Japan, 1897

The brand name "Yamaha" comes from Torakusu Yamaha who founded Nippon Gakki – the predecessor of the present Yamaha Corporation.

He built his business with a passion for excellence in the three core disciplines of Engineering, Manufacturing and Sales and enshrined this in what was to become the instantly recognizable logo of the 3 crossed tuning forks.

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Torakusu Yamaha, founder of Nippon Gakki
Torakusu Yamaha, founder of Nippon Gakki
Genichi Kawakami; the founder and first president of Yamaha Motor
Genichi Kawakami; the founder and first president of Yamaha Motor
11 February 1955

The first motorcycle - YA1 Akatombo or “Red Dragonfly”

Recovery after the war was slow throughout Japan but Nippon Gakki was doing better than most companies. By 1953 Nippon Gakki was at a cross roads. Company president Kawakami-san took a 3 month world tour to get a feeling for which sectors were likely to experience healthy growth and on his return announced that he had decided that the future lay in motorcycles. At the time there were over 100 other motorcycle producers in Japan. It was a courageous decision.

By July 1954 it had been decided that the first Nippon Gakki motorcycle would be a replica of the DKW RT 125 2-stroke. The result was the famous YA1 Akatombo or “Red Dragonfly”, named after its rich dark red fuel tank. Quality control had been extremely strict from the beginning with exhaustive shakedown and reliability tests to ensure a machine that would live up to the ethos of the crossed tuning forks. On 11 February 1955, the first YA1 ran off the production line at Hamana, the whole factory turning out for this memorable day.

Inheriting the Nippon Gakki spirit of challenge, the new business took the name Yamaha Motor Company Limited, with Genichi Kawakami as its founding president.

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Yamaha Motor, the winning company

Faced with a need to differentiate itself from other manufacturers as a latecomer to the market, and given the premium price tag for the YA1, Kawakami decided that reliability and performance could best be publicized through racing. 

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The YA-1 was Yamaha’s first motorcycle; it immediately demonstrated its high performance by winning the 3rd Mt. Fuji Ascent Race in July of 1955, and then swept the top places in the ultra-light class of the 1st Asama Highlands Race of the All Japan Endurance Championships.

Motorsport has been a prevalent part of our philosophy and soul from the earliest phasesof Yamaha Motor Company’s history until today. We believe that racing inspires and excites and we love the challenge. This is the Yamaha spirit. We are privileged and proud that so many people around the globe share this passion and enjoy the thrill of racing as much as we do. 

From the competitive ‘heat’ of the race tracks technological developments have been pushed and accelerated. Performance, handling, reliability and other elements such as fuel consumption are constantly refined to find those extra tenths or that extra edge needed for a race victory or a world title.
The constant drive for achievement and perfection is still as vibrant today as it was more than fifty years ago at Yamaha and there is no doubt that this will remain so in the future.

1964 Phil Read World Champion 125cc
1964 Phil Read World Champion 125cc
1978 Kenny Roberts World Champion 500cc
1978 Kenny Roberts World Champion 500cc
2012 Jorge Lorenzo World Champion MotoGP
2012 Jorge Lorenzo World Champion MotoGP
1960 P7 outboard
1960 P7 outboard
1970 XS1 650cc
1970 XS1 650cc

Diversification

Yamaha's in-depth knowledge of 2-stroke technology led to the Company's diversification in 1960 into the outboard engine market.

1970 witnessed the launch of the 650cc XS-1, Yamaha's first 4-stroke motorcycle, and during this decade the company diversified into the manufacture of a range of new products including All Terrain Vehicles, golf cars, generators and industrial robots.

This was followed in the 1980's by the development of high-performance car engines and water vehicles.

1998 will be remembered by motorcyclists for many years to come, because it was the year that Yamaha launched the YZF-R1, widely acclaimed as the most remarkable supersport model of the decade. Equipped with race-bred engine and chassis technology, the R1 further underlines Yamaha's commitment to offering products that generate "Kando" the first time, and every time.

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