Koichi Kawai — How it all started —Meet the first piano action designer and builder from Japan!
A century ago, an instrument technician was struggling alone to build an upright piano using imported parts. One day, he was surprised to see a neighbor’s son riding by on a unique pedal-driven cart – the first ever to travel the roads of Hamamatsu, Japan. The aspiring piano builder was so impressed when he learned that the boy had designed and built the cart all by himself that he invited the young man to be his apprentice. The invitation was accepted, and the dream was born from then. The young man, Koichi Kawai, the son of a wagon maker, made his first step into the piano building industry. The ensuing years would reveal Koichi Kawai’s extraordinary genius for design and innovation. He led the research and development team that introduced pianos to his country. Later, he became the first in Japan to design and build a complete piano action, receiving many patents for his designs and inventions.
During the 1920s, the Japanese piano industry began falter. The company that employed Koichi was struggling and new management had taken control from the original owner. It was then that Koichi Kawai, confident that the pursuit of excellence would always bring opportunity, decided to build a dream of his own. His quest began in 1927 as he and seven kindred colleagues formed the Kawai Musical Instrument Research Laboratory in Hamamatsu, Japan.
By the early fifties, Kawai had grown to over 500 people and produced over 1500 pianos per year, with Koichi Kawai having received the prestigious “Blue Ribbon Medal” from the Emperor of Japan, becoming the first person in the musical instrument industry to receive such an honor.
—Medal of Honor (Blue Ribbon Medal): Medals awarded by the Government of Japan. They are awarded to individuals who have done meritorious deeds and also to those who have achieved excellence in their field of work.
Shigeru Kawai — Let’s speed things up — Modernize the manufacture process
With Japan’s economy improving, Shigeru foresaw rapid growth in the musical instrument industry. He combined hand-craft technique with the finest technology by construction of two new factories, one a wood processing plant and the other a piano assembly plant using the company’s first modern production line. Kawai’s production capability and manufacturing expertise grew exponentially in the years that followed
“Making Kawai the sound heard around the world was our vision, but making Kawai the sound preferred around the world is our ultimate goal.” Shigeru Kawai
The perfect “marriage” of hand-craftsmanship and advanced technology
This year, Kawai Pianos celebrates the 40th anniversary of the founding of its state-of-the-art Ryuyo piano factory. Ryuyo was built by Shigeru Kawai, Kawai’s second president, in 1980 and stands as a testament of his vision of creating a space where all of Kawai’s knowledge could be collected and where the skills of its craftsmen could be passed on to future generations. Ryuyo is not just an ordinary factory – it is the epicenter of Kawai’s research and innovation, fueling its quest to build the finest pianos in the world. By integrating generations-old handcrafting techniques and modern production technologies and materials, Shigeru Kawai succeeded in delivering what many consider to be the most advanced piano-building facility in the world.
In 1989, the presidency of the company was passed to Shigeru’s son, Hirotaka Kawai. Hirotaka began with a pledge to carry on the commitment to excellence established by his father and grandfather.
Later, he oversaw the development and introduction of Kawai’s internationally-acclaimed RX Series Artist Grand Pianos….From generation to generation, the Kawai vision continues….
Hirotaka Kawai — “At Kawai, the quest for perfection is not just an ideal… but a duty”
ABS-Carbon, the new composite material in our revolutionary Millennium III Action, combines the long-term stability of ABS Styran (a composite used in Kawai actions for over 40 years) with the extraordinary strength of carbon fiber. ABS-Carbon produces more dynamic power, greater durability, improved control and unparalleled speed to enhance the playing experience.
WHY CARBON FIBER?
Carbon fiber has been called the lightest, strongest material on earth. In Kawai pianos, it allows a lighter design that helps to make our Millennium III Action tremendously fast and effortless to play while sustaining exceptional tone. The rigid character of ABS-Carbon also offers pianists more power with less effort. Its resistance to shrinking and swelling helps to provide these benefits consistently over many years – something conventional wood components are unable to deliver.
NEOTEX™ KEY SURFACES
Kawai’s exclusive NEOTEX key surface material made of cellulose fiber offers the smooth, understated texture of natural ivory and ebony – and a semi-porous, silica-filled surface to absorb the hand’s natural oils and perspiration. Since NEOTEX is used for both the sharps and naturals, the feel of the keys is consistent across the entire keyboard. NEOTEX resists cracking and fading over years of use – and is static-resistant to help prevent the build-up of unwanted dust. The result is a beautiful, long-lasting key surface with exceptional playability.