Do you know where is your Kawasaki motorcycle coming from? Here is a brief history tour on KHI (Kawasaki Heavy Industries), from building ships to building motorcycles.

1878 – Shozo Kawasaki opens Kawasaki Tsukiji Shipyard in Tokio.


Shozo Kawasaki

Shozo Kawasaki, born in Kagoshima to a kimono merchant, Shozo Kawasaki became a tradesman at the age of 17 in Nagasaki, the only place in Japan then open to the West. He started a shipping business in Osaka at 27, which failed when his cargo ship sank during a storm. In 1869, he joined a company handling sugar from Ryukyu (currently Okinawa Prefecture), established by a Kagoshima samurai, and in 1893, researched Ryukyu sugar and sea routes to Ryukyu at the request of the Ministry of Finance. In 1894, he was appointed executive vice president of Japan Mail Steam-Powered Shipping Company, and succeeded in opening a sea route to Ryukyu and transporting sugar to mainland Japan.

Having experienced many sea accidents in his life, Kawasaki deepened his trust in Western ships because they were more spacious, stable and faster than typical Japanese ships. At the same time, he became very interested in the modern shipbuilding industry. In April 1878, supported by Masayoshi Matsukata, the Vice Minister of Finance, who was from the same province as Kawasaki, he established Kawasaki Tsukiji Shipyard on borrowed land from the government alongside the Sumidagawa River.

1897 – Launches Cargo-Passenger Ship Iyomaru, Kawasaki Dockyard’s first ship.




1906 – Builds the first submarine in Japan



1908 – Builds the Yodo, Japan’s first large-size warship




1911 – Completes the first Kawasaki-made locomotive and moves from the sea to land.


1922 – Completes the first Kawasaki-made airplane.


1926 – Constructs Eitaibashi Bridge, Tokyo.


Eitaibashi Bridge


1933 – Begins manufacture and sale of Rokkogo automobiles


Rokkogo bus


1934 – Delivers Pashina Locomotive for Ajiago Super Express


Pashina locomotive


1960 – Kawasaki signs agreement to take over Meguro motorcycles, a major player in the nascent Japanese motorcycle manufacturing business. Meguro is one of the only Japanese companies making a 500cc bike. In England and the UK, Meguro’s 500 – which bears a strong resemblance to the BSA A7

1961 – Kawasaki produces its first complete motorcycle – the B8 125cc two-stroke




1965 – The birth of the legendary Kawasaki W series. It had the largest engine displacement of any model manufactured in Japan at the time.




1969 – Launches H1 motorcycle




1972 – Unveils the Z1 motorcycle. The classic Universal Japanese Motorcycle (UJM). The UJM template featured a four-cylinder engine, standard riding position, carburetor for each cylinder, unit construction engine, disc front brake, conventional tubular cradle frame and telescopic front forks and twin-shock rear suspension. As the major Japanese motorcycle manufacturers, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha, began replicating each other’s designs, the UJM’s created a homogeneity of form, function and quality. The Z1 is one of the finest and most iconic example of the classic UJM.




1983 – The liquid-cooled four-valve GPz900R ‘Ninja’ is shown to the motorcycle press for the first time


GPZ900 Ninja


1984 – The KLR650-A was introduced.




We all know the rest of the story…