Sakai is a city in Osaka Prefecture, Japan. It has been one of the largest and most important seaports of Japan. Once known for samurai swords, Sakai is now famous for the quality of its kitchen knives; most high-quality Japanese cutlery originates in Sakai, and its production is a major industry in the city. Shimano is also based in Sakai for these historic reasons. They also have a museum dedicated to bicycles.
On a trip to Osaka I managed to visit the Shimano Bike Museum. I also finally banished my bad luck at visiting bike museums, the first attempt to visit this one didn’t go well and the previous museum [in the U.K.] I visited had closed down. So finally arriving at the door was a huge relief and an exciting moment, I’m not sure my family felt the same way, but a huge thank you to them for allowing me the indulgence.
The Shimano Bike Museum is fairly compact (what isn’t in Japan?), but the collection of bicycles is extensive and covers every stage of bicycle evolution, starting with the boneshaker and ending with current bikes fitted with Shimano Di2. All laid out in a logical timeline on the first floor. Here we find some extraordinary machines, ordinaries (penny farthing), original safety bikes, speed machines, folding bikes and many more in the evolution of the humble bicycle. It was interesting to see that some of the bikes were fitted with Campagnolo and I thought this was a generous thing for Shimano to do, after all you can not have a history of bicycles without Campagnolo present, even if it is a Shimano centric place.
After my initial excitement, I started to worry that this might be the only floor display, and that I had travelled across Osaka for so little (with my family in tow). To my relief I noticed a staircase and if I had bothered to stop and read the small guide handed to me… On the second floor is a mixture of modern bikes and practical demonstrations on bicycles. Some of the bikes displayed here were very interesting. From Andy Hampsten’s Giro winning machine, to a touring bike that had been ridden around the world by mr Sakamoto. I think the practical displays were of most interest to the family, but I think there could of been more to be honest. There was also some exhibits on modern cycling (in Japan), from storage to clothing, but again, very small and thought this could be better. It’s not a criticism as I don’t think there is a huge budget for the place.
After mucking about with the practical displays and generally being silly we headed downstairs to the final and third floor. At first glance it looked a little boring, more an activity space and a library. As I approached the library I noticed two Shimano employees deep in discussion, with three brand new 1970′s Dura Ace rear mechs on the table. Very hard not to stare! They didn’t mind my presence and ushered me in to take a look at the books – mostly in Japanese – this is the best library I’ve ever seen being all bicycle books! I really would’ve liked to know what the older guy was telling the younger one, but left the room without disturbing them or stealing the rear mechs.
This is the point where I nerded out completely. Across the hall from the library is an Aladdin’s cave of some of the most amazing bicycles ever made from the Shimano period of cycling history (past to present). This room is heaven, hanging in that room is some of the best classic bikes you can imagine, from Merckx to Colnago, some great Japanese bikes like 3Rensho and some bizarre rarities tucked away at the back. Simply, just amazing and the jewel in the museum’s crown. Just in that one room, I could’ve spent an entirety.