I have mentioned countless times how one of the things I like about vintage Japanese bicycles is that nearly each and every part bears the manufacturer's name or logo, often more than once. If you are going to put your name on it, it had better be good. The reason for this is that after WWII JIS (Japan Industrial Standard) were just being introduced and it took a decade for the standards to be implemented. Thus, during this period bicycle parts were not all interchangeable and bicycles were, to some extent, crafted. In this post we will take a brief look at chainwheels and how manufacturers designed-in their company name or logo.
Designing the chainwheel in a manner so that it bears the name, initials, logo, trademark, etc., is certainly not unique to Japan. The British designed in the company name/logo, and, since the Japanese adopted British manufacturing specifications it can be inferred that they also adopted the practice of designing-in the company name/logo into the chainwheels as well. Let's take a look at several examples.
Keep in mind that in the 1950's bicycles were the only affordable means of private transportation in Japan. Bicycles were a necessity costing two months' salary and their status the equivalent of today's automobile. With fierce competition, manufacturers went to great lengths to prove to the customer that indeed all parts were genuine "brand" parts. The company name or logo appears on nearly each and every part, often more than once. In fact a manufacturer's name or logo appears over 100 times on a single bicycle. (See Company Logos & Markings (Part 1), (Part 2) , (Part 3) , (Part 4) and (Part 5) )
Zebra(Japanese only) Zebra Kenko
For those familiar with KANJI, you will not the three characters used to write DAI NIPPON, and you will note that they are read counterclockwise indicating this chainwheel predates WWII.
Yamaguchi (Circled "Y")
For those familiar with KANJI, take a good close look. Can you find the three HIKARI (光） characters?
In Chainwheels (Second Half), we will examine how various chaincase designs helped to showcase chainwheels; thereby adding to the the aesthetic beauty helping to make bicycles from this period (1950) rolling art.