Misfiring Motorcycle Market in Japan


The Japanese National Police Agency has just released its 2016 statistics. Since 2010, there has been a decline of 1,500,000 Japanese men who possess a large bore (401cc+) motorcycle license. In the reverse there has been a 715,000 increase in mid size capacity bikes. Female riders have shown a similar pattern of 178,000 fall in large capacity licenses and 147,000 increase in mid size respectively. While there are still 9.175mn men and 625,000 women willing to get out on the highway with large capacity bikes, the trend is alarming. More frighteningly, new graduates aren’t lining up either. 30,000 fewer students lined up to get a mid or large size bike license between 2014 and 2016 representing a 12.3% dip.

In fact only one prefecture saw a rise in graduates out of 47.

New raw graduate chugata all %

Even then that was the law of low numbers. Yamagata saw a 9.9% increase in total graduates or 222 people, hardly making a dent on Kanagawa which saw over a 3,000 person decline or 13.3% fall.

New raw graduate chugata all

When looking at the large bore market, something the big overseas brands are targeting the stats look grim.

New raw graduate

Nagasaki and Miyazaki, two of the prefectures in Kyushu (which had a terrible earthquake in April 2016) saw a rise in those obtaining a large bore license, which backs up the trend seen in Miyagi and Fukushima when the quake and tsunami hit in 2011. Perhaps the idea of ‘living one’s life’ became a driver to get people to apply for big bore bike licenses.

New % graduate


So overall the outlook remains bleak. While licenses numbers are falling at a relatively slow pace (2% p.a.) eventually riding schools will end up shutting shop because there is little new business. Tottori-Pref on the Japan sea coast is one of the aging population centers but it saw a 22% fall in new grads from its schools.

This has to be one of the best countries in the world for motorcycling with high quality twisty ribbon throughout. The question is what to do to arrest the situation.



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