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Yamaha was established in 1887 as a piano and reed organ manufacturer by Torakusu Yamaha as Nippon Gakki Company, Limited (Literally Japan Musical Instrument Manufacturing Co.) in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka prefecture, and was incorporated on October 12, 1897. The company's origins as a musical instrument manufacturer is still reflected today in the group's logo—a trio of interlocking tuning forks.
After World War II, company president Genichi Kawakamisaki repurposed the remains of the company's war-time production machinery and the company's expertise in metallurgical technologies to the manufacture of motorcycles. The YA-1 (aka Akatombo, the "Red Dragonfly"), of which 125 were built in the first year of production (1958), was named in honor of the founder. It was a 125cc, single cylinder, two-stroke, streetbike patterned after the German DKW RT125 (which the British munitions firm, BSA, had also copied in the post-war era and manufactured as the Bantam and Harley-Davidson as the Hummer). In 1959, the success of the YA-1 resulted in the founding of the Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd.
Yamaha has grown to become the world's largest manufacturer of musical instruments (including pianos, "silent" pianos, drums, guitars, brass instruments, woodwinds, violins, violas, celli, vibraphones, and saxophones), as well as a leading manufacturer of semiconductors, Audio/Visual, computer related products, sporting goods, home appliances, specialty metals and Industrial robots.
In October 1987, on its 100th anniversary, the name was changed to The Yamaha Corporation.
In 1989, Yamaha shipped the world's first CD recorder. Since then, Yamaha has purchased Sequential Circuits in 1988 and bought a significant share (51%) of competitor Korg in 1989–1993.
In 2002, Yamaha closed down its archery product business that was started in 1959. Six archers in five different Olympic Games won gold medals using their products.
It acquired German Audio Software manufacturers Steinberg in 2004, from Pinnacle Systems.
In July, 2007, Yamaha bought out the minority shareholding of the Kemble family in Yamaha-Kemble Music (UK) Ltd, Yamaha's UK import and musical instrument and professional audio equipment sales arm, the company being renamed Yamaha Music U.K. Ltd in autumn 2007. Kemble & Co. Ltd, the UK piano sales & manufacturing arm was unaffected.
On December 20, 2007, Yamaha made an agreement with the Austrian Bank BAWAG P.S.K. Group BAWAG to purchase all the shares of Bösendorfer, intended to take place in early 2008. Yamaha intends to continue manufacturing at the Bösendorfer facilities in Austria. The acquisition of Bösendorfer was announced after the NAMM Show in Los Angeles, on January 28, 2008. As of February 1, 2008, Bösendorfer Klavierfabrik GmbH operates as a subsidiary of Yamaha Corp.
Yamaha Corporation is also widely known for their music program that began in the 1980s.
Yamaha electronic pianos continue to be a successful, popular and respected product. For example the Yamaha YPG-625 was given the award "Keyboard of the Year" and "Product of the Year" in 2007 from The Music and Sound Retailer magazine.