Check out the Fender website. It — and other websites — have a list of the type of serial numbers used for each year Japan produced Fenders. For example, between 1982 and 1984, Japanese Fenders made a serial number that begins with ‘JV’ and has five digits. Those made in 1993-1994 have an ‘0’ and six digits.
Check the insignia. Fenders built in Japan between 1982 and 1997 all say ‘Made in Japan’, while those made between 1997 and 2005 have the ‘Crafted in Japan’ brand. The latest with ‘Crafted in Japan’ printed restarts the serial number system, but it does not follow the same pattern. For example, they have ‘Crafted in Japan’ between 2002 and 2004 serial numbers starting with ‘Q’ and have five digits.
Look at the capital. Whether it says Fender, it was made in the United States or Mexico. Made in Japan. Squier not only manufactured low-priced versions of Stratocaster and Telecaster but also began producing distinctive guitars. Some of these included Squier 51, Super Sonic and Jagmaster. The first Squiers were reproductions of original Fender designs such as those from the 1950s and 1960s.
Download an American-made Fender Stratocaster. Then download a Japanese Squier Stratocaster. There is a significant and noticeable difference in weight, with the American guitar much heavier. Unbelievably, Squier is often easier to play right out of the box than the much more expensive American version.
At the same time, objects as ‘made in Japan’ were considered worse, this has not been true for a long time. In fact, Japan’s Fender guitars are somehow equal to or better than the American versions. This happened when Fender decided to go back to its roots in the early 1980s, and build guitars like the ones that made the company famous. Japan’s factory turned out to be the ‘real deal’ before the American factory did.