|The first motorcycle to appear in Japan; a Hildebrand and Wolfmüller, in 1896 (Iwatate)|
|A contemporary Japanese woodcut depicting one of Commodore Perry's steamships ('Net)|
|The first railroad opened in Japan in 1872, between Yokohama and Tokyo (Shimbashi) ('Net)|
|The 1901 Thomas Auto-Bi Roadster, the first motorcycle raced in Japan.|
|The Thomas Auto-Bi Roadster, Gladiator quadricycle, and Thomas Auto-Tri 3-wheeler, at the first motor vehicle race in Japan, Nov 3 1901|
The true pioneer Japanese motorcycle builder was Narazo Shimazu, who established the Shimazu Motor Research Institute in 1908, in Osaka. Using knowledge gleaned from Scientific American and the English book 'Motor Cycling Manual', he built his first gasoline-powered engine in August 1908, a two-stroke single-cylinder of 400cc, and installed it into a home-built frame from salvaged bicycles (there being no raw tubing available) - the first entirely Japanese-built motorcycle.
|The first Japanese motorcycle; the NS, built by Narazo Shimazu in 1908, in Osaka (Iwatate)|
|The Miyata-built 'Asahi' of 1913; virtually a replica of a Triumph (Iwatate)|
|Escorting Prince Hirohito with a ca.1926 Harley Davidson 'J' with sidecar...but the Prince had his own Indian! ('Net)|
|March 1926; winners of the Shizuoka Championship. K.Nose (BSA Super Sports), Matsumoto (H-D single-cylinder), and Kawabata (New Imperial) (Iwatate)|
|Kenzo Tada and his Velocette KTT on the Isle of Man in 1930 (Clew)|
|An advertisement for Belgian Saroléa motorcycles, ca.1926 (Iwatate)|
|An Indian Chief and BSA 'Sloper', ca.1934 (Iwatate)|
|A sporting Meguro 500cc OHV model of the late 1930s (taken postwar with a US Marine) ('Net)|
|Lady racer (?) on a Sarolea. Note 'Gargoyle' sweater - they imported Mobil oil products (Iwatate)|
Harley Davidsons began trickling into Japan in 1912, when the Japanese Army purchased a few machines, but never any spares! In 1922, Tokyo import company Nippon Jidoshe KK, headed by Baron Okura (which had been importing American cars since 1919) ordered a few 'J' model Harleys, and a few dozen more in the following two years, but never purchased spares with his bike orders, which confounded the H-D brass. This, plus a large order from Outer Mongolia, also without a spares supplement, spurred H-D to send Alfred Rich Child to sort out the Japanese situation in 1924. Negotiations with Baron Okura (the semi-official importer) to set up a proper H-D import scheme were a failure, but while in Japan, Child befriended Genjiro Fukui, US-educated and a wealthy founder of the prestigious new Sankyo Pharmaceutical Company. Fukui ran an import/export division of Sankyo, the Koto Trading Co., which had been selling 'bootleg' import Harleys, brought into Japan from the Outer Mongolian despatches, and sold under Baron Okura's nose.
|Alfred Rich Child and his family in Milwaukee, before heading off to Japan in 1924 (Sucher)|
|A Harley Davidson special, made-for-Japan-only road racer, with 500cc OHV engine (Sucher)|
Shinagawa (Tokyo), using H-D tooling, processes, and blueprints to build parts and machines to exact specifications. No other Americans were sent, none were ever employed. Production began in 1932. No mention was made of this unique agreement in the press in the USA, nor was it publicly discussed by Harley Davidson, until the 1980s.
|The Harley Davidson 'Rikuo', a 1200cc VL (Iwatate)|
|Alfred R Child with one of the first EL 'Knucklehead' models imported into Japan (Sucher)|
|Japanese Imperial Army troops on the march, with Rikuo outfit ('Net)|
- 'A Century of Japanese Motorcycles', by Didier Ganneau and Francois-Marie Dumas, which is to date the only comprehensive English-language book covering all years of the Japanese motorcycle industry. Given the market dominance of Japanese motorcycles since the 1960s, this is a remarkable poverty of books, compared to every other nation's motorcycling contribution. Photos scanned from here are listed as (Iwatate). It's a must-own book!
- 'Japan's Motorcycle Wars', by Jeffrey Alexander, was reviewed in The Vintagent here. An excellent dissertation, admittedly not a 'bike book' per se, but full of good stuff.
- 'Harley Davidson' by Harry Sucher, for the Rikuo story; the first complete history of the H-D marque, with much info from people who were still alive in the early days. Extremely informative. Photos listed at (Sucher).