Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Nintendo Ele-conga Soft Case (エレコンガ ソフトケース) from 1972

One of the intriguing Nintendo products from the 1970s is the Ele-conga, an analogue electronic musical instrument.

Although not hugely expensive given its build quality (retailing at ¥9.800, which is roughly ¥30.000 in todays money when corrected for inflation), it was intended to be a serious instrument, not a toy.

That Nintendo was aiming for this to be an item for adults, is evident from the photo on the front of the promotional leaflet. It shows a trio of grown-ups making music with two Ele-congas, accompanied by an acoustic guitar.

Ele-conga Leaflet (front and back)

On the back of this leaflet, besides an extensive description of all of the features of the Ele-conga itself, three accessories are listed, that were sold separately as options:
  • Auto Player (available for an additional ¥1.200)
  • Connector Cord (¥500)
  • Soft Case (¥1.000)

The Auto Player (オートプレーヤー), pictured in the left-bottom corner of the back of the leaflet, allowed for programmed rhythms to be repeated (semi) automatically.

Although the Ele-conga includes its own speaker, it was possible to connect it to the line-in of a music center or tape deck, for external amplification or recording. The Connector Cord (コネクタコード) was a two-meter long cable that provided the required connection, using standard 3.5 mm jacks.

While pretty rare today, both the Ele-conga and Auto Player can be found as second hand items in Japan, if you know where to look and show some patience and perseverance. An official Ele-conga Connector Cord, however, I have never seen in real life. At least, not yet, as I hope to still find one, one day.

As is often the case, accessories such as these are very hard to find, as they were sold in (much) smaller numbers than the Ele-conga itself. They also got misplaced or lost more easily, or no longer recognised for what they were, and thrown out.

Ele-conga options (accessories): Auto Player, Connector Cord and Soft Case

For many years, the Soft Case (ソフトケース) for me also remained only an option listed on a piece of paper. As no picture was included on the leaflet, and none of these were reported to exist in collector circles, it was not clear what this case looked like, or if it was actually produced and sold at all.

This changed recently, when one of these crossed paths with me.

So presented here in its full glory: an original Ele-conga Soft Case from 1972!


The first things that stands out, is that it is very well made, just like the Ele-conga it is meant to hold for protection and convenient transportation. It is made from thick black leather, nicely stitched together.


The Soft Case has an adjustable carry strap on the side, and a zipper-operated lid on the top.


The Ele-conga name is printed in silver letters on the front and top.


On the back, the Nintendo company name is printed, also in silver.


The Ele-conga fits snugly inside the Soft Case.


It even has a small dedicated compartment for the Ele-conga's three removable legs.


With this find the Ele-conga family in my collection is now almost complete. The only item that remains on my search list is that Connector Cord. If you ever come across one, please let me know.


For a full introduction to the Ele-conga, including a video demonstration, check out this post.

A thank you to Isao Yamazaki for supplying a scan of the leaflet.

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