Maruti Suzuki Might Be BIG in India But It Is Also a True Success Story From Hamamatsu City, Japan

The spirit of “Let’s Try, Let’s Take the Challenge” certainly worked well for Suzuki Motors.

My Dad built a special structure to house his Suzuki Motorcycle out of the rain and wind on our hillside home overlooking Pearl Harbor and my friends in India know Maruti Suzuki with as much familiarity as any homegrown product.

I went to the Suzuki birthplace, Hamamatsu City in Shizuoka, Japan, and I marvel at the thought of Suzuki, Honda, and Yamaha getting their start around the same time in this little corner along Japan’s Pacific Coast. But then again, this is the same place that produced Ieyasu Tokunaga, the Daimyo who’s Bakufu held the country together under a single, extremely well organized Edo government for almost 260 years.

The City Mascot, “Ieyasu-kun” is also referred to as “Promotion Man” and people coming through the station leave their business cards in a wish box in hopes the power of upward mobility will rub off on them back home. The reach of these firms and the familiarity with which they are held around the world is a true testament to the strength of quality and craftsmanship and how this can span what could seem the insurmountable divide of a painful past.

I was in the Hamamatsu Chamber of Commerce building for a speech, but my first sight upon entering the facility was the perfectly shaped wooden motorcycle in the glass case near the waiting area. Craftsmanship to the tee is the only way I can describe this work of art. Until this moment, I often teased my dad for his unquenchable enthusiasm about his bike, now however, I understand his delight as he shines the forest green body on his Suzuki motorcycle under the hot rays on a bright Hawaiian day.

I ponder that those same rays reflected off the wings of fighter planes flying low under radar on their way to Pearl Harbor as well later when moonlight reflected on B-29 Superfortress planes dropping bombs on Japan from high above the clouds. The shoals of time have eased the pain but reminders rear up when I hear about a recently uncovered unexploded bomb near the city center from my friends at the Hamamatsu City meeting. None of us though, seem to make any connection between our nationalities and the recent discovery even though it was my countrymen who sent that bomb into the soil so many years ago. In the same way, my Father straddles his polished Suzuki motorbike and doesn’t hesitate to ride proudly into town even though the source of that machine was once a bitter foe.

It seems the basic human ability to appreciate the “now” and to focus on what lies ahead is strong on both sides. That makes me feel hope, and I feel happy for all that lies ahead for my kids in this ever shrinking, constantly connecting new world.

A Sensei of Japanese Tea Ceremony served me lovely green Macha and the Bento box lunch shared with the meeting organizers was delightful in every way.

The Pacific Ocean in clear view from our perch on the 5th floor, the even lowlands spanning as far as the eye can see on both sides and the mountains towering clear in the distance helped me understand how this area would have been a choice place to live since the early stone age (the shell mounds here are the oldest in Japan).

Also one of the foremost stops on the Tokaido 53 Tsugi after Hakone, this would have been a route for all the travelling merchants, Samurai and royalty. Forward-thinking business people in Hamamatsu tap workers from Brazil and other countries to work in factories and at the same time, these newcomers bring a special spice to the rich culture of this interesting city. I suspect the “Promotion” power of Hamamatsu applies to all and in 100 years or less we will be writing about how one of the factory workers from Brazil got her start in this vibrant town and ended up bringing the world together in awe of her intricately manufactured, artful and cutting edge product.

Much history, good and bad, is behind us and there is much more history to make, I will assume the Hamamatsu City spirit and continue to try, try and try again. I want to maintain a legacy of getting through the pain with beauty, grace and simple hard work.

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