After the Tokyo air raids of 1945 in which over ten thousand people lost their lives and over half the city was burnt to the ground,
Tokyoites were left to start anew, down a long road of revival. As a student Komine Shunsuke was
in love with motorcycles like Indian and Triumph which lead to him founding his first business in Taito ward of Tokyo
as a wholesale trade company for bicycles and tires.
The company, Komine Shoukai, became the predecessor of
Komine Auto Center.
In the beginning bicycle parts and tire inner tubes were shipped to government agencies but with the start of the motorization
of Japan and the freeing of gasoline distribution Komine Shoukai was presented with the
opportunity to break away from the duties of a simple trade merchant and Komine Shunsuke changed the focus of his organization
to become a general agency for F-type bicycle auxiliary engine kits called the “Red Cub”. This change was prompted by a requested
from Fujisawa Takeo of Honda Motor Co., Ltd.. The "Red Cub" began to take off and sales were exploding so Komine Shunsuke seized the opportunity
at the start
of the “age of the motorcycle” in Japan. Honda then established its own sales network and began to cut off its smaller trading
partners and therefore the direct relationship with Honda Motor Co., Ltd was ended.
During 1953 Komine Shoukai reorganized and changed its name to the Komine Bike Industrial Corporation and began to
wholesale its own manufactured goods. Komine then began to product its first motorcycle, "The Giant".
At this time, the dawn of the Japanese motorization, the manufacture of motorcycles increased explosively. Over 100 companies
took root. Komine’s motorcycle, The Giant was high performance and were well known for its high efficiency and engine quality.
Becuase of this, many other manufacturers decided to use Komine engines in their own bikes. Komine Shunsuke himself was not
satisfied with the bike even though the engine was popular. During the war other large companies eventually accumulated a lot of
technical prowess in manufacturing and Komine Shunsuke could not keep pace.
Eventually Komine shifted focus to the manufacture of “private motorcycle supplies”
as a solution to the dilemma.
Komine Auto Center was founded in 1957, the name changed from Komine Automobile Industrial Corporation.
In 1961 the company diverted resources, using experience and technology gained from producing motorcycle parts to the
production of motorcycle supplies which were sold in the many new chain stores owned and operated by Komine to sell Komine
products directly to
the user. With the continuing expansion of motorization in Japan, along with the economic growth, Japanese manufacturers were
up and coming as world leaders in the motorcycle industry. Unfortunately in these early years many lives were lost in traffic
accidents due to inadequate protection for riders. As motorcycle riders have no vehicle body to take the forces of an impact
as a car does, The goal of Komine Auto Center became to save lives and product high quality goods, namely through the development
and research of body
protection and armor.
The investment made lead to the production of helmets which passed the official approval
of the American Snell foundation in 1967. Also a private factory was opened in 1969 to produce quality protection
in the area of the body most vulnerable to impact, as Komine was thinking solely of riders lives and safety. The helmets, which
passed the Snell standard, also won high praise as international exports to the United States, England and Australia.
The eighties, just as Japan came into an unprecedented boom in the motorcycle industry, saw the evolution of motor sports.
Ever increasing speeds saw a widening gap between the performance of the machines and the protection needed for the rider,
so the protection wear also had to evolve, and so Komine supported and learned from professional riders early on. Because of
this effort Komine’s high quality products were accepted by many riders and the demand continued to increase to the point where
at one time there were 25 Komine brand stores across Japan. Komine’s slogan of the times “only the best”, was supported by
Komine’s stores importing top foreign brand names like Dainese, establishing Komine’s position as a comprehensive motorcycle
supplies chain and not limited to selling only Komine brand products. But the nineties saw the collapse of the Japanese
economy and with it went the boom in the motorcycle industry.
After the collapse of the Japanese economy in the early nineties domestic sales of motorcycles were reduced by half.
The number of customers declined dramatically and Komine as well as the rest of Japan suffered a major blow economically.
Komine responded to the sudden change of times as a true veteran business and it’s primary
approach was in restructuring as an enterprise.
The evolution of Komine, sparked by the decreasing number of customers visiting Komine stores, was to again switch focus.
Again, as a veteran business adapts to changing economic situations, Komine shifted focus from retail stores, where competition
from large supply chain stores was taking over, to a focus on wholesale production. Riders also responded to this change,
not by abandoning Komine but by continuing to follow the brand they had grown to love as a major player in the history of
motorcycles and motorcycle supplies in Japan. The focus went back to the basic goal which was the design of quality protection
gear for improved rider safety while making it reasonable for the everyday consumer.
The new slogan, “Top quality safety
products for over 60 years.” Komine was again being adopted by international buyers in Asia and Europe, where it was attracting
attention for being reasonable while being very high quality and is even now starting to attract attention from the winter
As Komine changes with the times it continues to mature and evolve but always the love and passion for motorcycles remains
Yaesu Publication, Motorcyclist, June 15th, 1993
Yaesu Publication, Japanese Motorcycle History, June 15th, 1973
Yaesu Publication, Post War Domestic Motorcycles, August 5th, 1988
Komine Auto Center, Catalog Publications
'83 '84 KOMINE ORIGINAL MAGAZINE Q , October 10th, 1983
'85 '86 KOMINE ORIGINAL MAGAZINE Q, December 1st, 1985
Cabinet Office, Road Safety White Paper ／ http://www8.cao.go.jp/koutu/taisaku/h16kou_haku/index.html
Honda Manufacturing Corporation ／ http://www.honda.co.jp/
The Corporation of Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association ／ http://www.jama.or.jp/
Wikipedia ／ http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/ （The Bubble Economy）