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Manji Suzuki (1923 – 2020)
Manji Suzuki, founder and chairman of Suzuki Musical Instrument Manufacturing Co., Ltd. passed away on August 21. He was 97 years old.
Harmonica enthusiast since elementary school days, Manji Suzuki eagerly sought to get a job at the harmonica factory of Kawai Musical Instruments Manufacturing Co., Ltd. in his hometown, Hamamatsu. After mastered all works of harmonica manufacturing, he launched his own workshop in 1953. It was actually start from a scratch borrowing an irrigation motor pump from a landlord for metal press works nightly when it was not used.
While expanding Suzuki harmonica line in the ensuing years, Manji developed Japan’s first keyboard harmonica under Melodion brand in 1961. Six years later, it was recognized as a qualified educational instrument in the framework of Course of Study of the Ministry of Education. It turned out a milestone for the future of the company.
In course of time, Suzuki Musical successfully expanded business adding 5 subsidiary companies including Suzuki Musical Distribution, Universe Precision Works, Suzuki Educational Software and much later Hammond Suzuki which manufactures Hammond electronic organs.
Though the company grew to a diversified business group, Manji Suzuki never changed his philosophy throughout life that educational musical instruments were a core of the business. He commented in the interview by Japan Music Trades in August, 2015, “Engaged in this business for 60 years, music education has receded year after year, and choir music superseded the instrumental lesson at public schools. Music products industry should advocate the government and parent importance of music education which helps children and students nurture human sense.”
He also said that he hoped to maintain strictest eyes to find what is wrong with the harmonica he built at the age of 90 for the sake of further improvement of his instrument. He was a real craftsman in every way.
Manji Suzuki served the industry as president of Japan Musical Instruments Manufacturers’ Association and a member of the board of directors of Japan Musical Instruments Association. In recognition of his decades of contribution to promotion of lifelong learning using harmonica and Taishokoto, and penetration of music education, he received The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays Medal from the Japanese Government in 2016.