Vintage Japanese Motorcycles

Post 173 of 516

There is a lot of history behind vintage Japanese motorcycles. Nowadays, there are only a few people who realize that the Japanese motorcycle industry dates back as far as 100 years ago. It can be traced back to 1896 when the first powered bicycle was imported in the country. It did not take long until several talented engineers built powered two-wheelers in backyard workshops. In 1909,  Shimazu Narazo built his own engine and chassis. Japan  already had a successful motorcycle culture by the end of the 1930s, and over 50 manufacturers produced everything from 20cc motorized bicycles to licensed Harley-Davidsons.

By 1920, there were over twenty active clubs and at least three specialist motorcycle magazines. The need for cheap and reliable transport between cities, in the rural areas, where the road infrastructure was poor, to say the least determined the development of the motorcycle industry. There were races with motorcycles arranged on horse tracks, unmade roads and on paths around the parks, lakes were very popular and also races on stadiums built for the same purposes, such as Tamagawa Speedway. At that time motorcycles were known as Tetsuba (Iron Horses) or Nirinsha (simply two-wheeled vehicles) and later a slang word was introduced to describe motorcycles: Tansha (powered bicycle). Today these are known as vintage Japanese motorcycles.

When Japan entered World War 2, the motorcycle industry almost stopped, although a couple of companies still produced in order to supply the army during war.  By the end of the 1940s, Japan had entered its 2nd Transport Revolution, except this time, the only war was a motorcycle war – over 100 manufacturers were producing powered two-wheelers. Subsequently, less than a dozen companies survived the 1950s and of those, only the famous four names have survived to this day: Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha.

Many people prefer the vintage Japanese motorcycles; some inherit them and some just buy them and restore them. The Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club (VJMC) compares the seeing of an old bike from your past with seeing an old friend from back in the day.  It could not be more true. There is a specific bond between the owner of a motorcycle and the motorcycle. You get attached to it as if it were a human being, there are stories, sights you shared. VJMC is the first worldwide club dedicated to the preservation, restoration of vintage Japanese motorcycles (20 years old or older) and it also promotes motorcycling as a sport.

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