The first graduates

The area of Shibuya is well known for being the first out with the latest fashion, teenage trends and nightlife. What many don’t know is that Shibuya is also the home to one of the first schools for bicycle design. This February, The Tokyo College of Cycle Design presented their first graduates of the Bicycle Creation Course.

It all started with the Hiko Mizuno College of Jewellery. Established in 1966, the college educates up to 1,000 students a year in working with metals and leather for shoes, bags and watches. In April 2012 the school welcomed the first class of students to the first government certified school for people seeking a professional, complete education on frame building.

The chief instructor, Shin-ichi Konno, is a legend among Japanese frame builders and a top prize-winner at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. Today he teaches at the school twice a week. It might be hard to believe, but schools for bicycle design is not a common thing, and although short 2-3 week courses in frame building and mechanics exist, the three-year Bicycle Creation Course offered in Shibuya is the first of its kind. For those with a passion for fashion and design, it is a Mecca.

At The Tokyo College of Cycle Design you can attend two courses, one lasting two years and one expanding over three. In both courses the students will be trained in becoming experts in bicycle design, maintenance and manufacturing. Although most of the 190 students are men aged 18-62 from Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China, the school is aiming to get more female bicycle enthusiasts to apply.

In order to apply you need to be over 18 years old and have a High School graduation diploma. The intuition is, unexpectedly, higher than the fee of a liberal arts education and you need to be prepared to pay 1,450,000 yen for the first year and 1,350,000 yen for the following two. The fee does not cover equipment and other tools needed. In return however, 93,3% of the graduates get relevant jobs as bicycle mechanics or engineers for bicycle companies. Some students have gone on to start their own shop as independent frame builders while others have found employment with existing frame builders.

In addition to courses, The Tokyo College of Cycle Design also organizes trips abroad for those who want to join. In the past they have travelled to both Italia and France for inspiration.

The bicycle culture is changing in Japan, and more people are becoming interested and passionate about bicycle design and frame building.

Japan has a rich history of frame building, based on the sport Keirin. Keirin, a form of motor-paced cycle racing, was developed in Japan round 1948 for gambling purposes. The sport, in which track cyclists sprint for victory following a speed-controlled start behind a motorized or non-motorized pacer, became an official event at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. While most people focus on the actual racing, skilled frame builders are responsible for a huge part of the success – and it is that craft The Tokyo College of Cycle Design aim to bring onto the future generations.