Torakusu Yamaha built his first reed organ in 1887 and established Nippon Gakki Co., Ltd. (Japan Musical Instrument Company), what would become Yamaha Corporation, in 1897. Fifty-eight years later, in 1955, Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. was founded and built its first motorcycle, the YA-1, a 125cc two-stroke single affectionately known as Akatombo, or the Red Dragonfly. The YA-1 won several races in Japan in its first year of production, which began Yamaha’s long history of using race results to promote the performance and reliability of its motorcycles. In 1958, Yamaha raised its international profile by taking 6th place at the Catalina Grand Prix in the U.S. In the years since, Yamaha Motor has won numerous championships and developed a full line of street and off-road motorcycles as well as ATVs, side-by-sides, boats, personal watercraft, marine outboard engines and power equipment.
Yamaha Motor Corp. USA (YMUS) celebrated its 60th anniversary last August, at the company’s headquarters in Cypress, California, by adding 10 legendary Yamaha racers to its Wall of Champions, including Wayne Rainey, Eddie Lawson, Rich Oliver and Bob Hannah. Terry Okawa, president of YMUS, told the gathering of Yamaha employees, champions and others, “Racing has always been part of Yamaha’s DNA and a source of its strength in the marketplace. We honor our past and are very excited about the future of Yamaha.”