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The Arrow: The Oldest Japanese-made Automobile Still in Existence

The automobile industry has grown to be one of the most important industries in Japan, and Japanese cars can be found on roads the world over, but one of the cars that started it all still exists in Fukuoka. The Arrow was produced in 1916, which makes the one in Fukuoka the oldest Japanese-made automobile still in existence. The car was built by Koichi Yano, who would later found Yano Special Purpose Vehicle Co., and the name “Arrow” comes from the character ya (arrow) in his surname. The last existing Arrow is in the Fukuoka City Museum.

In 1912, Koichi Yano was hired by a local entrepreneur, Yoshitaro Murakami, to repair his French automobile. Yano, whose dream was to become an engineer, used to build gasoline-powered model airplanes as a student in a local technical high school. When he was given the repair job, the information on automobiles was scarce, so based on photos of British cars and his knowledge of engines, he machined parts on his own to complete the task.

As a result, Yano fell in love with cars, and with the backing of Murakami, he decided to build a fully domestically produced automobile. This meant he had to machine most of the parts himself. After a process of trial and error, he managed to complete the first Arrow three years after he started designing it. Although it was not the first car ever to be built in Japan, that a single person was able to build a car entirely on his own was an impressive achievement.

The unique experience that Yano gained from continuously improving upon several prototypes of his car led to more work. He was asked to, and succeeded in, building the first domestically produced dump truck. Soon he was flooded with jobs, and in 1922 he opened Yano Auto Body (now, Yano Special Purpose Vehicle Co.). The Shingu Town-based company still produces special purpose vehicles like refrigerator trucks and tanker trucks.

Fukuoka City
Published: Jul 1, 2020 / Last Updated: Jul 1, 2020

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