Yamaha was founded in 1887 as a piano and reed organ manufacturer by Torakusu Yamaha as Nippon Gakki Company, Limited (日本楽器製造株式会社, Nippon Gakki Seizō Kabushiki Gaisha) in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka prefecture, and was incorporated on October 12, 1897. The company’s origins as a musical instrument manufacturer is still reflected today in the group’s logo — a trio of interlocking tuning forks.
After World War II, company president Genichi Kawakami repurposed the remains of the company’s war-time production machinery and the company’s expertise in metallurgical technologies to the manufacture of motorcycles. The YA-1 (aka Akatombo, the “Red Dragonfly”), of which 125 were built in the first year of production (1954), was named in honor of the founder. It was a 125cc, single cylinder, two-stroke, streetbike patterned after the German DKW RT125 (which the British munitions firm, BSA, had also copied in the post-war era and manufactured as the Bantam and Harley-Davidson as the Hummer). In 1955, the success of the YA-1 resulted in the founding of the Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd.
Yamaha has grown to become the world’s largest manufacturer of musical instruments (including Pianos,“silent” pianos, drums, guitars, violins, violas, celli, and vibraphones), as well as a leading manufacturer of semiconductors, Audio/Visual, computer related products, sporting goods, home appliances and furniture, specialty metals, machine tools, and Industrial robots.
In October 1987, on its 100th anniversary, the name was changed to The Yamaha Corporation.
In 1989, Yamaha shipped the world’s first CD recorder. Since then, Yamaha has purchased Sequential Circuits in 1988 and bought a significant share (51%) of competitor Korg in 1989–1993.
It acquired German Audio Software manufacturers Steinberg in 2004, from Pinnacle Systems.
In July, 2007, Yamaha bought out the minority shareholding of the Kemble family in Yamaha-Kemble Music (UK) Ltd, Yamaha’s UK import and musical instrument and professional audio equipment sales arm, the company being renamed Yamaha Music U.K. Ltd in autumn 2007. Kemble & Co. Ltd, the UK piano sales & manufacturing arm was unaffected.
On December 20, 2007, Yamaha made an agreement with the Austrian Bank BAWAG P.S.K. Group BAWAG to purchase all the shares of Bösendorfer, intended to take place in early 2008. Yamaha intends to continue manufacturing at the Bösendorfer facilities in Austria.The acquisition of Bösendorfer was announced after the NAMM Show in Los Angeles, on 28 January 2008. As of February 1, 2008, Bösendorfer Klavierfabrik GmbH operates as a subsidiary of Yamaha Corp.
Yamaha Corporation is also widely known for their music program that began in the 1980s.
Other companies in the Yamaha group include:
- Bösendorfer Klavierfabrik GmbH, Vienna, Austria.
- Yamaha Motor Company
- Yamaha Fine Technologies Co., Ltd.
- Yamaha Livingtec Corporation
- Yamaha Metanix Corporation
- Yamaha Pro Audio
Yamaha Motor Company Limited (ヤマハ発動機株式会社, Yamaha Hatsudōki Kabushiki-gaisha) (TYO: 7272), a Japanese motorized vehicle-producing company (whose HQ is at 2500 Shingai, Iwata, Shizuoka), is part of the Yamaha Corporation. After expanding Yamaha Corporation into the world’s biggest piano maker, then Yamaha CEO Genichi Kawakami took Yamaha into the field of motorized vehicles on July 1, 1955. The company’s intensive research into metal alloys for use in acoustic pianos had given Yamaha wide knowledge of the making of lightweight, yet sturdy and reliable metal constructions. This knowledge was easily applied to the making of metal frames and motor parts for motorcycles. Yamaha Motor is the world’s second largest producer of motorcycles. It also produces many other motorized vehicles such as all-terrain vehicles, boats, snowmobiles, outboard motors, and personal watercraft.
In 2000, Toyota and Yamaha Corporation made a capital alliance where Toyota paid Yamaha Corporation 10.5 billion yen for a 5 per cent share in Yamaha Motor Company while Yamaha and Yamaha Motor each bought 500,000 shares of Toyota stock in return.