The Toyota Story 豐田產業技術紀念館
I guess everyone would have probably heard of Toyota from Japan, they are the world’s largest car manufacturer. They have come a long way since the company first established in 1926. If you’re interested to find out more, let me tell you a bit about the Toyota Story.
日本豐田汽車是全世界最大汽車生產商。 公司於1926年由豐田佐吉創立，是製造自動織機起家。豐田的兒子喜一郎當年到歐美考察。他看到滿街都是自動汽車， 覺得這必是將來大趨勢。於是在1933年成立汽車製造部門。我到名古屋旅遊時，去豐田產業技術紀念館參觀。從兩個展覽館，纖維機械館及汽車館，了解這家全世界最大汽車生產商的發展史。 絕對是獲益良多的一個行程。
THE START OF THE TOYOTA STORY
The company started out in 1926 and was called Toyoda Automatic Loom Works back then. It was founded by Sakichi Toyoda. Before you point out my spelling mistake twice, I want to say, no I haven’t misspelled. Toyoda is the name of the founder and the company. I’ll come back to that later.
Toyota is headquartered in a town about 30km away from Nagoya. The town used to be called Koromo but they changed the name to Toyota in 1959 to honour this legendary company. The Toyota Kaikan Museum is next to the headquarters in Toyota, but when I went to Nagoya, I went to one of their other museum in central Nagoya – The Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology.
Toyota didn’t start out making cars. In fact cars hadn’t arrived in Japan in 1926 yet. I don’t know if you noticed, car or automobile doesn’t appear in the museum’s name above.
To be honest, I wasn’t actually too keen on visiting the museum as I thought it was just going to be about cars, and the history of how the manufacturing developed over the years. How wrong I was. When I entered the museum, I found out that Toyota actually started off making automatic looms, ie weaving machines.
THE REVOLUTION OF THE TOYOTA STORY – GREAT INVENTIONS
There was a big machine in the centre of the lobby. To the layman like you and me, this machine probably doesn’t mean a lot. Yet in 1924, this was a major technological breakthrough when the founder Sakichi Toyoda finally achieved his life long ambition to produce a circular loom. This Type G automatic loom is a “non stop shuttle change automatic loom” that weaves in a circular motion and is much more efficient and produces better quality output than a traditional horizontal weaving loom.
The loom still works today and they have a demonstration a few times during the day. Sadly I just missed it by ten minutes.
THE OLDER GENERATION
My interest in the museum aroused now that I realised Toyota wasn’t all about cars. The main exhibition hall was massive and had rows and rows of weaving machines on display. There were many from the very early days to the latest technology.
Some of these machines still function, and staff were on hand to conduct a demonstration and explain the ins and out of them. These old machines were really noisy, and as I was walking around, I could constantly hear ‘chap chap chap chap’. No wonder the staff needed a microphone.
THE MIDDLE GENERATION
The exhibition is very well laid out and there are markings on the floor. All you have to do is follow the route. This takes you through the Toyota Story and different eras and machines. After the older mechanical looms, we move to the slightly more advanced ones which uses punch cards to help weave simple patterns.
MY FAVOURITE LOOM
My favourite loom is called the Sectional Warping Machine from 1938. According to the information sign by the loom this “makes a Warp Yearn Beam which the length, width, pattern, density, total number and tension of yarns corresponding with a design of fabric is arranged and wound on a beam”. Ok, all this really means nothing to me. The reason I like this loom the best is because of how the colourful reels of cotton are set up. It was like a constant beam of rainbow that never disappears. Sadly the photos doesn’t do it justice but it was so beautiful to look at on site.
THE YOUNGER GENERATION
And finally to the technological advance looms such as the water jet and air jet looms. This is the air jet loom from 2013 and is even more noisier than the previous machines. If the older generation looms are “chappers” then the younger generations are “thumpers”. It was deafening!
CONTINUING THE TOYOTA STORY – FROM TOYODA TO TOYOTA
You might have noticed in the above sign the air jet loom is called the Toyota Air Jet Loom. In the 1920s, Toyoda’s son, Kiichiro had been travelling to Europe and America. He saw the potential of the automobiles and was convinced this was the future. In 1933, Toyoda junior set up an automotive department. By 1935 Toyoda had produced the Model A1 prototype passenger car. In 1936, the company held a competition for a new name, they received 27,000 entries. In the end the name was changed to Toyota as it is thought that this was easier to pronounce and more appealing for the international market.
TOYOTA THE CAR MANUFACTURER
In the end, the tour of the automatic loom museum turned out to be a really interesting one. So much that we didn’t have much time to tour the automobile part and had to rush through it. Of course, I wouldn’t finish this post without showing you something car related. Here’s a couple of photos of the Toyota cars on display and the robot assembly line. I’ve also prepared a video further below of the robots in action.
If you want to experience the Toyoto story youself you can visit The Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology museum in Nagoya. It is located at 1-35, Noritake Shinmachi 4-chome, Nishi-ku, Nagoya 451-0051 Japan. You can take a 5 minute taxi ride from the central railway station, or walk 3 minutes from the Sako Station on the Nagoya Railway Line. The museum is open 0900 to 1700, 6 days a week (closed on Monday) and the admission fee is 500 yen for adults, and 300 yen for junior and senior high school students.