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House of Japan

PostPosted: Fri Nov 25, 2011 11:23 pm
by BlueWater

Tokyo's Shibuya is ground zero for the latest in teenage fashions and flashy hairdos, not acetylene torches and chrome molybdenum.

Yet. we'll soon get a whiff of these: When Asia's first technical school devoted to bicycle frame-building opens close to Harajuku in spring 2012.

"Imagine being able to work with your hands right in the heart of Shibuya," says Masaru Watanabe, head of academic affairs at the recently unveiled Tokyo College of Cycle Design, "and riding out into the world on your own creation."

Three years in the planning, the college will hold its first classes in April, and is currently gathering materials and machinery as it awaits official Japanese government recognition.

The need for ecological alternatives to Tokyo's already crowded roads, matched with a change in Japan's huge bicycle market are reasons such a school is viable. Close to 9.5 million bicycles were sold in the country last year, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and the market is slowly contracting.

Until recently, inexpensive "Mama-chari" (utilitarian bicycle commonly used by mothers for shopping) made up most of the bulk, but over the past decade high-performance road bikes have carved out 10 percent share of the market, representing a generational change in values.

Re: House of Japan

PostPosted: Fri Nov 25, 2011 11:24 pm
by BlueWater
"Before, people wanted a house and a luxury car, but today's young people aren't interested in those," explains Watanabe. "Yet they appreciate quality and will reach out to something less expensive, but of brand quality. A road bike costing, say, between 100,000 and 300,000 yen ($1,300 to $3,900) fills that desire."

A short bicycle-spotting stroll through the neighborhood is enough to know that many spend far more.

Such fine machines need the designers, builders and mechanics that the school will soon crank out, albeit slowly: Fifty-four students will make up the first year, divided into three classes of 18. The full program runs three years and costs 1.35 million a year, making it more expensive than a liberal arts education.

Shin-ichi Konno, legendary among Japanese frame builders and a top prize winner at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show will be the chief instructor.

A bicycle-building curriculum seems a natural next step for the Tokyo College of Cycle Design founder: the Hiko Mizuno College of Jewelry.