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Traditional industry

Extensive experience and advanced technology: Gunsmithing's enterprising spirit gives birth to the international standard of bicycle building

Knowledge and skills passed down from gunsmithing


Bicycles were first introduced to Japan during the Keio era near the end of the Edo period. Although imports began gradually around 1870, the contraptions remained beyond the reach of the average Japanese, who nonetheless enjoyed the extremely popular practice of renting them by the hour. The bicycle industry in Japan was established when imports all but came to a halt with the start of World War II during the Taisho era, and it is said bicycle production became an increasingly domestic business at this time.
As a result of the fact that the first imported bicycles to arrive in Japan lacked brakes, a seemingly endless series of breakdowns and accidents ensured a brisk business in repairs and replacement parts. As it happens, it was the gunsmiths of Sakai who were able to respond to this new need the most quickly. The inheritors of a metalworking tradition rich in experience and advanced technology that stretched back to Japan's Sengoku period, these gunsmiths took the lead in working with bicycle frames and manufacturing the screws used to attach parts. Their ability to aggressively incorporate fashionable designs and new materials was the direct result of the enterprising spirit that had come to characterize the gunsmithing industry. Eventually the industry took over the entire process, from manufacturing bicycle parts to assembly.
Sakai produces 40% of the bicycles manufactured in Japan, making it the nation's leading producer. Today as society reevaluates the value of the bicycle amid growing environmental consciousness and an increased willingness to enjoy the outdoors, Sakai's bicycle manufacturers continue to create attractive new models that meet a range of needs.

Advanced Sakai technology continues to support the bicycle industry


About 1,000 individual parts must be assembled to build a single bicycle. Sakai is home to 15 bicycle part manufacturers, each of them known inside and outside their industry for high quality and internationally competitive technologies.
It is the assembly manufacturers who are responsible for combining these parts to manufacture a complete bicycle. The process starts with the assembly of rough groups of 20 to 30 parts to form major components such as wheels and handlebars. Once this preparatory phase is complete, the assembly of the bicycle can begin in earnest.
Assembly is a manual process extending from the attachment of each part to brake adjustment and final inspection. Training, skill, and intuition are required by each stage of the manufacturing process, particularly in the final inspection when workers make an instantaneous judgment regarding the quality of each bicycle, one product at a time. Veteran employees with at least 10 years' experience use their finely honed powers of observation to check for loose parts, unusual sounds, and other potential defects.
Sakai's bicycle industry traces it roots to manufacturing technologies originally used for guns. Having swept all before it during the civil wars of the Sengoku period, Sakai technology still remains impressive hundreds of years later during an era of peace.

Example of the bicycle manufacturing process

(1)First, parts are combined to form key bicycle components. This preparatory phase serves to facilitate a smooth assembly process later.

(2)Assembly begins on a straight workbench that is 50 meters long. Pedals, brakes, and other parts are all assembled and attached using traditional manual techniques.

(3)The front and rear wheels are attached, and the product at last starts to look like a bicycle. It takes a little more than 20 minutes to assemble a single bicycle. The process requires concentration and technical proficiency.

(4)Among other things, the effectiveness of the brakes and the tightness of the chain are checked quickly during the final inspection. Certified assembly mechanics use their finely honed powers of observation to perform this work.


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