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What Are The “Three Cranes” In The Center Of RS Watanabe “Eight Spoke” Wheels?

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  • Toyota AE86 Corolla Levin equipped with RS Watanabe's
  • Toyota AE86 Corolla Levin equipped with RS Watanabe's
  • Nissan
  • RS Watanabe's
  • RS Watanabe's

It all began with a design that changed “dumpling” to “crane

RS Watanabe is a traditional Japanese wheel brand. Its flagship product, the “Eight Spoke”, is a perennial favorite that debuted in 1968. From the Nissan Skyline GT-R, Fairlady Z S30, Mazda RX-3 Savanna, Mitsubishi Galant  GTO, Honda Civic, and Nissan Sunny Truck of the time, to the AE86 (Toyota Sprinter Trueno) of the main character of the manga “Initial D”, to the latest model Nissan Fairlady Z RZ34. The design is unparalleled in its suitability and universality. In the center of the eight spokes of such a traditional RS Watanabe wheel is “three crane” marks. Do you know the origin of these crane marks?

The Watanabe family crest is “three dumplings on a tray”

RS Watanabe was founded in 1967 by current president Toshiyuki Watanabe as a racing constructor, designing and manufacturing formula cars such as the FL, FJ-1300, F-3, and FP-2000. The company also began manufacturing and selling one-piece cast aluminum mag wheels.

In Japan, there is a tradition that all family members use the same family crest. The Watanabe family crest is “three dumplings on a tray” (three circles and a horizontal bar). Denji Watanabe, Toshiyuki Watanabe’s father, invented the company symbol based on this design, changing the three circles to three cranes as a symbol of his small business in Tsurumi, Yokohama. Tsurumi means “land where cranes live”. Later, when Toshiyuki Watanabe started his factory, he changed the horizontal bar to “RACING” and made it the company symbol.

The crane mark is closely associated with aircraft and motorsports

It may come as a surprise that RS Watanabe’s crane mark is derived from a place name, but the crane mark is closely associated with Japanese aircraft and motorsport. In the case of aircraft, the Japan Airlines logo (used from 1959 to 2002, revived in 2010) is well known. In motorsport, Toru Ikuzawa, a famous racer of the past, used the red-crowned crane mark as his symbol. The red-crowned crane mark was also painted on the body of the Porsche 906 he drove in the 4th Japanese Grand Prix (1967).

Spoon Sports, known for its Honda tuning parts, also has a crane as its symbol, inspired by the “S” in SPOON, but also said to have been inspired by Toru Ikuzawa’s red-crowned crane mark.