Lots of folks know about Keirin racing and the stream of nice bikes that came from Japan during the Bike Boom of the 70s and 80s. Attentive readers of global manufacturing will also be aware of the yen’s rise and the subsequent suffering of Japanese manufacturing. I spent some time in Yokahama and Tokyo in 1996 (and would love to visit again — with a bike), just after college and just as I became invested in the connections between transportation cycling, urbanism, and sustainability. I was delighted to see so many practical city bikes in use and locked up around Japanese cities and in the countryside.
Nowadays, I turn to Japan for its pockets of activity in passhunting, randonneuring, and strict adherence to French-inspired design. Larger operations like Panaracer and Panasonic combined with smaller craft manufacturers like Kaisei, Honjo, and Nitto to constitute a center of classic cycling stuff. Digg deeper, and you find design outfits like Grand Bois and small shops like Toyo and the venerable Toei.
Its hard to find out about the scene, as even in the age of global interconnection, a language and an ocean makes up a large expanse. Jitensha Studio in Berkeley, serves as a gateway to the Japanese market in the U.S. Luckily, there are also a few blogs that allow a peek into the interesting and wonderful world of Japanese rando stuff:
Grand Bois Website and Grand Bois Blog
Some great photo collection that I know nothing about.