The big Japanese motorbike companies Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha are household names all over the world.
The big four Japanese motorbike manufacturers all started production after World War II, when there was high demand for low-price transport while the country struggled to get back on its feet.
Motorbike ownership is still large in Japan compared with other countries, especially the 50cc variety (gentsuki), which are ridden by everyone from teenage girls, to students, to delivery men to middle-aged ladies.
Honda is the world's largest manufacturer of motorcycles and the iconic 50cc Honda Super Cub is a massive seller in South East Asia, where it performs almost like a family car. It's not unusual to see dad, mum and a couple of kids all aboard a 50cc or 90cc Super Cub in the villages of Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. In fact, the sturdy Super Cub is the best selling powered vehicle of all time with sales of over 60 million vehicles worldwide. In Japan, it's now mostly used by delivery workers for the post office and traditional Japanese restaurants.
Yamaha and Suzuki vie for second position as the world's second largest manufacturer of motorcycles after Honda. Yamaha is known for its success in the world of motorcycle racing. Greats such as Valentino Rossi, Kenny Roberts and Heikki Mikkola all rode a Yamaha.
Motorcycle production is falling in Japan as many people in the huge markets of India and China upgrade to a car. Total production of motorcycles in Japan has fallen from over 3 million units in 1993 to 1.2 million units in 2008.
Japanese motorbike cop image
Read about car manufacturers in recession Japan