Hamamatsu City, Japan: Birthplace of the Big Corporation, Yamaha
From Pianos to Motorbikes to Bio; “Let's Try, Let's Take the Challenge”
I often wondered about Hamamatsu City in Shizuoka Prefecture as I watched it slip by during my bullet train rides from Tokyo to Osaka. A very good friend of mine is from Hamamatsu and would tell me about his father’s company. He himself towered over most Japanese men at just under six feet tall and I always thought he broke a mold in terms of deep contemplation and intelligent risk-taking as well.
On our way to dine at his favorite Unagi (Eel) restaurant before one of my speeches in Urawa, Tokyo, we sped over rivers and shining sea below the freeway. With eyes fixed steadily on the road ahead he reminded me about Hamamatsu being the best place for Unagi and insisted the Unagi nurtured by the minerals flowing from rich soil into the clean rivers of Hamamatsu were the “real deal”.
With Unagi eel on my mind, I stepped off the Hikari Shinkansen bullet train in Hamamatsu for the first time last week. I have been in Japan some 27 years but unfortunately, I have not actually visited many of the history-steeped stops “along the way” per se. One of the aspects of Edo I am most envious of is the fact that the same path “Tokaido 53 Tsugi”, kind of the like Japan’s silk road, stretched between Tokyo and Kyoto and exactly as stated had 53 stops along the way. Without bullet trains or planes, travellers had to take their time. I cant remember when I have taken my time to stop and enjoy…I’ve rushed around this country most of my time here and I am ready for a change.
There must be many people like me speeding from Tokyo to Osaka since my train (a Hikari that stops more often than the speedier express Nozomi) was not packed and I was joined by only about 10 others stepping onto the Hamamatsu platform.
Okay, I have to admit, this trip was slightly work-related so I can’t say it was wholly my curiosity in the history of the area, but after my friend’s stories and meeting the wonderful people there, I looked into a few things upon my return. As he so adamantly stated, Hamamatsu City is AMAZING!
A Crisp Autumn Day in Hamamatsu City
On that pristine Autumn day, I spoke about my book “33 More Reasons to be Proud” to a group of about 100 people gathered at the Hamamatsu Chamber of Commerce building. Even though he already heard my speech in Urawa, I wished my friend was there with me in his hometown to see my genuine surprise at aspects of the city that actually don't even involve his prized Eel.
This time I didn't even have a chance to seek out the delicacy so it will have to wait for my next visit when I hope he will accompany me and take me to his father’s factory. With his guidance, I would love to get a peek under the hood and try to figure out how this place could become the birthplace for so many successes known the world over.
Yamaha. Not too much explanation is required since this one simple word will conjure up images of pianos, motorcycles, motors, and much more. Hamamatsu is the birthplace of this world renown company and it was the piano that inspired its beginning.
Over the 100 years since inception of the Yamaha Organ Manufacturing Corporation, Yamaha’s development took the following path. This path of ingenious management and flexibility toward changing times, kept the firm in tune with the world.
1. Organ and Piano repair, leads to, ability to work with wood; 2. Enter new home furnishing business.
3. Japan goes to war and ability at woodworking attracts consignment to produce plane propellers. 4. Making propellers leads to Yamaha honing an ability to construct the engines. 5. Engines to spin the propellers lead to construction of motorcycle engines and motorcycles. 6. Motorcycles lead to building boats and boats develop ability in fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRP). 7. FRP capability leads to water slides and 8. Pool manufacturing. 9. Pool business requires clean water leading to developing water filter tech. 10. Water filters and efforts at purification lead to the current focus on Bio. WOW! Mr. Yamaha truly set the bar high for flexibility and corporate response to a change world.
The tallest building, Act City Hamamatsu, is in the shape of a harmonica (http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/アクトシティ浜松), there is a piano key motif on the kimono of “Promotion man Ieyasu Kun” the City’s mascot or “Yurukyara", and, International piano competitions are held often in this quiet ocean-side town. Maybe music can be the base and inspiration for innovation? As my train snakes back to Yokohama, I listen to tunes on my i-phone and think about how much Mr. Yamaha did to inspire entrepreneurs everywhere.
I look forward to learning more about how this spirit of innovation thrives in the most direct way possible. I suspect a deep conversation, over a scrumptious Unagi rice bowl back in Hamamatsu City with my adventurous, mold-breaking friend, is not very far off.
How to get to Hamamatsu City
Take the Hikari Shinkansen Bullet train from any of the main Shinkansen stops and the name of the station is Hamamatsu.
Former Deep Japan Writer