Junzo Kawai died this week at age 94. Some details were published in Bicycle Retailer.
Mike Sinyard, of Specialized, says gracious things in the BR&IN article. The effect Mr Kawai had on the world bicycle scene can hardly be overstated. Today, those he mentored, supported, supplied, and encouraged are deep in thought. It’s not my place to dignify such a career or “set the record straight” but a few words feel worthwhile.
Many of us captivated with cycling in the mid 1970’s, in the US and particularly on the West Coast, ignored the prevailing wisdom, “to get into plastics,” etc. Instead, we headed out on the roads and trails and tried to master an old and special sport. Some of us were clever in our minds; so inventive, so resourceful, so gifted to challenge convention and reinvent many of the basics of cycling.
However, the players of those early years in the US had little support. Europeans were great hosts and freely shared their enthusiasm. But finding resources to make change, to build companies took buy-in from beyond. That included members of a generation of Japanese war survivors who listened and collaborated with Americans who were, essentially, children of their recent adversaries. How did Mr Kawai and his peers find the wherewithal to give so much?
Talk about reconciliation, together we built something that was bigger and will outlast all of us. All due credit to US initiative, sacrifice, and ingenuity. But you won’t find anyone from that period, and that includes the entire pantheon of industry names (and more), who disputes that the steady support of people like Mr Kawai made the difference. I hope a stream of testimonials flows over the next few months as we acknowledge this crucial part of our industry history.
The important point is to be grateful to those (he wasn’t alone) who helped restart our industry, an effort whose effect has not diminished nearly a half century later. More important is to hope we will, in time, be regarded with similar gratitude. It’s everyone’s choice.: to solo or to mentor. To hoard or to share.
As our planet evolves at hyper-speed, hurtling towards an uncertain future, let Mr Kawai’s example help us rise to the challenge. It is a privilege to share mankind’s cleverest device and a duty to reply to the future with the integrity and passion of Junzo Kawai.
Last year he founded a company, SunXCD, with members of his family. Check it. He says “the market is too race-centric; carbon fiber, electric shifting, full suspension, 11 speed, doesn’t really enhance the enjoyment of cycling. In the 1970’s and 80’s we cycled to be closer to nature, for the environment, for our health, for the simple beauty of cycling.”
Condolences to the Kawai family. Best wishes to his son-in-law, Taki Takimoto, who heads Sun XCD. And good luck to all of us, appreciating the meaning of Mr Kawai’s life and work.