April 2018

So….  Where is the spring?  After months of snow and sleet, we can’t wait to welcome spring, green and little flowers, and have some sunshine.  In Japan, the 2018 sakura season is expected to be a little earlier both in central and southern Japan based on Japan Rail Travel Guides.

March was my birthday month, and I decided to treat myself with a new motorcycle.  Through this new motorcycle research, I found very interesting facts about Japan and Harley-Davidson, so I’d like to share about that.

In the 1920s, Japan hadn’t become a truly industrialized nation, and Harley-Davidson owned the lion’s share of the world market at that time.  H-D was the official mount of Japan’s police, army and even the Imperial Guard.  The demand for H-D motorcycles in Japan was so strong that Milwaukee established a complete system of dealers, agencies and spare parts, all of it under the banner of the H-D Sales Company of Japan. 
In 1929, the world’s economy got the staggers and the yen’s value dropped to the level where imported Harleys were too pricey for the market, so H-D USA shipped out plans, tooling, blueprints and built a factory in Japan with few restrictions, the product would not be exported out of Japan.

The investment capital came from Sankyo, and the plant was built next to that pharmaceutical giant’s headquarters at Shinagawa in Tokyo.  In 1931 Dabittoson Harley Motorcycle Co., Ltd was established in Japan and by 1935, the Shinagawa plant was building complete machines, assembled from parts made in Japan.  Eventually, Sankyo took full control of the Shinagawa plant and changed the brand name to Rikuo (Road King), the beginning of the H-D Road King Motorcycle.  There were approximately 18,000 Rikuo were built between 1937 – 1942, and most of which were sold to the Japanese military and Japanese police departments.  

There are currently 50 H-D Dealer Shops in Japan.  Japanese customers see H-D as an iconic American brand with a rich history and a unique brand heritage.  There ae also some people who connect H-D to wild images like riding on vast land of America as was depicted in the movie “Easy Rider” or to the tough images revealed in the movie “Terminator”, etc.  The H-D Sportster models are the one of best-selling motorcycles in Japan; it probably because the compact designed Sportster fit to the Japanese traffic environment and the physical size of Japanese people.

If you’re a motorcycle rider, please ride safe, and if you’re not please watch out for the riders out there.

Chie Schiller
Board Chair/Executive President

1937 Rikuo.jpg
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