Torakusu Yamaha

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Torakusu Yamaha
Native name
山羽寅楠 (Torakasu Yamaba)

(1851-05-20)May 20, 1851
Wakayama, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan
DiedAugust 8, 1916(1916-08-08) (aged 65)
President of Nippon Gakki Co Ltd
CEO of Nippon Gakki Co Ltd
Known forFounding Nippon Gakki Co Ltd

Torakusu Yamaha (山葉寅楠) was the first Japanese maker of the reed organ and the founder of Nippon Gakki Co Ltd, which later became the Yamaha Corporation. Other than making musical instruments, he also enjoyed martial arts and kendo, which is Japanese swordsmanship. After being known as the first Japanese person to ever craft a reed organ, he started the Nippon Gakki Co Ltd, with the main factory located in Itayamachi, Hamamatsu, at the age of 35, and also began to construct pianos and many other instruments.


Before founding Nippon Gakki Co Ltd[edit]

Torakusu was the third son of the three children in his family. His father was an astronomer for the Kishu clan, giving Torakusu access to many books about astronomy. As a result, Torakusu became fascinated with machines and technology. In his twenties, the society of Japan changed along with the arrival of the Meiji Restoration. Torakusu saw many opportunities as the era brought signs of cultural enlightenment. In 1871, Torakusu went to Nagasaki and started studying watchmaking under the guidance of an English engineer. After a few years of training, he became an expert in watchmaking and later became interested in medical equipment. He then moved to Osaka to study medical equipment, where he lived behind a medical equipment store. [1][2]

In 1886, at the age of 35, he went to Hamamatsu to repair medical equipment as a career. However, since Hamamatsu was a small town back then, Torakusu could not make a living repairing medical equipment, so he also repaired watches and served as a rickshaw man for a hospital director. A primary school (Jinjou Elementary School) asked him to fix their broken organ, as the town was small, and they did not have anyone who was qualified to fix one. Accepting the offer, he soon discovered the cause of the problem, which was two broken springs, and studied the springs with the intent of producing them himself. He also received financial help from Toyasaku Fukushima, the director of Hamamatsu Hospital. Torakusu then started the project in an one-room workshop with the help of a colleague from the medical equipment work. [1] [3]

In 1887, two months after the project started, they made the first Japanese-made reed organ.[4] After receiving negative comments, he moved closer to the music department of Tokyo, which was a University of Art and Music. To get the organ to the university, he was forced to carry it over a distance of 250 kilometres (160 mi). After presenting the instrument to the university, professors at the university said the instrument was badly conceived. He was then allowed to attend lectures about different theories of music at the university for a month. Back in Hamamatsu, Torakusu built the second organ in the remaining two months of the year. It was rated as "good as those from abroad". Shortly after, he received an order for seven organs, including that for the governor of Shizuoka.[3]

In March of 1888, Torakusu used an abandoned Hamamatsu Temple to make organs with the help of carpenters and cabinet makers.[3]

Nippon Gakki Co Ltd[edit]

In 1887, Torakusu founded Nippon Gakki Co Ltd. Years later, he used a drawing of a Chinese phoenix holding a tuning fork in its beak as the company's logo. After founding the company, he set up a manufacturing plant with modern assembly lines. In 1889 the Minister of Education asked the president of Nippon Gakki to look into the administration system and working conditions of musical instruments in schools. In the same year, Nippon Gakki sold nearly 250 organs to several schools in Japan. With this success, the company looked into the production of pianos, harmonicas, and xylophones.[3][4]

During his career being the founder of the company, he also taught instrument making to a pupil named Koichi Kawai, who was 11 years old at the time. When Kawai grew up, he opened a company named Kawai Musical Instruments and soon became rivals with Yamaha.[3][5]


Torakusu Yamaha died of an illness in Tokyo on August 8, 1916. He was 65 at the time of his demise. Following his death, Vice President, Chiyomaru Amano, took over as the CEO of Nippon Gakki.[3]


  1. ^ a b "Torakusu Yamah | Hamamatsu Ijinden-(Stories of great figures in Hamamatsu)". (in Japanese). Hamamatsu Tourism Guide (I Love Hamamatsu). Retrieved 2018-07-01.
  2. ^ "Biography of YAMAHA TORAKUSU | Founder of Yahama Corp".
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Torakusu Yamaha", Wikipédia (in French), 2017-12-29, retrieved 2018-07-01
  4. ^ a b "Brand and History - About Us - Yamaha Corporation". Retrieved 2018-07-02.
  5. ^ "Koichi Kawai | Hamamatsu Ijinden-(Stories of great figures in Hamamatsu". Hamamatsu Tourism Guide (I Love Hamamatsu).