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My Visit to Zunow East in Japan

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My Visit to Zunow East in Japan

Old 04-12-13, 02:13 PM
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Catnap
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My Visit to Zunow East in Japan

I visited Japan for the first time two weeks ago, and while I was there I got to visit the Zunow East store. Zunow is a Japanese bike brand founded in 1965 by Takeru Kageyama, and known for their innovative designs, ornate custom lugs, and colorful paint jobs. Kageyama retired in the mid-90's due to ill health and closed the Osaka-based Zunow factory.

Yuzuru Ooyama partnered with Kageyama in the 1970's, selling Zunow bikes from his Zunow East store in the suburbs of Tokyo. After Kageyama retired, Ooyama has continued to use the Zunow brand name, with manufacturing outsourced to Cyfac and Guerciotti. He has also sponsored a bicycle team called Team Big Mountain, which is the literal translation of "Ooyama."

I spent two days in Tokyo as part of my Japan trip, and visiting Zunow East was at the top of my to-do list. Information on Zunow bicycles is scarce in the USA and online in general, and in three years of research, I have been only able to piece together a partial picture of the brand history, models, and trivia. I had originally hoped to visit Zunow East with a translator and a prepared set of questions, but unfortunately my bi-lingual traveling companions decided that they weren't up for the hour-long trip from the center of Tokyo to the suburb of Higashi-Funabashi in Chiba, where the store is located.

Undaunted, I figured out the Tokyo subways and JR lines on my own and found myself in front of the Zunow Store after a few transfers and a short walk from the train station:



Most of the bikes on the racks in front of the store were the ubiquitous "Mama-Charis," the Japanese equivalent of Dutch bikes. But in-between them was a modern Cyfac-built carbon Zunow Z-1 Next with a Shimano Di2 group:



When I entered the store, I immediately noticed a classic steel Zunow frame hanging alongside a newer aluminum Zunow East frame, with a cool framed Zunow sticker in the middle:



As I looked around the small store, crowded with bikes, components, and accessories, I didn't see much Zunow-branded merchandise. Looking through a rack of jerseys, I found a Zunow Team Big Mountain jersey and asked the woman behind the register if they had any other sizes. She didn't speak much English, but explained that the jersey was only for team members and wasn't for sale. At that point, I decided it was time to use my trump card, and rolled up one leg of my jeans to show her the huge Zunow tattoos I have my calves.

She immediately brightened and explained that she runs the Zunow East Facebook page, where I had posted a picture of the tattoos before. She introduced herself as Miki Ooyama, the owner's wife. She looked around the store, gathering up Zunow water bottles, patches, shoe covers, and a second copy of the framed decal! As we talked about Zunows, she explained that her husband Yuzuru had been badly injured in a crash during a bike race, and has been in the hospital for the last two months. Then she asked me if I would like to visit him in the hospital - of course I would!

She told me to come back to the store in an hour, when they closed, and we'd go the hospital then. As I hung out in front of the store, their neighbor came down to show me his prized Zunow. It was one of the rarest models, the "Beradonna," which has extra fancy lugs. His was a fixed-gear track version, even more rare! I took a picture of the Beradonna with the proud owner and Miki as well:



Later, Miki closed up shop and we drove to the local hospital. I don't have any pictures, but it was a small place, modest but clean. Three of Yuzuru's team members arrived as well, and we all packed into his little hospital room. Only Miki spoke English, and only a bit, but from their riding gear and weathered features, it was clear that everyone there were serious cyclists. We talked for about an hour, as I desperately tried to remember all of the questions I had wanted to ask and took frantic notes on my phone. Yuzuru presented me with a Team Big Mountain jersey, and a pair of matching Zunow gloves that were his. It was a special moment, an unplanned and unexpected human connection that briefly changed me from a clueless tourist to connecting with a slice of real life in Japan.

On the ride back to the train station, Miki explained that her husand is older than her, and the decades that he worked with Kageyama were before they met. She herself knew little about the history of Zunow, and like me, wanted to learn more. Miki pledged to help me with a new website I recently started, Zunow.info, where I hope to write up what I know, and to learn more from Yuzuru and even Kageyama if possible. She also maintains an Instagram account, under the name ooymmiki where she posts pictures of Zunow memorabilia and bikes.

So that's the story! Look out for Zunow.info to updated soon, and I'll also post some pictures of all the cool memorabilia that Miki and Yuzuru hooked me up with.
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Old 04-12-13, 02:37 PM
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Thank you for posting this. Very interesting to me. Would love to visit such places myself!
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Old 04-12-13, 02:39 PM
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That is an awesome story. Congrats for taking the steps to make it happen. There's nothing more exciting than an exciting international quest!

I'd love to see a site for Zunow. I'm generally not drawn to loudly colored bikes, but make a big exception for Zunow. An older Zunow in my size is definitely on the list.....

Very cool!
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Old 04-12-13, 02:51 PM
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I need to visit Japan. Great story for sure.
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Old 04-12-13, 02:56 PM
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Wow... Post of the year. Awesome trip Catnap, and a great story. I'm looking forward to reading more on the zunow site. Plus I hope the guy gets well soon, I don't even want to think about the crash that caused his long hospitalization.
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Old 04-12-13, 03:22 PM
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Good post.

Actual content!!!!!

Thank you.
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Old 04-12-13, 03:27 PM
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Fantastic experience!
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Old 04-12-13, 03:33 PM
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Incredible story! I love stuff like this.
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Old 04-12-13, 04:41 PM
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Great post! Thanks.
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Old 04-12-13, 05:04 PM
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That great story sounds like a beautiful preface to what you will be building your website on!
It's always so refreshing when one hears about bridges being built between peoples separated by thousands of miles and centuries of different traditions and different languages.
Can't wait to read more about your adventures in Japan!

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Old 04-12-13, 05:25 PM
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Classic adventure! Thanks a lot for recounting it for us!
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Old 04-12-13, 06:54 PM
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Wow Catnap - a brave foray into Japanese bike culture. I was hoping for ranks of flamboyantly painted exotic machines in your pictures of the shop - but sadly, that is in the past. Looking forward to Zunow.info. Storied, fabulous machines, chimerical beasts.

What is the word on Yuzuru's injuries?
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Old 04-12-13, 07:18 PM
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thanks for sharing such a great experience. really respect your love and the enthusiasm to the brand.
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Old 04-12-13, 08:43 PM
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Outstanding story Catnap, thanks for sharing your adventure!
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Old 04-12-13, 08:56 PM
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That is awesome
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Old 04-12-13, 09:06 PM
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Wonderful! Looking forward to learning more. Congratulations on a very successful voyage.
Cheers,
Alex
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Old 04-13-13, 10:44 AM
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TOP shelf post. SO interesting. It is the people, sometimes, that make our bikes more interesting than they already are. Great stuff Catnap.
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Old 04-13-13, 10:48 AM
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^ Agreed! I really enjoyed reading this, and I didn't even know anything before about Zunow.
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Old 04-14-13, 12:52 PM
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Thanks for the story. October this year I will be going again to Tokyo, another address to visit while I'm there.
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Old 04-14-13, 01:14 PM
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Thanks for the great post. I've always lusted after a Zunow.
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Old 04-16-13, 09:01 AM
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Fantastic story. To think your quest has put a human connection to these historic bikes for all of us, is wonderful.
I hope Yuzuru-san heals quickly and successfully.
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Old 04-16-13, 09:48 AM
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Holy ****, Catnap. What an awesome story. One that I am sure was life changing.


Thank you for posting this.
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Old 04-16-13, 09:49 AM
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Originally Posted by gomango View Post
Good post.

Actual content!!!!!

Thank you.
So true, there has been a lot of junk threads lately.
Glad I didn't miss this one.
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Old 04-16-13, 12:58 PM
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Originally Posted by CrankyFranky View Post
Wow Catnap - a brave foray into Japanese bike culture. I was hoping for ranks of flamboyantly painted exotic machines in your pictures of the shop - but sadly, that is in the past. Looking forward to Zunow.info. Storied, fabulous machines, chimerical beasts.

What is the word on Yuzuru's injuries?

I think he broke his hip, although I'm not totally sure. He was moving around, able to converse and eat dinner when I visited, so I think he's probably healing up well.

I will post here when I update Zunow.info! thank you everyone for the positive feedback, I'm glad I could contribute and share this experience with you all.
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Old 06-21-13, 10:14 AM
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Epic! I'll be in touch re the Zunow wiki.

-Dave
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