Yamaha is, in my opinion, one of the most fascinating companies on Earth. A little while ago, I wondered, "how does an organ maker go on to make motorcycles?" This prompted me to do some research, and I found that the history of Yamaha corp. is very fascinating.
History of Yamaha Corporation
In 1887, a young man named Torukasu Yamaha was asked by a local school to repair a reed organ. Fascinated by the processes, Yamaha soon learned how to build his own reed organs and within a few years built up a reputation in Japan for building the best organs. In 1897, the small business was incorporated, with the name of Nippon Gakki Ltd. (Japan Musical Instruments). With Yamaha as president, the young company gained international appeal and within its first year, it completed its first international order, 78 organs shipped to southeast Asia.
With the aim of diversifying the business, in 1900 Nippon
Gakki began building upright pianos and by 1903 had completed its first grand piano, which requires an unmatched musical expertise to make. Japanese
are typically very resourceful people, and Yamaha was no exception. He figured that with all the expertise his company had acquired in building grand piano
s, they should also build furniture; so in 1903, Nippon Gakki Ltd. opened its fine furniture division.
Within a few years, the newly renamed Yamaha Corp.’s organs and pianos had won international acclaim (including the Grand Prize at the St. Louis world’s fair in 1904), and by 1914 it was ready to branch off yet again, opening a harmonica division. In 1917 Yamaha died, and was replaced by Chiyomaru Amano.
Under Amano, the company once again diversified. Why, they thought, should people only have to listen to Yamaha products live? So in 1922, Yamaha began producing phonographs, the precursor to record players, and by 1930 had established the world’s first acoustics research room, devoted to increasing the quality and capacity of contemporary records. Because of its pioneering development of acoustics technology, the Japanese government in 1931 honoured Yamaha by awarding it a contract to engineer the acoustics of the new Diet, Japan’s parliamentary chamber. Also in the 30's came the opening of a pipe organ division (1932), and the creation of one of their more popular church organs, the Magna (1935).
By 1950, the company had experienced somewhat of a downturn. World War II had greatly depleted resources and manpower, and as such Yamaha had only been able to create one new product during the 40's, an acoustic guitar (1942). However, in 1950, Genichi Kawakami succeeded his father to become Yamaha’s fourth president, and he proved to be a global thinker. Although Yamaha had exported organs to Asia for decades, Kawakami decided that it would be greatly advantageous to break into the American and European markets, and as such in 1953 he embarked on a world trip to investigate and inspect the viability of foreign markets. Apparently he found the prospects for business good, and in 1958 formed its first overseas subsidiary, Yamaha de Mexico.
During the 50's, the other of Yamaha’s famed products, motorcycles, came on the market. In much the same manner as it began making fine furniture early in the century, Yamaha drew from its considerable expertise in making hi-fi stereo equipment and using metallurgical technologies to produce its first motorcycle in 1954, the YA-1, with a total production of 125 units. The success of that venture prompted Yamaha to open a motorcycle division in 1955, thus diversifying its market again.
In 1960, Yamaha decided to branch out again and formed Yamaha co. of America Ltd, a landmark operation. In the previous year, Yamaha had marketed its first electric organ, and in yet another diversification, drew from its materials expertise to produce a line of archery equipment. That too sold well, and by the following year also marketed skis and alloys. By 1962, Yamaha opened a whole separate recreation division, devoted to creating high-calibre metal sporting goods to athletes.
During the sixties, Yamaha decided to get back to its musical roots and in 1965 opened a woodwinds division, which manufactured flutes, clarinets, oboes, bassoons and saxophones. Within a few years, Yamaha had opened the Yamaha Music Foundation, diversified into Europe, and opened music schools in Canada, West Germany and Thailand. Yamaha, incredibly, even went so far as to build Nemo-No-Sato, a seaside musical/recreation resort located near Hamajima town in Japan, offering both great views of the sea and any musical resources you could possibly dream of. This was to be followed by the Tsumagoi resort in 1974, Kitano-Maru in 1978 and Haimurubushi in 1979.
Throughout the 70's, Yamaha began production of keyboards, synthesizers and brass instruments, and opened Ateliers (academies) for wind instruments in cities throughout Europe, as well as technical academies for piano. It also kept diversifying its non-music product line, offering tennis rackets and beginning full-scale production of fine furniture in 1975.
1984 marked a strange departure from the usual, even for Yamaha. Buoyed by the great success of their Clavinova electric piano the year earlier, Yamaha decided to draw from their considerable mechanical expertise and begin building industrial robots. Today, Yamaha is renowned worldwide for its innovative and life-like robot constructions.
Since the mid-eighties, Yamaha has concentrated almost solely on its musical division. While it produces a host of other products, including outboard motors, cd players and accessories and golf clubs (created in 1993), Yamaha has greatly advanced its musical instruments product line and also its teaching classes and academies. Today, Yamaha Corporation makes over 5 million pianos a year and is the world’s largest musical instrument maker, recently opening its first foreign instrument plant in Thomaston, Georgia.
Presidents of Yamaha Corp.:
1897-1917 Torakusu Yamaha
1917-1927 Chiyomaru Amano
1927-1950 Kaichi Kawakami
1950-1977 Genichi Kawakami
1977-1980 Hiroshi Kawashima
1980-1983 Genichi Kawakami (again)
1983-1992 Hiroshi Kawashima (again)
1992-1997 Seisuke Ueshima
1997-2000 Katzukiyo Ishimura
2000- Shuji Ito
Sources: http://www.yamaha.com/aboutdr.htm, http://www.yamaha-motor.com/company/history_timeline.htm