Yoshizo Shimano, third son of company founder Shozaburo Shimano has died at the age of 85.
After earning his economics degree from Keio University in Tokyo, he briefly worked at an automobile sales company before joining Shimano Industrial Co., Ltd., now Shimano Inc. He established the company’s first overseas operation, Shimano American Corporation in New York City in 1965; in 1972, he set up a European base in Dusseldorf, Germany.
He returned to Japan in 1992 and served as executive vice president. In 1995 he became the president of Shimano and served in that role until 2001.
Yoshizo was named chairman of Shimano Inc. in March 2001 and became chairman emeritus the following year. He also served as chairman of Bicycle Association of Japan (now the General Bicycle Association), serving as its honorary chairman since 2011.
Many years ago, whilst I was publishing Bicycling Trade magazine, I had the honour of visiting Shimano’s headquarters in Japan for an exclusive interview with Mr Shimano. My visit was arranged and hosted by John Bazzano, former CEO of Shimano Australia.
Here were two of the stand-out features to me from that interview.
The first was how Yoshi helped to turn Shimano into a truly global company. Japanese society can be quite insular, but Yoshi became a global citizen. When he set up Shimano American Corporation, he went and lived in the USA for years to deeply understand the culture and entrench Shimano in the market-place. So much so that I could still detect traces of an American accent within his fluent English. Putting his move to America into context, this was only two decades after the end of World War II in which the Japanese and Americans fought a bitter and costly war, so it would not have been plain sailing for a Japanese company to set up a USA subsidiary.
Secondly Yoshi was an integral part of the decision to ‘bet the company’, as he described it in his own words during our interview, on the then fledgling and unproven sport of mountain biking.
It’s easy to look back now and think that it was an obvious decision, but at the time it was a small counter-culture, grass roots activity born in the hills of Marin County, California.
The decision helped catapult Shimano ahead of once larger rivals such as SunTour and Campagnolo, whose lesser attempts to make the transition to MTB failed.
In an email to dealers, Shimano Australia CEO Matt Bazzano said, “It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of Mr. Yoshizo Shimano, our Chairman Emeritus, on July 3rd, 2020, due to chronic heart failure at the age of 85.
“Yoshi was an inspiration to everyone he met, and especially to those that worked with him.
“His influence and vision will always have a lasting impact not only within Shimano, but to the entire global bicycle industry.”
Some of this article was previously published in Bicycle Retailer and Industry News (USA)