Japanese Portable Manual Typewriters
BROTHER    There are three basic machine groups from Brother, all made in Nagoya, Japan -- this location is frequently stated on the label on the rear.  The three are the small machines, carriage shifted and made 1961-1985 or so; the mid-60's, large desk model with basket shift; and the late basket shift, all-plastic machine.
BROTHER machines of the small variety may have flat top covers, or taller rounded ones; tabs or not; 42 or 44 keys; paper arm on carriage or not; and rapid spacers later, with all-plastic body.  This mechanism was the first introduced in 1961, and lasted a long time.  All have carriage shift, which moves up and back.  The variant at immediate left is the "genesis" or very first design.  The blue Webster machine (Brother owned that name for use on typewriters) displays both the rounded top cover and two added keys.  The vast majority of BROTHER machines have white plastic margin set tabs, whereas the vast majority of the other two brands have metal margin set tabs, or else black plastic ones.
The big desk-model BROTHER machines often have the three button ribbon selector, but not always.  Basket-shifted, with prominent row of type-bar springs standing up vertically and attached to a horixontal bar-- visible with top cover removed.  These are harder to find; usually labeled for Montgomery-Ward as the Signature 510 or 513.
This is the other basket shifted BROTHER, first introduced in the very late 70's in a body style more blocky and vertical than this seen here, which is the early 80's redesign.  Note ribbon selector lever on right and tab set/clear lever on left, with tab key in red at right.  Note white plastic margin sets as on 99% of BROTHER-made machines.  This is the "modern" variant of the line, incorporating all of the features of a less-expensive-to-build but reliable and pleasant machine.
SILVER-SEIKO   Two variations visually, although all of these are the same mechanically with options/characters variable.
At left, the ROYAL JET.  Most were made for Litton Industries and carried the ROYAL name (1965-1974.)  After 1974, carried the name SILVER-REED independent of Litton.  Note that all have dowel plate key lever design, with flat thin plate, always visible from front, and all have metal margin set tabs with their ends bent up at an angle, as such:  \_ /
More expensive version (ROYAL MERCURY) with two more keys, touch regulator, ribbon selector added, at right.  Since Litton Industries also eventually owned Imperial, these machines can be found with that company's brand name.  Below, artwork from Imperial 200 manual and diagrammatic illustration of same.
NAKAJIMA machines are also dowel plate machines, but differ greatly from the SILVER-SEIKO machines in other respects.  Early NAKAJIMA machines have rabbit-ears type paper supports, later replaced by single arm type.  Note that dowel plate is visible on earlier machines, and is heavily fluted; later machines have a slotted cover over it to prevent fouling.  Metal margin set tabs have rounded, downward curved shape.  Carriage shift has planar, up and back action, unlike SILVER-SEIKO machines which have simple rocking action.  Late 60's GRANT'S 737 at right displays all the early features.
Whereas SILVER-SEIKO had a deal with LITTON/ROYAL, so did NAKAJIMA with OLYMPIA.  This OLYMPIETTE 2 is largely identical mechanically with the machine above, but has the cover plate over the key levers to prevent fouling.  Note down-curved margin set tabs.  More than any other maker, NAKAJIMA seemed to individually style machines for customers.  The OLYMPIETTE 2 matches the OLYMPIA TRAVELLER in styling.  As a general rule, NAKAJIMA units have blockier-shaped keytops than the other makers' products.
At right, ROYAL SAFARI II, made after Litton no longer owned ROYAL.  NAKAJIMA introduced a large, basket-shifted portable very late; below left, the OLYMPIA CARINA 1.  Note black plastic margin sets, rapid spacer bar on left and in black.  SILVER-REED machines with this feature have it on right, and on BROTHERs it's red.
Machines from Japan seem to comprise a bewildering array of models and styles.  Actually, there were only three large, and two small companies that made typewriters in Japan.  These machines are fairly easily distinguished.  The "Big 3" are covered below; these are BROTHER, SILVER-SEIKO and NAKAJIMA.  For the other makers, use the buttons to view special pages about these ultra-rare machines.
Reference Site Index
The "Big Three"
to see machines from NIPPO
to see CITIZEN
The three major Japanese brands can be quickly identified, as related to each other, by their mechanisms -- particularly as relates to motivation of the type-bars.  The Brother machines actually had three different mechanisms over time, while each of the other two (Silver-Seiko and Nakajima) only ever had one design each, no matter the body style variation.  Nakajimas are the hardest to identify for new collectors, since they so very often carry some other brand or label more often identified with a "known" typewriter manufacturer not based in Japan.  Note that some of each variety can be found re-branded for other makers, though; this page should serve as a good visual guide to determine which those are.
BROTHER machines now have their own page, which shows a great deal more detail and many more brand and model variations.  Use the button at left to access it.
The illustrations below show two different views of the Royal Sprite.  This machine style appeared later than the original 1965 style seen above, and employed a body which was not only larger, but entirely fabricated from high-impact plastic.  It is thought that this style appeared roughly 1971 or 1972.  These add a (fixed) tabulator.

Some machines in the body style below are more desirable because they include, mounted in their case lids, a transistor radio which is powered by a 9-volt battery.  This Sprite is actually one of those machines; the other is the Royal Fleetwood.  Radio collectors enjoy these as much as typewriter collectors do, which can lead to auction bidding wars between the two camps.
Note:  There are also some very late, much larger SILVER-REED 500 machines; see my "Final Designs" page.