Vol.4 Hiroshi Yamada

April 8, 2009 2:14 PM update

Hiroshi Yamada
Toeisha Factory

English translation:MIYA SAKASHITA
After World War II, the touring bicycle "Randonneur", derived from bicycle imported from France, evolved independently in Japan. It is used for a few-days trip with holding some panniers or other forms of luggage on racks mounted to the front and rear of the bicycle frame, which is what is called the bicycle for pedaling a long distance comfortably. The forth-generation president of Toeisha Hiroshi Yamada is one of the few craftsmen who accede to such production engineer. Mr.Yamada, who has a 27-year career as a craftsman, manages this factory in which he produces custom-made Randonneur with frame of mainly iron-based chromium molybdenum steel. He stepped into this field soon after graduation from high school.

'It is in my junior high school when I was awakened to bicycles. The time was the heyday of touring and cycling bikes and I got all involved in them soon. Because of the aspiration of craftsmen I had, I got a job with Toeisha right after graduation from high school. As a freshman, what I did is just to watch the senior staff's work and fetch and carry like cleaning in the work place. At a few months later, I was put in charge of the work for polishing easy parts with file at last, but it took more few years for me to do for welding work.'

Concentration comes into play when clipping frame with a vise and welding it in a semi-crouching position. They weld flames while holding the weld material brass solder called 'LOU' to connect flames by one hand and manipulating a fire by another. Frame has to be melted by being exposed too much to fire, and not get the enough LOU poured into the joint gap between frames at a lower temperature. This process is dependent on the skill and experience of a veteran craftsman. Then it has to be finished with file, which need more care as may be expected of what people see.

Work in frame requires indefatigability. Because finishing of the welding parts has still not been mechanized, it is elaborately trimmed by hand. Each craftsman uses some files that match their hand, but deteriorate rapidly. That means that we are deliberately making goods. Well, we adhere to hand working even though it takes a longer time because the fine work cannot be done for factory products.'
It is only for designing that they need a PC in the hand working production process, because even a small error causes that the parts such as gear, handle and carrier, cannot be connected. After the finish, frames are individually checked if there is any distortion in the shape by the craftsman's hand. Just over 200pcs in a year can be made even by the total 4 craftsmen, which is why they cannot lose their concentration right to the end. Toeisha has been an active trailblazer in the bicycle industry for more than half a century, which is the result of such their careful job performance.

'There is bicycle boom now, isn't it? The slender frame made of chromium molybdenum steel as we made is a quite popular in such boom. Conversely the materials of the latest sporting bikes are carbon or aluminum by which frame becomes heavy and uncool, so the slim and beautiful frame is appreciated not only by the longtime bike fans but also by the young generation, isn't it?'

In the corner of the work place are some completed bicycles placed that tires, handles, lights and others are assembled into. They are eye-grabbing like art while we gaze them. They have got orders from customer abroad as well as from home because of the fascinating goods with the delicate workmanship. As the term 'Fair trade', which is a trading partnership that seeks legitimate price for helping the low-paid workers in international trade, used regularly, the time of mass production relied on low labor cost is coming to an end, and the products scaled up to art which are created by craftsmen like Mr. Tanaka who has the outstand skill will definitely get into the limelight.

'Do you ask me how long do we need to be considered full-fledged as craftsman? Hmm... how long do we acquire experience to be considered full-fledged, Mr.Hoshino? What? You say you are still half-baked? lol. Even the senior staff experienced for over 40 years says like this. That means I still have a long road to travel.' he said, when he smartly firmed his profile for a moment.

Toeisha Factory
Address: 1-19-34, Kamiaoki, Kawaguchi-shi, Saitama 333-0844, Japan
Tel: 048-256-0390
"Pallet type" of bicycle pipe: both ends are thicker and the center is thinner. The material and thickness are adjusted based on frame sizes. Because of the current light paint, the mark resulted by filing is easily-noticeable. It is a daunting task in which they complete their works as pre-finishing and finishing step by step.

(left photo)
Treatment for the flaky moralizing plating parts: to carefully smooth away any plating ridges protruding from the joining area by tools.

(right photo)
Dial gauge: for gauging distortion by fixing frame horizontally. The tool used has never been changed and is exactly same as before for decades because what they make is standard.
They deliver the goods as completed ones if customers bring wheels or saddles. It is the Toeisha's strengths that they can reflect and reply owners' perfectionism.