Chapter2 Growth 1945~1959 Appraised as Excellent Company, Tohatsu supported Recovery of post-war Japan

Tohatsu took the initiative in engine development for public use in post-war period Tohatsu took the initiative in engine development for public use in post-war period

War ended, Military Plant ceased mission

On the 15th of August, 1945, Japan surrendered unconditionally to the Allies, and the Pacific War and WWII came to an end. The damage wreaked by the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was something that no-one had ever experienced before. The Great Tokyo Air Raids on the 10th of March in the same year were also devastating. U.S. had tried to wipe out the Japanese military industry by dropping fire bombs, targeting a Tokyo urban area, leaving more than 80,000 civilians dead and one-third of Tokyo burnt.

While most of the central Tokyo had been razed during the raids, fortunately Shimura, Itabashi-ward where Tohatsu's main plant located was not damaged at all. As the War ceased, Tokyo Hatsudoki was ordered to stop manufacturing products for military uses, cancelled its nominated duty as a military Plant. 1,500 employees at the Plant in Tokyo, and 300 employees at Okaya plant temporarily lost their job as a result of the cancellation. The Plants were closed at the end of August, and people were left waiting for the recovery.

Overcoming the grief of war, Tohatsu introduced motor-run rail track cars and engines for fishing boats

made a strong comeback from ruins of war, Tokyo Plant started to prepare for new operations by the end of 1945, and was revivified by January 1946.

As soon as the reorganization of the plant and the maintenance of the manufacturing lines was complete, Tokyo Hatsudoki began to manufacture manual grinding mills to help alleviate food shortages. There was a stockpile of half-finished goods from the war, and to make use of those unassembled parts was one of the top priorities in the recovery plan.


First project was restarting the production of 15 horsepower rail track cars for Japan National Railways, which had been temporarily discontinued during the war.

This 2-cylinder (air-cooled, 4-cycles) horizontally opposed engine for motorizing the rail track cars of Japan National Railways had played a big role in the post-war reconstruction of Tokyo Hatsudoki until the orders were halted by GHQ's (General Headquarters of the Allied Forces) anti-inflation economic policy of national budget-cutting.

Another part of the project was to develop engines for fishing boats. As the sales of those engines reached 70 units per month, its great reputation was spreaded by word of mouth, leading to it sometimes being out of stock. Tokyo Hatsudoki also began manufacturing a multi-purpose engine (an air-cooled, 2-cycle, 3-horsepower: TBF-60) and a water pump (VA-70).

Development of Nation’s first portable fire pump

In 1949, Tokyo Hatsudoki developed the first small portable fire pump (VC-50, engine TBF-60, 3.5-horsepower). This was made by modifying the VB-type irrigation pump and conformed to the “Standards for Engine Fire Pumps” established by National Public Safety Commission in October 1949.

As you can see from its rapid innovations, it did not take long for Tokyo Hatsudoki to recover in the post-war period.

Tohatsu listed on Tokyo Stock Exchange in 5 years after plant resumption

During a board meeting in 1946, Daisuke Akashi was selected as the new President of Tokyo Hatsudoki.

In 1947, Okaya plant resumed its production lines and the headquarters were moved to Tokyo. In those days, the black market was at its peak as Japan was in post-war chaos. While most of the leading Japanese companies encountered a lot of difficulties in their operations, Tokyo Hatsudoki fortunately, was able to make a best use of those half made materials which had been left from the war.

The Tohatsu Industry Corporation was established as an marketing network, and agencies were located across the country. Branches were placed in Sendai, northeast Japan, in 1948 and in Osaka, current second largest city in the country, in 1949. In September, the capital increased to 15 million yen, and Tohatsu was listed on Tokyo Stock Exchange in January 1950.

Portable fire pump, motorcycles become fundamentals for further development Portable fire pump, motorcycles become fundamentals for further development

First portable fire pump in domestic market


It was Korean War which brought first economic growth to Japanese people who up until then had been recycling left-over wartime materials for their daily survival.
During the Korean War, Japan made a quick economic recovery.

It was the year between 1947 to 1949, which is actually before that war, Tokyo Hatsudoki had developd some remarkable products. These later became the fundamental products of Tohatsu, which would lead further growth.

The first these products was portable fire fighting pump which was completed its development in 1949. It was finalized by changing the design of a VB irrigation pump, decreasing the volume of water discharged, increasing its pressure, and attaching a suction vacuum pump to it. It was Dr. Kiyoshi Tomizuka, a professor emeritus at Tokyo University, known as an authority on aircraft engines in Japan, and then a member of the Fire Research Institute, who paid a great attention on the portability of VB irrigation pump and recommended designing a new fire pump using it. This new pump become Japan’s first portable fire pump and the first to pass the Official Standards. Since many local municipalities were still using manual fire pumps in those days, this portable fire fighting pump did not achieve immediate recognition by regional fire fighting teams. However, as soon as people started using the new pump, they came to understand how light and durable it was. Once this was recognized, sales skyrocketed.

As fire fighting pump sales also accelerated as a result of advertising and informational activities started in 1951, "VE-50"(in October) and "VF-50"(in November) were finalized.

As a result of their improvements, 12,677 units of these 2 models were sold as "VE Series" over 24 years until 1975, and advanced "VF Series" finally reached its sales of 13,160 units over 10 years. These 2 series played big roles for company.

“Tohatsu Bumble Bee” launched

VF-50 and TFG-50 78cccVF-50 and TFG-50 78cc

The second product that had a great historical influence on Tohatsu was TFL motorcycle engine. People repaired the engines left on devastated field after the war, and attached those engines to their bicycles. This new type of vehicle was seen in various places at that time.

At around the same time, Tokyo Hatsudoki had delivered "TFI" and "TFK" engines to the motorcycle manufacturers. These engines were made from "TFG50 78cc", the 500W electrical generating engine, with a small modification of removing the cooling fan and case as well as attaching clutches and valves.

Soon Tokyo Hatsudoki started manufacturing a package of products as "TFL", a bicycle-attachable engine with a fuel tank, an exhaust pipe, brackets and cowlings.
This TFL, with its excellent durability had become one of the leading models and contributed greatly to the motor cycle Industry.

Normal bicycles were not strong enough to hold the TFL and they were uncomfortable for the riders. Thus, Tokyo Hatsudoki produced a stronger bicycle to specifications given by the supplier, which would be robust enough to attach the engine to. Tokyo Hatsudoki packaged those tough bicycles with TFL, and started to sell them at their branches and dealers around 1950. That package, named "TFM" and called "The Tohatsu", dominated the market.

The demand for motorcycles began to increase tremendously in the summer of 1951, and this was when the full-scale changeover from engine-attached bicycle to motorcycles. Tokyo Hatsudoki designed the new TFP, a 98cc engine with integrated transmission and a kick-start. This motorcycle with 98cc TFO 2-speed geared engine was named “Tohatsu Bumble Bee” and sold as a luxury model with a correspondingly expensive price tag.

Foundation of Research Laboratory: Tohatsu welcomed Dr. Watanabe

After being listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Market in January 1950, “Tokyo Motor Corporation Research Laboratory” was founded inside Tokyo Plant in May 1951. As a director the laboratory, Ichiro Watanabe, professor at Keio University, was invited to work on fundamental research in internal combustion. Dr. Watanabe had graduated from the Department of Engineering at Tokyo University. He spent most of his time after graduation on research on the supercharger for aircraft engines during the war.

Improvement of facilities in Okaya Plant for post-war period

In the years around 1951, sales for two of then Tohatsu's main products motorcycles and portable fire pumps, gradually increased.

It was the first time since the war that the plant facilities were upgraded to meet the growing demand.

The latest equipments such as copying lathes and turret machines, etc. were introduced in the new plant. Okaya Plant, in which TH and PA-type motorcycles were made, was rebuilt and inaugurated in 1935. At that time, this plant was called a “model factory” in Nagano prefecture because of its superannuation.

Also in 1954, Okaya Plant underwent major internal reform; removing its former system of concurrent directorship with Tokyo Plant, a new independent director for Okaya was appointed.

From that year Tokyo Hatsudoki employed graduates running into doublefigures, and the sales department was expanded.

Tohatsu becomes industrial leader Tohatsu becomes industrial leader

Tokyo Plant and Okaya Plant reinforced as preparation for greater development

Tohatsu within 2 years of planning and preparation. From 1953 to 1955, the military procurement stopped when the Korean War ended in a truce 1953. Additionally, a tight monetary policy, followed by a decline in export goods due to a world-wide production surplus, diminished domestic demand and put whole industrial world in a slump.

In spite of a sluggish economy, Tokyo Hatsudoki confidentially increased its capital in 1952 and 1953. It carried out an overall reconstruction and investment plan for plant buildings and installation of the latest equipment.

Long-awaited release of “Puppy”!


One of the main products in 1953 was “Puppy” (58cc: TRF), motor-assisted bicycle. "At last, Pappy is released! We thank all the people who waited for this release for a long time" proclaimed an exciting notice in Tohatsu News, the company's in-house newspaper. "We have received many inquiries from abroad as well and in order to live up to the expectations of people who are waiting out there, we must push ourselves!"

Besides motorcycles, Tokyo Hatsudoki had produced a motor-driven generator of 300VA, FDB motor driven generator (4-cycle, 2.5kVA), and VH 35-horsepower fire pump for the Self-Defense Force. The small pump became the first domestic fire-fighting pump placed on an international ship. Under the Marine Safety Treaty, the pump was placed on the vessel “Koei Maru”, made by Mitsubishi Japan Heavy Industry in Yokohama Shipyard.

At that time, several offices for sales distribution were promoted to branches in Osaka, Sendai, and Fukuoka, and an office was established in Sapporo, the largest city on the big northern island. In 1954, offices were established in Nagoya and Tokyo specifically to expand.

Tohatsu, top maker in motorcycle industry

From 1955, Tokyo Hatsudoki had experienced rapid growth. After the money-tightening deflation policy that influenced in the first half of the year came a consumption boom caused by a rapid increase in exports, which led Japan into a tremendous period of growth in the second half. Expressing it as a "legendary economic boom", papers told people that "it is no longer a post-war period".

In that year, Tokyo Hatsudoki had become the leading maker for motorcycles and fire pumps. Motorcycle industry rode the second wave of grawth, and the 125cc class became new mainstream. Tohatsu’s “PK-55” with 125cc was a hit, and TH-55 with 200cc and PA-55 (80cc, with automatic variable speed drive,shown on the next page) saw massive increase in production. The production lines could not keep up with rapidly growing demand, so the sales department had the very difficult task of distributing stored products to the dealers. “Everyday we were so tied up with convincing dealers to wait for the next delivery” is how the sales department described the situation at that time.

PK-55 with 125cc TH-55 with 200cc PA-55 with 80cc
  • PK-55 with 125cc
  • TH-55 with 200cc
  • PA-55 with 80cc

In order to meet the demand, capital was increased to three hundred million yen in the October of that year. A budget of one hundred eighty million yen was allocated for the facility expansion plan of the Tokyo and Okaya plants in spring of the following year.
The latest high-efficiency machining equipment was installed in Okaya plant, while the newest mechanic tools were provided for Tokyo Plant. A conveyer belt system had also been introduced to the assembly lines of engines and auto bodies in Tokyo Plant.
The chart below shows the annual output in units and share percentages for each manufacturer in 1956.

Manufacturer Annual sales(units) Market Share(%)
Tokyo Hatsudoki 72,462 35.5
Honda Motor Co. ,Ltd 32,644 16.0
Toyo Motor 16,180 7.9
Mizuho Automobile 8,226 4.0
Showa Seisakusho 7,879 3.9
Others 66,986 32.7
Total 204,395 100.0

Going into the outboard market


It has already been mentioned in Chapter 1 that the first outboard motor in the Japanese market had been developed by Tohatsu. After the war, in 1956 OB model outboard, using recycled and modified TTM inventorial engines from motorized and sold. Despite its new, stylish design, the market response was relatively quite.

As matter of fact, there was not much public awareness of outboards at all and people believed that "paddling is faster". It was not until 1959 that outboard motors began to fascinate people.

Battle for motorization Battle for motorization

The wonderful year of 1955 did not last long. By 1957, Tokyo Hatsudoki was losing its profits as its sales of motorcycles began to dim. Because 80 percent of its sales depended on motorcycles, once they went into a downfurn, damage was enormous.

Hence, Tokyo Hatsudoki decided to lower its conventional 30 percent dividend payment to 25 percent in June 1957, and by the end of March 1960 it had been gradually lowered to 8 percent. The dividend was finally passed 1960.

People liked the practical aspects of Tohatsu motorcycles. However, Tohatsu had failed to attract the younger generation, whose increasing demand for road sports motorcycle was on the rise. While other major manufacturers had enjoyed increasing sales by releasing road sports motorcycles, Tohatsu was left behind.


To catch up with the market, Tokyo Hatsudoki released Runpet CA in 1960, a 50cc road sport-model with an innovative design. This model was recognized as the first Japanese full-scale sports model in its class. Tohatsu released CA2 with a more sporty design, and that model allowed individual customers to readily tune up for the "clubman race", a then popular motorcycle race. CA2 won almost every clubman race. About 80 percent of the riders in so-called "Scramble Off Road Race" had ridden on Runpet and Its exclusive position in the market was a threat to the other competitors. No-one had expected such a great reputation for the machine.


In the 125cc class, Tokyo Hatsudoki launched the first the 2-cylinder model LD3 which with a cutting-edge design, excellent engine performance, and a new magnesium brake system for front and rear wheels, distinguished itself in the market as soon as it was released. In 1963 an amendment to the traffic laws allowed people to ride motorcycle on the public roads. Tokyo Hatsudoki had sent Bell BC to the market, with the smallest-ever displacement of 35cc. Its unique design (shown below) gave all the ladies a chance to ride on a motorcycle while wearing a skirt. Tohatsu exhibited a lot of innovative models at Tokyo Motor Show that year.

Bell BCBell BC

However, even these consecutive releases of innovative models had not had enough power to bring up the company from its lowest depths.

This unfortunate circumstance did not allow Tohatsu to invest in the 4-wheel car market, which was easily predictable as the next boom.

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