of several individuals who are acknowledged at the conclusion. Much of the historic information is from technical papers by Okabe (1) and Nakajima (2).
Origin of the Codes
The Japanese electronics industry grew rapidly in the 1950’s. In 1959, there were 157 manufacturers of radios in Japan. Approximately 142 of these (90%) were classified as SME’s (Small and Medium Enterprises) loosely defined as companies with less than 300 employees. The remaining 15 companies were more or less equally divided into very large and intermediate sized firms. Approximately 12 firms also produced transistors, and 19 manufactured “toy radios”. These are the models that typically have two or less transistors and are labeled “Boy’s Radios”.
The rapid, and somewhat uncontrolled, growth of the industry resulted in quality problems and issues with counterfeit models. A 1957 study revealed that approximately 30% of the radios produced in that year were defective, mostly due to transistor problems. These issues eventually prompted action by MITI (Ministry of International Trade and Industry) to regulate the industry.
MITI was a powerful and influential government agency that was founded in 1949 for coordinating international trade policy with other groups within Japan. They also served as an architect of industrial policy, an arbiter of industrial problems, and a regulator. Their influence declined in the early 1980’s and they were taken over in 2001 by METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry).
MITI was responsible for requiring quality inspection of products starting in 1962 and for placing export quotas at around that time. Brand registration began in 1963. By 1964, most of the problem manufacturers had been eliminated from the export market. MITI also required that the manufacturer’s name be shown on the product starting in 1965.
MITI’s role in establishing the specific three-digit codes assigned to each manufacturer is unknown. To date, there is no known documentation of the origin of the codes or how they were assigned. It is known that some of the large established manufacturers, such as Sony, did not use the codes.
There is some speculation that the codes were patterned after the RMA/EIA codes established in the USA around 1946. Those codes included both manufacturers of electronic products and components used in the products, whereas the Japan codes only applied to manufacturers of the final product. There is no known correlation or connection between the USA and Japan codes other than they typically used three digits to denote the manufacturer.
Given the uncertainty regarding MITI’s role in assigning codes, use of the term “MITI Code” is discouraged. There has been extensive recent effort to revise existing model files to eliminate this term and to express the code in a standard, searchable format.
The exact date when the codes started is unknown. The best information available indicates that the codes began to appear around 1962 or 1963. They are reported to have been phased out in the late 1960’s. There are numerous examples, however, of codes being used throughout the 1970’s and there is one date certain model that shows a code in 1982. In general, most of the codes are found on products from the 1960’s. The above start date, along with the requirement that the manufacturers name be shown starting in 1965, provide help in documenting the date of models. For example, any model with a code and an assumed date prior to about 1961 should be reevaluated with respect to the date.
Another factor to help in dating models is that Japan became uncompetitive in the production of simple AM broadcast band models by the mid 1960’s. They were supplanted by other Far East manufacturers, particularly Hong Kong.
Format of the Codes
The three-digit codes were specified to be molded into the case of the radio. This was to prevent cheating. The codes were only used for models that were to be exported and that were manufactured in Japan, including Okinawa and Ryukyus. There are, however, a few instances of four-digit codes and codes on radios made in Hong Kong. These exceptions are discussed in more detail later in this post.
Some of the confusion regarding the codes is that there appears to be no standard format, and many of the codes are either printed on labels or ink stamped on the model, in contradiction to the above requirement. These deviations are more prevalent in later models and it is possible that the rule for molded codes was either modified or ignored. There even is a model with the code stamped inside of the model and another model that appears to have a code embossed on the circuit board.
By far the greatest source of confusion is the non- standard method of listing the codes. Assuming that “XXX” is the three-digit code, some examples of different formats include XXX Japan, Made in Japan XXX, Japan XXX, JT-XXX, or simply XXX. One manufacturer (Denki Onkyo Company, Ltd.) has code 207 and stamped several model with DOK-207. DOK is an abbreviation of the Dokorder brand for this manufacturer.
There are some cases where the code becomes confused with the model number. A good example is the Orion JT-602 “Signal Radio” listed on page 188 of the Bunis “Collector’s Guide to Transistor Radios” (1996 edition). JT-602 is the code used on several models manufactured by the Orion Electric Co.
Tabulation of the Codes
As mentioned above, there has been recent extensive effort to search for and verify codes on existing models and to express the codes in a standard, searchable format. The standard format is that the code should be the last item in either the Model Name or Model Type field, i.e., the last field that contains and entry. The code should be placed in parenthesis and written in the format “(Japan XXX)”. The notes also should contain the notation “Made in Japan XXX” as the last item in the notes and highlighted in bold. It also is recommended that this last entry include a link to either the original Japan 757 post or to this post.
The search results to date are shown on the attached spreadsheets (Rev. 10). Both spreadsheets contain the same data, but one is sorted by code and the other is sorted by brand. There are advantages to both sort methods, depending on the objectives of a search.
The search for codes and manufacturers is far from complete. Existing model files are still being reviewed. Some observations regarding the results obtained to date are summarized as follows:
- There are 68 known codes and approximately 196 brands associated with those codes. Brand identification is difficult for some of the novelty models so the total number of brands could be less.
- Each code represents one manufacturer. Many of these manufactured models for several brands. For example, the 713 code is used on 15 brands and the 508 code is used on 13 brands.
- Many brands used multiple manufacturers. For example, RCA used eight different codes and Ross used six. In fact, 42 brands used more than one manufacturer.
- There are many existing models that have codes, but they are unreadable and have not been included in the tabulation.
- The codes were used for both transistor and tube products.
- There are two brands (Parrot and Fair Mate) that have four-digit codes, and there are two different codes for Fair Mate. There are a total of three models with these codes and all are tape recorders. More research and verification are required to confirm that these really are codes. They are included now to facilitate finding them in the future. There also are additional models with unreadable four-digit codes.
- There are two models that were manufactured in Hong Kong, and they have codes. One is code 109 for the brand Wendell-West. This model page has models from both Japan and Hong Kong and the codes are printed on labels. The other is code 214 for the Juliette brand with both Hong Kong and the code molded into the case. These Hong Kong models are aberrations and more study is required.
- Identification of specific manufacturers for each code needs much additional work. Some of the manufacturers do not exactly match the entries currently in the manufacturer pages. Many of the manufacturers may have combined with other firms, split apart, or changed names over time. In some cases subsidiaries of a larger company produced models.
- There is one Blaupunkt auto radio that has two codes (230 and 533). Both codes are on labels and it appears that the model was passed to the 230 manufacturer for final preparation.
The following individuals, in alphabetical order, made important contributions to this effort.
Miguel Bravo: Provided extensive review of existing models to identify codes and revised models to provide a standard code format. Also contacted other members to verify unreadable codes.
Wataru Mitsuhashi (UEC Communications Museum): Helped in the MITI investigation and contacted Prof. Yuri Nakajima and Dr. Yuzo Takahashi in this effort.
Jinkei Ohta: Helped in the MITI investigation.
Tadanobu Okabe (Japan Radio Museum): Helped in the MITI investigations, provided technical reference articles, and provided significant input to the spreadsheet – particularly regarding the manufacturers. The spreadsheet also uses his format.
Toshiya Toba: Helped in the MITI investigation, provided verification of a brand and code, and facilitated contact with others in Japan.
- Okabe, Masunobu, “About Code Numbers of Transistor Radios”, Japanese Radio Club Newsletter, 2016.
- Nakajima, Yuri, “Development of Export of Transistor Radios”, Management Review No. 79, Graduate School of Economics, Osaka University, Paper 08-28, 2008.
Updated spreadsheets are attached. We now have 80 individual codes, approximately 252 brands, and approximately 62 brands that used multiple manufacturers.Attachments: