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Interview: Kengo Kimura – Heiwa Motorcycles


Posted on June 24th, by Andrew in Other. 41 comments

Meet Kengo “Heiwa” Kimura. You’d be smiling too if you had his skill set

I’ve been at this whole custom bike blog game for a while now, and if there’s one thing that has always gnawed away in the back of my mind, it is the following conundrum; Japan produces some of the world’s coolest custom bikes and yet, due to the language barriers, the scene is neigh on impenetrable to westerners. To me, it’s always felt like a massive gold deposit that’s been inconveniently placed under an ocean or right next to an active volcano. Everyone knows it’s there, but getting access to it just seems like mission impossible. Then, a few weeks back, it hit me. I have a Tokyo-based mate who I’ve known for over a decade. He’s Japanese born and bred, yet he speaks perfect English – what if we were to get him to help us out? So here’s the first of what I am hoping is many interviews with these Nihon-jin masters. Please bow deeply as we welcome Kengo Kimura San from Heiwa Motorcycles to our humble blog. Otsukare-sama desu!

Heiwa’s Triumph T100 ”Long Peace”

Can you tell us a little about yourself and Heiwa Motorcycles?
My name is Kengo Kimura and I was born in Hatsukaichi-city, Hiroshima. I entered Hiroshima University of Economics and while I was studying there, I got into motocross races. After I graduated from the University, I joined a shop called “A Beard” (too cool) because of the races, then I launched Heiwa Motorcycles in 2005. And I love Natto! (It’s like Japanese Vegemite. Consider yourself warned – Andrew)

Your website has over 50 finished bikes on it and you guys seem to make a new bike ever week. How the hell do you do it?
We’ve got so many orders at the moment and we are falling over backwards… As a matter of course, we work an extra hour a day. Now we have four employees plus myself; two laborers are working in our shop, one pin striper and one in accounting. We are making motorcycles nearly all by ourselves except for the paint. Right now we are making a new custom SR400 motorcycle for the New Order Chopper Show 2012 in Kobe being held on the 15th of July.

Check out that tank – and I thought Scarlett Johansson was shapely…

Out of all the bikes you have built, what are your three favourite Heiwa bikes?
I like our T100 “Long Peace,” our XS650 SP, and our CB77 “Ancho Racer.” Those motorcycles are all narrow, lowrider and nicely balanced. Although this is the very tough question because we always work hard and do our best with every motorcycle.

Are bike shows something that Heiwa sees as important? What are bike shows like in Hiroshima and the rest of Japan?
I consider it important in every build to look for some small way to impress those who don’t know custom motorcycle at all. I think it’s easy to sell to those who really know custom motorcycles, but harder to impress a novice. Hiroshima is quite a rural area and the people in Hiroshima view cool custom motorcycle differently from people in the rest of Japan. We get more good responses from the customers at the show outside Hiroshima than those in Hiroshima.

“XS650 SP” – plain by name, not by nature

To westerners, the Japanese bike culture can seem a little strange. It seems to have a different set of rules to the rest of the world. Why is that?
I feel like many Japanese people like classic motorcycle. What sets Japanese people apart from people in other countries I think is that Japanese people ride their bikes every single day and they want to try to look good. Whenever you are in the USA, you will hardly see people who are riding custom motorcycles on weekdays. I have this image that they enjoy riding a custom motorcycle on weekends only.

To Japanese eyes, how does the American or European custom bike culture look?
I am always trying to make my bikes more narrow and compact, but very big and flashy ones seem more acceptable in the states and Europe, isn’t it?

Heiwa’s take on the Honda Rebel. The word “better” comes to mind

What is your personal bike at the moment?
If I had a personal one, I’m afraid I’d have to sell it to someone. So I haven’t any custom motorcycle at the moment…

How does Heiwa design bikes? Sketch? Photoshop? Imagination?
Sketch and Photoshop make a concept look pretty cool, but it only makes you concentrate on reproducing it faithfully. So I do not draw at all – to begin with I call up a mental image of parts in detail, and then I build it in my head.

The ”002” – a W650 that looks like the bike I ride in my ”head movies”

If I had an unlimited budget for Heiwa to build me their own “perfect bike,” what would it look like?
Generally motorcycles are build with normal parts and parts cannibalised from other bikes but, if you have enough time and money, we will build you a motorcycle with parts that are all hand-made except the engine.

The Heiwa team and their Honda CB77 “Ancho Racer” at their winningest

What’s the most beautiful non-Heiwa custom bike in the world? And what about factory-built?
The Chabott Needle perfectly fits the image of it’s name and I think it’s very cool because of it’s simplicity and hand-made feel. And the Honda C72 – I like the distinctiveness of this Honda and I think that its looks are very stylish!

The TR6 “Peaceful” – notice the beautiful copper finish on the drive components

What does 2013 look like for Heiwa?
We are looking to expand on our original parts range.

If Heiwa Motorcycles was a movie, which one would it be?
Cool Runnings!

Welcome to the world’s most unassuming custom bike shop





  • GuitarSlinger

    Yeah baby / Now thems some genuine C-U-S-T-O-M’s . Sure they’re heavily influenced by Shinya Kimura’s work ……. but really ….. is there any better influence to have at present ? I’d say not . Yes sireee . A passel of genuine customs .Two thumbs up to KimuraSan the Younger and his bikes

    • Davidabl2

      Sure, they’re all Japanese..and there’s centuries of Japanese design tradition behind what they do & how they feel about it. And Shinya Kimura IS credited with creating the ‘Samurai style bike”..but I see a lot of other stuff going on with Heiwa bikes.

      • http://www.pipeburn.com Andrew@Pipeburn

        Agreed. Totally different aesthetics.

        • GuitarSlinger

          Wrong ! Have a look at the book ” Zero Chop Spirit , about Shinya’s early days in Japan . THIS was his style and HE created it . Fact is more than a few of the bikes shown here are direct variations on Shinya’s theme .This guy was still in diapers when Shinya created this style ( no offense to KimuraSan the Younger ) History gentlemen , bone up on your H-I-S-T-O-R-Y . Sheesh . You youngins and yer lack of background knowledge !

          • http://www.pipeburn.com Andrew@Pipeburn

            Sigh. Yes, GS, I’m well aware of Shinya’s chopper work AND I’ve looked through the book. So I’ll say it again – they have totally different aesthetics. Compare the Honda above with a Zero chopper. Chalk and cheese, my good man. Chalk and cheese.

          • redrumracer

            thanks for sharing Andrew. Heiwa are one of the gems of the Japanese bike scene. i look forward to getting some insights on a few others!

          • GuitarSlinger

            Then Andrew you are either clueless or blind and I doubt you’ve even so much as seen ” Zero Chopper Spirit ‘ ( seeing as how you didn’t catch my earlier error ) Here’s a clue my little Wallaby mate ; The above bikes ; Long Peace – Honda Rebel – Ancho Race ; The Frames son . Both the gooseneck angles and especially the curve of the downtube are EXACT copies of Shinya Kimura’s early work . In fact if I didn’t know better I’d say Heiwa purchased the frames from Shinya or ZERO

            > As to Mr redrumracers condescending reply ; Here’s your little clue ; 2011 – Both the Japanese ( builders & press ) – Spanish -Italian – US – Scandinavian Press voted Shinya Kimura the MOST INFLUENTIAL CUSTOM BUILDER OF THE DECADE . With ALL the Japanese M/C press in agreement . So yeah zippy ……. everything post Shinya has been directly influenced by Shinya Kimura’s work in Japan . Either following suit or in reaction to it . By the Japanese builders OWN admission And Im betting if you asked Heiwa he’d be the first to admit it . Oh and BTW Mr Rebel Without a Clue . I’ve been following the Japanese Custom M/C scene since learning about Shinya Kimura in 1993 ! When ….. I’m guessing you were still in knickers smart acre . So stick that in your Vegemite and Choke on It . Oh and take your stereotype attitudes about us Yanks and shove them when it comes to knowledge of Foreign cultures . If you knew 1/10 of what you think you do – you’d of known about Shinya Kimura’s status amongst the Japanese custom builders and press

          • redrumracer

            so all japanese bike builders are merely copying Shinya??

            i couldn’t disagree more and to call it that way just highlights your own ignorance of the japanese bike scene, style and culture

            and why do you need to be so C-O-N-D-E-S-C-E-N-D-I-N-G? if you were the true custom bike god you so unconvincingly proclaim to be you wouldn’t need to belittle everyone on here the way you do!

      • GuitarSlinger

        Point out one single Heiwa bike you think isn’t influenced directly by Shinya Kimura . Pull out the book ( assuming you can get ahold of a copy ) and I’ll post the page numbers to the corresponding Shinya Kimura bike bikes that Heiwa was influenced by . And yeah mate . Thats a smack down / calling your bluff / whatever you want to call it .

        • http://www.pipeburn.com Andrew@Pipeburn

          Off you go, then. Someone wake me when it’s over…

          • blackbird

            Dear Andrew, thanks for put these articles together, slogging through the jackassery and keeping the people happy. Much respect!

        • blackbird

          Dear guitar slinger, you are full of anger and need to get some sweet love. you should get pissed and get your croch punched by some fat girl this week. then maybe you would act like a jerk to Andrew for put all this together.

          • kimscholer@vip.cybercity.dk sc

            Now please cut Guitarslinger some slack: He’s the resident grouch, and thus should be allowed to offer a view different from all the other’s ubiquous ‘cool bike’ comments. Besides, GS does have a point when it comes to all sorts of Japanese custom bike shops if not copying, then at least being heavily influenced by the Shinya Kimura’s Zero Chopper bikes.

            When in Japan Zero Choppers was one of the first custom bike shops I visited (bought the book too, of course). It did strike me how most other bike shops I also visited offered the same style H-Ds – as well as the style prevalent in the US in the 1970s (Bratstyle and Kankeido were a notable exeptions to this).

        • http://garageprojectmotorcycles.tumblr.com/ Rex Havoc
          • tunafish

            this should warrant a response from said angry one, no? “oh, the neck angle is equal to my douchery, times the corn cob up my…., because I am half Asian, Anglo, African mouser….. and it is actually influenced by the Celtic scene of potatoe gun makers” blah, blah, blah.
            I do wonder what it will be, he does have that in pocket

          • davmo

            Rex, too funny! The @blackbird comments “full of anger and need to get some sweet love” sound like a great song title. Hey wait, the ‘Slinger is a tunesmith. Look out, he may get his revenge on this one.

  • Brauchi

    Great! – I like the rides they build very much and I’m looking forward to read more from/about Japanese shops…

  • davmo

    Wow. Inspirational. Not crazy about them all, but very creative work.

  • Ducfighter

    These dudes have a bike building perspective and culture that is pure unique and really sets them apart ……….

  • http://www.mulemotorcycles.net/ Mule

    I salute you Mr. Kimura! I especially like your explanation of calling up mental images and building a bike in your head. That’s the best way! Good work.

    • davmo

      Agreed. I quit drawing my designs as a teenager (probably because my drawing abilities were
      not that great,) and realized the drawing of it symbolizes the end of the design process. Most of my “drawing ” now consists of marker lines drawn directly on the metal, and cardboard cut-outs. Picasso said in order to create art you should have an idea, but it should be a vague one. I keep looking at the XS650 SP. Damn, Heiwa made me dig a Yammy!

  • JimmyR14

    Sigh… Why do these little discussions always end up in a pissing match? It’s one thing to be “right”, quite another to be helpful and actually add to the conversation.

    Anyway, a bike riding friend of mine goes to Japan from time to time and he always says I would love the bikes there. Says there are cool customs everywhere. It seems the custom scene in Japan is very influential. One thing I like about it is that I have been able to get some very cool parts from Japan for my bikes.

    My only criticism of the bikes pictured above would be about the T100 “Long Peace” – I can’t see how I wouldn’t be singing falsetto after riding it with that seat! other than that – beautiful work. :-)

    • GuitarSlinger

      Why you ask : do things here occasionally descend into pissing matches from time to time ? Its quite simple actually . BECAUSE some folks here can’t leave well enough alone ( my positive first comment ) have a desperate need to show their supposed vast and superior knowledge on the subject and aren’t man/adult enough to admit it when in the company of their betters : appreciating and taking advantage of their betters experience etc rather than having the need to try and drag said experience etc down to their level with pithy and uninformed replies .Oh and add in an element of envy on some folks part when someone else has worked for and attained an element of success in their lives

      THATS WHY !!!!!!!

      • JimmyR14

        Well I don’t know what it is that you win, but you as heck win it! :-)

      • BigPeeWee

        Wow. You need to lay off the coffee fool. These are just motorcycles, not a cure for cancer. You’ve made it abuntantly clear, you’re are world’s smartest and most respecticated motorcycle expert. If anyone forgets, they can just axe you.

        • $20707106

          Wondered where the hell you were.

          • BigPeeWee

            GB, there’s an idiot here who knows everything in the wurl about everything. He’s even got no repect for the guy that owns the site, Andrew. Just not right. Plus he has no idea what he’s talkin’ about.

      • clyde

        GuitarSlinger I am not sorry if this seems rude but you are what is known here as a “wanker”.
        I am yet to see pics of any of the bikes you have built, but I have read lots of your mouthy posts here and elsewhere.

  • Andrew

    I probably should have mentioned in the article itself, but “Heiwa” means “Peace” in Japanese.

  • http://garageprojectmotorcycles.tumblr.com/ Rex Havoc

    Awesome post and interview Andrew. Heiwa are definitely one of my very favourite customisers and now I know more about them!

  • somedudeonthenet

    Not at all motorcycle related, but natto is nothing at all like Vegemite. Natto is fermented soybeans. You stir the little beans up in their container and they get all sticky and slimy. Stinks up the whole apartment, too! My (Japanese) wife has the fridge stocked full of the stuff.

    • http://www.pipeburn.com Andrew@Pipeburn

      “The split opinion about its appearance and taste might be compared to Vegemite in Australia, blue cheese in France, surströmming in Sweden, lutefisk in Norway and Sweden, mämmi in Finland andMarmite in New Zealand, South Africa and the UK.”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nattō

  • motorcycle deluxe

    I remember a very cute CD250 by Heiwa that really opened my mind to the Japanese scene. They build some beautiful bikes.

  • farmer’s racer

    Been following Heiwa for a while. Wonderfull bikes – they realy dont need a sign over their door:)

  • PGearbox

    Interesting when asked about the difference in Japanese and Western customs the answer was they go for compact and narrow. While that might look cool, I am six foot three and don’t look as cool when my knees are by my ears:)

  • Angeland Thrills

    Thank you
    for this nice article.
    Last year I went to Hiroshima and I wanted to visit
    Heiwa shop but I had no time.
    What I like about shops like Heiwa is that they
    are humble and nice people.

    In my opinion, everyone in this planet gets inspired
    by someone or something, and fortunately we are all different. Some people just
    reproduce the same things, others just buy parts and set them, others make their
    own parts with their taste ( good or bad ) and some others create they own
    style or new style… but there is one thing that thrill us all (I hope it does
    for you too); RIDING MOTORCYCLES…

  • GuitarSlinger

    Gentlemen ; I’d like you to take special notice of one very important , yet by most easily missed point in my posts on Heiwa . I never once said Heiwa COPIED Shinya Kimura . I stated VERY clearly that he is heavily INFLUENCED by Shinya Kimura . And if you by this point in your lives are unable to discern the Difference between COPIED and INFLUENCED then the chances of you EVER accomplishing anything even remotely Creative : as well as having the ability to RECOGNIZE & analyze creativity are virtually Non Existent . So may I ever ( not ) so humbly suggest that you ASAP get it into your Brain the differences between C-O-P-I-E-D and I-F-L-U-E-N-C-E-D . A good starting point would be the conversation that recently took place on kneeslider on this very subject . But suffice it to say EVERYTHING ever created has been INFLUENCED by something / someone else . Class Dismissed

    • Greenstreet

      The following entry was edited June 26, 2012.

      Gentlemen: I’d like you to take special notice of one very important yet missed point in my posts on Heiwa: I never once wrote Heiwa “copied” Shinya Kimura. I wrote very clearly that Kengo Kimura is heavily influenced by Shinya Kimura. If by this point in your lives you are unable to discern the difference between “copied” and “influenced,” the chances of you ever accomplishing anything even remotely creative or obtaining the ability to creatively recognize and analyze are virtually nonexistent.
      So may I condescendingly suggest that you get the difference between “copied” and “influenced” into you brains as soon as possible? A good starting point would be the conversation that recently took place on kneeslider.com on this very subject. Suffice it to say something or someone else has influenced everything ever created.
      Class dismissed.

      Editor’s notes: Your intensity is strong, but don’t let that get in the way of correct composition. Poor sentence structure and erratic punctuation can make an accomplished man of the world sound like a raving lunatic.

  • Derrick

    nice bikes, POINTLESS ARGUMENT…

  • JakeBud

    Kengo Kimura seems like a cool guy. A real enthusiast. And Heiwa Motorcycles are simply beautiful. I have some of their bikes as rolling desktop wallpapers.

    GuitarSlinger is a w*nker. I have read many ass hole posts from him. Hey GuitarSlinger, throw up an image or a link to an image of a bike you have built, then we may change our opinion of you. Or at least scan your degree in ‘custom motorcycle know-all-ness’ and show us. Otherwise shut up.

    • JakeBud

      BTW, would love to know how old you are. Might explain a bit.