Kaizen Or The Influence Of The Japanese Motorcycle.

The Japanese word “Kaizen” means “beneficial change,” but in post-war Japan industry it had a larger meaning.  “Kaizen” was also used to describe a philosophy of work and manufacturing that became the key to the product quality and innovative designs that enabled Japanese brands to penetrate, then quickly dominate international markets with products built to a higher standard.

Under the principles of Kaizen, every worker was encouraged to identify small changes that would reduce waste in a war-torn nation where essential resources were so hard to come by.  It was soon realized that the by-products of the relentless drive to reduce waste and cost were improved quality and efficiency.  Many of the manufacturing methods developed by the Japanese became components of a worldwide manufacturing revolution that became known as “Total Quality Management,” but only after the Japanese proved by dominating markets that they had learned a better way.

The practice of Kaizen not only enabled the Japanese to become dominant in the American motorcycle market, but it resulted in “beneficial change” to the motorcycle industry as a whole when the market became larger, reached a broader range of customers, generated more profit, and improved the public opinion of motorcycling in America.  Consequently, Kaizen, the exhibit, will be more than an exhibit to celebrate the beauty and technology of Japanese motorcycles.  It will also celebrate a philosophy that altered and benefited the worldwide motorcycle industry. 

In September 2012, the Antique Motorcycle Foundation, Inc. will open an exhibit entitled “Kaizen: The Influence of the Japanese Motorcycle” at the Motorcyclepedia Museum in Newburgh, New York.  It will be the first exhibit dedicated solely to Japanese motorcycle history to be assembled at a major American motorcycle museum. It will contain upwards of 50 motorcycles, plus artifacts, posters, and advertisements of the period from the late 1950s through 1980.  At present, the curatorial team is networking among collectors to locate the motorcycles that will be selected for the exhibit.  While both restored and original-paint motorcycles will be chosen, in all cases very high appearance standards will be adhered to.  While the exhibit will run for two years, in some cases one-year loans will be accepted.  For more information about the Kaizen Exhibit, contact one of its curators: Roger Smith (rsmith481@yahoo.com) or Ed Youngblood (Ed@Motohistory.net) Kaizen is scheduled to open in mid-September 2012 and will run through August 2014

Motorcyclepedia, which opened in April 2011, contains more than 400 motorcycles and memorabilia displayed over 85,000 square feet of floor space, placing it among the leading motorcycle museum in the nation.  It contains a diverse array of motorcycles and artifacts, including the largest single collection of Indian motorcycles anywhere, a large collection of 1960s and ‘70s customs, military and police motorcycles, and periodically changing exhibits sponsored by the Antique Motorcycle Foundation, Inc.

The Antique Motorcycle Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit organization created to tell the story of antique motorcycling so that the role and influence of the motorcycle in our transportation history and technological development can be better understood and appreciated.  The Foundation seeks to advance the interests of all motorcycle collectors, regardless of the interests in periods, brands, or motorcycle nations of origin.  The AMF is supported solely by gifts and monetary contributions, for which contributors may receive tax-deductions.  For more information, go to Antique Motorcycle Foundation (Pictures courtesy Roger Smith Collection)

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19 Responses to “Kaizen Or The Influence Of The Japanese Motorcycle.”


  1. 1 Duke Jun 8th, 2012 at 8:54 am

    Very interesting

  2. 2 Kirkland Jun 8th, 2012 at 8:59 am

    There it is…… that 305 that dumped me twice on Long Beach Blvd. riding across wet railroad tracks.
    Stupid universal knobby tires.
    Exhaust were cool. There were baffles inside the straight pipes that would rattle like the tail pipes on a Volkswagen.
    Kick-start only. Needed to run it with the choke lever down about 1/4 of the way for about 5 miles.
    Stiff to shift. Three of us owned one. Bought them on credit with our 80 dollar a month Navy wages. We froze riding those 305’s along the coast at night. Well made for sure.

  3. 3 Steve Hog Radio Producer Johann Jun 8th, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    TQM you bet the Japaneses manufacturing system did make a huge difference in how cycles were and are manufactured. Before they started exporting these hardy little bikes everyone else was happy with leaking head gaskets and so much more. You may not like a metric from Japan but you have to thank them and Mr. Demmings for what they have contributed to the overall quality in cycles and car manufacturing since the early 60’s and especially the early to mid 70’s.

  4. 4 Kirkland Jun 8th, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    Thinking about that 305 scrambler and how little money we had, plus a monthly note and the fact that all (3) sat uncovered in the Naval shipyard on terminal Island and got filthy while we were out at sea, ……. there’s No Way we had either the time or tools to monitor a battery, nor could we afford a battery if we needed one.
    Therefore, the 305’s HAD to be magneto-powered. But the 305 had a high-beam, I think.
    Point being, if they had a magneto then, and my ’78 ATC three-wheeler has one, why don;t they make a magneto bike now? The headlight on my ATC dims and brightens with the rpm. It is so very, very, low-down cool. A magneto bike is like a crystal radio. Music (illumination) for free. 🙂

  5. 5 cyclereckr Jun 9th, 2012 at 7:47 am

    Hey “Steve Hog Radio’ you might want to check, I believe it was an American manufacturing system from a guy at MIT. He went to Japan after WW2 to help rebuild.

  6. 6 burnout Jun 9th, 2012 at 10:11 am

    An American taught Quality Control to the Japanese. They paid attention and absorbed everything he taught them. peace

  7. 7 AFT Customs Jun 9th, 2012 at 11:17 am

    Great idea for an exibit. Nice to see the Japanese motorcycle industry having it’s history told. The Japnese companies have contributed so much to our industry. You’re seeing a huge interest in early J. motorcycles because they ‘re inexpensive , reliable & fun.

  8. 8 Woody Jun 9th, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Absolutely, Kirkland, that shifter linkage was the worst, but overall that bike was bulletproof! Second bike I ever had, and it earned it’s keep getting me to HS sophmore year and trouble daily 🙂

  9. 9 fuji Jun 9th, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    Finally some sensible language of the Japanese industry.

    Haven’t heard the usual Jap Crap remark from someone. (was going to say moron) Wont go there at this time.

  10. 10 Bob Morris Jun 9th, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    I hope the exhibit makes mention that it was the Americans who taught this method to the Japanese at the end of WWII and the Japanese then refined the ideas into Kaizen! Homer Sarasohn, Charles Protzman, and W. Ewards Deming were instrumental in teaching these statistical control methods.

  11. 11 Kirkland Jun 9th, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    “that shifter linkage was the worst”
    ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
    Very stiff to right-side foot shift (they kept that British), and a loud & felt “clunk” when pressed into first.
    I complained to a Mustang owner about it once (wishing for a smooth Burman box again), and he told me, “It’s all about the rpm’s. Honda’s idle fast, Mustangs idle slow”.

  12. 12 Johnny Wolf Jun 10th, 2012 at 12:34 am

    I was trained in Kaizen, and trained others while working for a lighting MFG in ’96-’03. It was NOT brought to Japan by the Americans. As mentioned above it has NOTHING to do with quality control, it has everything to do with efficient, lean manufacturing. In short, instead of stocking the floors and shelves with product, product is made to order with a quicker manufacturing process.

  13. 13 Sam Burns Jun 10th, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Kirkland,
    The scrambler used a dynamo and a selenium (sp?) rectifier. It did have a battery, but the electric starter was not used. I’ve read that this was to reduce weight, but with the differerent frame from the Hawk, there just wasn’t clearence. It really was far from a “scrambler”, but I rode my Sportster in the dirt….different times. The scrambler came with a slip on muffler that was immediately removed. We used snuff or nots, but I never saw anyone use internal baffles. I think later models had the muffler welded on. Those were some great times, and it does seem I fell down a lot myself. Bounced better then.

  14. 14 Kirkland Jun 10th, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    “We used “snuff or nots”
    •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
    Yeah…. 🙂 that was their name. They rattled but kept that “spark arrester” 2 into 1 can from messing up the straight lines. There were some “red frame” 305 scramblers the season before black frames.
    If you scrambled the 305’s hard (landing on the back wheel), pretty soon the rear wheel spokes would loosen and lean to the left. Charlie Huffer from Capo Beach had a beater like that – rode it until they hauled his 4-F fighting soul to Vietnam, where he was killed two days before the war ended.
    Probably a lot of memories attached to the 305 scrambler and “those” years.

  15. 15 Kirkland Jun 10th, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    “a dynamo and a selenium (sp?) rectifier. It did have a battery, but the electric starter was not used.”
    ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
    Selenium whaaat?
    Proves God takes care of drunks and fools, I had no idea.
    And yes, I think there was an electric starter, but I don’t remember using it, the motors were easy to kick over. Like no compression almost. Thanx Sam and Woody over there.

  16. 16 Woody Jun 10th, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    Kirk, what year CB77 did you have? I think mine was a ’66 and it had the shifter on the left side for sure. I went from that bike to a 750 Commando and I remember it was tricky getting used to the right side shift on the Norton.

  17. 17 Kirkland Jun 10th, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    A late ’65 with a silver red frame with straight pipes and snuff or nots. 🙂 still cracks me up. They had the newer 66 w/ silver tank & black frame at Long Beach Honda, but the red frame was only 700. (cash) to the dealership. The EPA thing was sort of just beginning. Straight pipe “Scramblers” like the one we’re looking at were setting the back country on fire. That big ’66 can was like a spark arrester for state appeasement.
    This is when Keenan Wynn, Steve McQueen, Hobie Alter, etc. were still alive and going dirt bike berserk. You could ride all the way from Walker Foam at the beach in San Clemente, eastward, to Clark Foam in Crown Valley and never hit a fenced area. Just Wild in non-populated California. And dirt bikes ran with surfing. A mutual, unspoken respect, always.
    I think my shifter was on the left as well. Good vibes, yeah.

  18. 18 Woody Jun 10th, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    Cool, thanks. Different work for me, I was only 16-17 when I got mine used for around $300 in ’74 or ’75 . When you took off the chromed tank sides & black rubber knee pads off & smoothed it with bondo it was an interesting looking tank. I swapped a guy for his street pipes (those giant chromed torpedos) and cut the ends off so they looked like megaphones. Good times.

  19. 19 rsmith Jun 12th, 2012 at 8:14 am

    The Antique Motorcycle Foundation is very excited about our Kaizen Vintage Japanese motorcycle exhibit which will be opening in September 2012.

    Everyone is welcome and I think you will find the Motorcyclepedia Museum, in Newburgh, to be well worth your time to visit.

    http://www.motorcyclepediamuseum.org/

    The pictures of my restored bikes above were taken by renowned transportation photographer Doug Mitchel. I can’t thank him enough because the difference between my photography efforts and a professional, like Doug, is dramatic!

    Looking forward to seeing everyone in September at the Kaizen Celebration!

    Roger Smith
    Antique Motorcycle Foundation Vice-President

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