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Rikuo History

    The following article was taken from wikipedia.

Rikuo Internal Combustion Company (陸王, Rikuo Nainenki Kabushiki kaisha) was one of the first motorcycles manufactured in Japan, originally in the early 1930s under license and name of Harley Davidson using their tooling, and then under the name Rikuo until 1958.

There is a fairly comprehensive history here  – although even this author admits there are some details unknown as Harley-Davidson themselves did not publicize this Japanese connection. This, because effectively, it could be that the Japanese were helped in mass-production techniques by the introduction of this factory into Japan just prior to the Second World War.



The production of the Harley-Davidson in Japan resulted in large part from the McKenna Tarrifs modification of 1921 that was put in place in the United Kingdom. In 1921 the Safeguarding of Industries act placed duties of 33.3 percent on 6500 items.  The tariffs were put into place to protect UK industry and levied a steep import duty against the American brands which were seen as damaging the UK motorcycle industry. This had the effect of denying one of Harley-Davidson's largest markets to them, which was Australia.

In 1922 Meguro, one of Japan's oldest manufacturers of motorcycles is making copies of the UK Single cylinder motorcycles as well as a copy of the Harley-Davidson Model J.

Sankyo company imports and produces Harley-Davidson motorcycles in 1923. At this time there are dozens of Japanese Motorcycle companies which are small shops spread all throughout Japan.

The Japanese government also was alarmed by the damage being done to their economy by Harley-Davidson. In 1924 the Military Subsidy law allowed the government to subsidize certain industries in order to encourage domestic production. Motorcycle production that had been conducted in small shops was now immediately being performed in large factories. Major Japanese industries were now manufacturing motorcycles. Both Murata Iron works and Toyo Kogyo tried to copy the Harley-Davidson motorcycle and failed.

During the great depression of 1929 Harley-Davidson was on the verge of bankruptcy. Having lost much of their overseas sales to the British Commonwealth nations Harley-Davidson looked to Japan to make up for their losses.

Rikuo, a licensed copy of the Harley-Davidson, is produced starting in 1929. In 1931 Dabittoson Harley Motorcycle Co., Ltd. was established in Japan. Dabittoson start domestic production of Harley-Davidson Road King Motorcycle. The 4 cycle, 1200cc, side-valve V-twin engine produces 28 horsepower for a top speed of 97 km per hour.

The Road King motorcycle was improved and produced by Lin Ritsukawa, Kurogane No, and No. Tsui Meguro during World War II. The included the Type 97 military motorcycle which was often produced with sidecar.

Harley-Davidson, through the efforts of Alfred Rich Child, shipped tooling and personnel to Japan in the mid-1930s to build HD VL flathead (sidevalve) motorcycles.

In 1933 Sankyo Company changed it's name to Sankyo Nainenki Co. and produce Harley-Davidson motorcycles under license as the Type 97 for the Japanese Military. The type 97 was made entirely from Japanese components. During their production the company was constantly modernizing the design. Approximately 1500 of these machines were produced for Japanese military use.

When Harley-Davidson was prepared to produce the new EL OHV Knucklehead design, they insisted that the Japanese factory buy the license to produce the EL as well. However Sankyo, Rikuo's parent company, was reluctant to produce the new vehicles and refused to make this commitment.

Almost simultaneously, Japan’s government was becoming increasingly militaristic leading up to World War II and eventually suggested that Harley-Davidson employees, including Mr. Child, leave the country. The motorcycle continued production under the name of Rikuo, meaning “Land King” or “Continent King.” Rikuo built approximately 18,000 motorcycles between 1937 and 1942, most of which were sold to the Japanese military and Japanese police departments.

Sidecar combinations called Type 97 were produced for military work in the Philippines and Manchuria during the Second World War. Solo machines were supplied to civilian police forces, for example for Osaka in the 1950s.

After the war the remaining factory continued producing the 750cc (45 cubic inch) RQ and 1200cc (74 cubic inch) VLE models still using the old flathead, total-loss lubrication design. The 750 gained a telescopic front suspension and the 1200 model retained springer forks. All of the new motorcycles were made with hardtail rear ends. In 1950 and 1951, the plant produced about fifty 45 cubic inch motors per month and thirty 74's with sidecars. By August 1952 production was estimated at approximately seventy 45's a month while the 74's stayed about the same. The 45 and 74 models are near exact copies of the 1934 Harley Davidson. An OHV version was prototyped, but never produced.


The factory began to use the "Tele-Glide" type front suspension in or around 1950 on the 750cc units, but while updating the sheet metal on the VL type, retained the "Springer" type front suspension on those units. Therefore, the 1950s 750s are basically the Harley-Davidson 45 cu.in. RL of the early 1930s, and the 1950s 1200s are the Harley-Davidson VL of the same era, but both with updated sheet metal (the updated front fork of the RQ/RT notwithstanding).

In 1950 Sankyo sold Rikuo to Showa (the same company that supplies parts to HD today)


The RQ has a 747cc engine that develops 22 bhp at 4250 rpm and 4 Kgm of torque at 3000 rpm. The complete motorcycle weighs 230 Kg.