Miyata Bicycle Co. New Year’s card, 1933.

1930sAmusements & RecreationsArts & CultureCommerceTechnologyTransportation
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Miyata Bicycle Co. New Year’s card, 1933.

“Miyata was founded by Eisuke Miyata (1840-1900), a bowyer and engineer from Tokyo who also made components for rickshaws. Eisuke’s second son, Eitarō, apprenticed in a local munitions facility and later earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Kyoto University. In 1874, Eisuke moved the family to Shiba and in 1881 opened Miyata Manufacturing in Kyōbashi, Tokyo. The factory produced guns for the Imperial Japanese Army including the Murata rifle, and knives for the Navy. In 1889, a foreigner visited Miyata to ask the gunmakers to repair his bicycle. The engineers repaired the bicycle, and the company began a side business of bicycle repair.

“In 1890, Miyata opened a new munitions factory in Kikukawa, and the company was renamed Miyata Gun Works. At the same time, the second son, Eitarō, created the first Miyata prototype bicycle in 1890, using rifle barrels produced at the factory. The early success of Miyata’s bicycles was boosted by a request in 1892 from Crown Prince Yoshihito (later Emperor Taishō) to build him a bicycle. Nonetheless, Miyata halted production of bicycles to focus exclusively on arms manufacture during the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95.

“Japan changed its laws in 1900 to allow for the import of foreign rifles, and the subsequent flooding of the market with cheap imports hurt Miyata’s business badly. Upon Eisuke’s death, Eitarō converted the business entirely to bicycle manufacturing, producing bicycles under the ‘Asahi’ and ‘Pāson’ brands. Miyata’s entire production of Asahi bicycles would be purchased by the Imperial Army for use in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905.

“The first Miyatas were bolt-upright town bikes. Many say the company pioneered triple-butting (butting is the process of removing extra material from where it is not needed; in a cutaway, the inside of the tube looks like three terraced rice paddies on a hillside), thereby revolutionizing frame-building techniques. Over the decades, Miyata established a strong foothold in the bicycle market, becoming contracted by multiple local brands to build their bicycles and ultimately attracting Panasonic Corporation to become a shareholder in 1959.

“Miyata began developing automobile technology in 1907. Miyata’s first automobile, also named ‘Asahi’, debuted at the Kansai Prefectural Association Exhibition in 1910. The first Asahi automobile was a two-passenger car with an air-cooled, two-cylinder engine. Miyata also produced the first all-Japanese motorcycle in 1913, also under the ‘Asahi’ name, based on a British Triumph design.”


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