Hamamatsu, Japanese Silicon Valley for Musical Instruments

Hamamatsu, Silicon Valley for Japanese Musical Instruments

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I’m the manager of Japanese-Online-Store.

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Do you know Roland, BOSS, YAMAHA, KAWAI, SUZUKI?
They are all world famous Japanese musical instrument manufacturers.

Do you know why they all have their headquarters in an unknown small city of Hamamatsu?

Not only headquarters, but also factories and subcontractors are concentrated there. t’s like Japanese Silicon Valley for musical instruments.

Index: 

  1. Location of Hamamatsu
  2. YAMAHA started in Hamamatsu
  3. KAWAI and SUZUKI started in Hamamatsu
  4. Roland moved to Hamamatsu
  5. Why Hamamastu?
  6. Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments

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1. Location of Hamamatsu

Hamamatsu city is in Shizuoka prefecture. It’s between Tokyo, the Japanese biggest city and Osaka, the second largest city. It’s not a big city with a population of 800,000. Yet there are many outstanding Japanese manufactures.

Map of companies in Hamamatsu
Companies in Hamamatsu

Hamamatsu has world famous manufacturers like Suzuki, Kawasaki, Yamaha motorbikes as well. Honda headquarter is now located in Tokyo, but it originated also in Hamamatsu. Hamamatsu Photonics is a world famous optics products manufacture.

2. YAMAHA started in Hamamatsu

I will go back the history to 1851. Torakusu Yamaha, the founder of YAMAHA was born in Wakayama prefecture.

Photo Torakusu Yamaha
Torakusu Yamaha
The founder of YAMAHA CORPORATION

Torakusu liked tampering around with various machines from his childhood. He started learning watch repairs at his 20s from a British engineer. He moved to Osaka to work as a repair mechanic for medical equipment. Then moved to a Hamamatsu branch in charge of repair of various machines in general.

In 1887, he produced the first organ in Japan. An organ repair he did for Hamamatsu elementary school motivated him to do so. In 1889 he started his own company Yamaha Fuukin Manufacturing. (Fuukin means organ in graceful Japanese language).

Photo Organ at Torakusu era
Organ at Torakusu era

3. KAWAI and SUZUKI started in Hamamatsu

Coincidentally the founder of another famous piano manufacturer was apprenticed to Torakusu. His name is Koichi Kawai. Later on he started his own company, KAWAI. In 1916 when Torakusu died, Koichi was promoted to CTO of the company.

Photo Koichi Kawai
Koichi Kawai
The founder of KAWAI Musical Instruments Manufacturing Co., Ltd.

In 1926 after a huge labor dispute, Koichi and some competent engineers left YAMAHA. They made a new company KAWAI Musical Instruments Manufacturing. This is how two biggest piano manufacturers were born.

27 years later, a guy called Manji Suzuki left KAWAI Musical Instrument Manufacturing. He started a small private business in 1953. The company has grown to the world famous corporation, SUZUKI Musical Instrument Manufacturing.

Photo Manji Suzuki
Manji Suzuki
The founder of Suzuki Musical Instrument Manufacturing

YAMAHA, KAWAI, and SUZUKI are world famous musical instrument manufacturers. Torakusu Yamaha is the father of the three companies.

4. Roland moved to Hamamatsu

In 1972, 130 miles west from Hamamatsu, Ikutaro Kakehashi started Roland Corporation in Osaka. Ikutaro is one of the founders of the MIDI standard.

He was conferred an honorary doctorate in music from Berklee College of Music in 1991. They honored his contribution to the development and the spread of electronic musical instruments.

Photo Ikutaro Kakehashi
Ikutaro Kakehashi
The founder of Roland Corporation

He was inducted into Hollywood’s RockWalk with his handprint in 2000. He received the 2013 Technical Grammy Award with Dave Smith.
Dave is the founder of Dave Smith Instruments in San Francisco.

Photo Ikutaro Kakehashi hand print
Ikutaro Kakehashi hand print at Hollywood’s RockWalk
The Bullet Bar: 55th Annual Grammy Awards: February 10, 2013
See Winners of Technical GRAMMY Award

In 2005 Roland moved its headquarter from Osaka to Hamamatsu. They already had their R&D and factories since long time before. Hamamatsu attracted another technologically advanced company.

Photo Roland headquarter
Roland headquarter

Boss is Roland’s group company producing prestigious guitar effects units.

5. Why Hamamastu?

What made Hamamatsu attract so many Japanese musical instrument companies? There’s more than the talent and effort of the founders.

Are you surprised if I say it’s the climate?

Yes, it is. Many musicians in the world are enjoying their music thanks to the climate in Hamamatsu area. The climate in Hamamatsu is warm and mild. There were many cotton farmers thanks to the long hours of sunshine.

Photo Hamamatsu Castle
Nice warm weather at Hamamatsu Castle
Photo cotton farm
Cotton farm

There was an affluent cotton production. Local people started to develop weaving machines to take advantage of it. Weaving machines needed the highest precision technology at the time. Because the total machine is larger than a human being with a lot of moving parts. And it must be accurate enough to keep the space between threading parts less than half an inch.

Photo Weaving machine
Weaving machine

Hamamatsu was also a district rich in timber. The cotton prompted the development of weaving machines. Timber prompted the development of sawmills. They required another higher level of technology at the time.

This way the three biggest industries in Hamamatsu were evolved. They are musical instruments, motorbikes, and textile.

6. Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments

If you have a chance to visit Hamamatsu, it’s not a bad idea to drop in at Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments. The collection includes the following.

YAMAHA Electone D1 made in 1959
KORG Synthesizer Mini-KORG made in 1974
Roland Synthesizer System-700 made in 1976, etc.

It also exhibits many instruments from all over the world including,

Asia
Oceania
Africa
America
Europe

Photo Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments
Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments
Photo Histric electronic musical instruments
Histric electronic musical instruments

Go to Meseum HP in English

It’s a 10 minute walk from the Hamamatsu station.

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Author: Jos

Hi, I'm the manager of Japanese-Online-Store. http://japanese-online-store.com/ Enjoy my blog about Japan and Japanese products. I appreciate your feedback !

2 thoughts on “Hamamatsu, Japanese Silicon Valley for Musical Instruments”

  1. Interesting… How about Korg and Casio’s beginnings? Where they in near by provinces in Japan? Thanks for the link to the museum!

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