"If you are going to do something, be the
Ginichi Kawakami, Yamaha Motor Company First President.
Yamaha Motorcycles, under this motto, employing all its
creativity, and with a very strong spirit of challenge, became
what it is now: one of the biggest players in the worldwide
But Yamaha's history doesn't start with motorcycles...
It is back in 1877 that Torakusu Yamaha started with the Nippon
Gakki Company that later would become Yamaha Corporation: an
important manufacturer of fine musical instruments.
As the company grew, they explored several fields of opportunity
in the textile industry and others.
During the World War II, the company set up a factory to produce
airplane propellers. This plant played an important role in
Yamaha's entry to the motorcycle industry as you will see.
After the war, Yamaha Corporation had to find new ways to use the
tooling and experience that had been accumulated during their
times in the airplane industry, and it was then when Yamaha Motor
Corporation was founded.
It's important to mention that even though this new company was
just another branch of Yamaha Corporation, it was placed under an
independent management. In this case, under the guidance of
Ginichi Kawakami; which turned out to be a brilliant move.
Before producing their first motorcycle, Ginichi Kawakami
traveled a lot establishing what would be very useful
relationships. He also sent out his engineers to Europe and had
them learn how to build motorcycles, particularly from DKW; whom
with they kept an underground and unofficial long lasting
One proof of this is that nowadays, the only two manufacturers in
the world of mass-produced five side-valve engines are Yamaha an
Audi (DKW - Auto Union).
One of the most important legacies from this international
relationships were all the skills learnt by Yamaha's engineers on
two stroke engines know-how. Other manufacturers as Suzuki would
not reach the same level of development in this area till seven
Not to wonder why the first bike from Yamaha Motorcycles the 125
YA-1 was fairly a faithful copy of the 1949 DKW RT 12. The only
two important differences were the four speed gearbox instead of
the original three speed gearbox, and a gear transmission
replacing the primary chain drive.
IMPORTANT MODEL FROM YAMAHA MOTORCYCLES
>>> Yamaha YA-1
Even though the Yamaha YA-1 - baptized "Acatombo" (Red
by its fans - had "nothing in special" and was more expensive
than its competitors, it almost immediately became a great
It was reliable: before putting it into the market, the
prototypes were tested along 10,000 miles of rough rides . Even
the big boss himself, Ginichi Kawakami, rode the bike without any
incident from Hamamatsu to Tokyo.
It was beautiful: with this model Yamaha was the first
manufacturer to put special attention to the decoration of the
motorcycle. This task was given to GK Design in Tokyo. It's worth
mentioning that this firm has designed the "look" of most
motorcycles to date.
It was fast: the YA-1 obtained excellent overall results in the
most important local races of that time: Mount Fuji (third place)
and Mount Asama (first place).
In fact it was this aggressive attitude in the sporting world
that helped Yamaha Motorcycles gain fast acceptance even though
they made a late start in the motorcycle scene (in comparison to
Honda and Suzuki).
In other words: Yamaha Motorcycles showed the world they had
arrived to be considered good and fierce competitors from the
beginning. Particularly to Honda and Suzuki.
Other important models from that time were:
>>> The Yamaha YD-1 (the competition for the Suzuki TP
Some technical specifications:
15 hp 70 mph. 185,000 yen
in comparison to:
18 hp 80 mph. 195,000 yen
>>> The Yamaha YDS-1
The dream bike of all young Japanese between 1959-1960.
Some technical specifications:
20 hp 333 lbs. 85 mph.
Direct rival of the Honda CB72
Since then, the history of models and victories goes on and on...
Today, Yamaha Motorcycles is one of the major players in the
worldwide motorcycling scene.
Just to give you an idea of how important Yamaha Motorcycles have
- The 2004 Moto GP was won by excellent rider Valentino Rossi on
a Yamaha motorcycle.
I could go an and on writing about Yamaha Motorcycles, victories,
challenges and models but I would need a whole book…
So to learn more about Yamaha Motorcycles, I invite you to visit
will find a pictorial history of Yamaha Motorcycles from 1955 to
Enjoy the ride!
Daniel Levy is the owner and contributing writer of
and Web development.
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