Kobe Bay Reclamation Project: Our First Project in Japan

Caterpillar branded products have been sold across the globe for over 100 years. The Caterpillar track-type tractor provided value to customers in areas where neither horses nor other wheeled equipment would even attempt to go. By the early 1920s, stories begin appearing in company literature about Caterpillar equipment succeeding in Japan; however, none of these tales are quite as interesting as the competition for the Kobe Bay Reclamation Project in 1961. The effort would prove to be Caterpillar’s first major project in Japan and would have a significant impact on our future there. 

Early Equipment Sales 

As early as 1914, the Holt Manufacturing Company, one of Caterpillar’s predecessor companies, first sold track-type tractors in Japan. In 1919, the first Japanese customer tour occurred at Holt’s East Peoria Plant in Illinois. In 1923, the C.L. Best Tractor Co., Caterpillar’s other predecessor company, sold their equipment through a former Tokyo dealer named Suzuki & Company. They even had the foresight to create specific market-focused product literature written in Japanese. 

After the merger of Holt and Best, the new Caterpillar Tractor Co. sold Peoria-made track-type tractors in Japan. Early applications included the logging industry in Northern Japan. There are many examples of our machines proving their worth hauling heavy oak logs, plowing fields, or moving dirt.  

First Project in Japan 

In 1961, nine Cat® machines were involved in the effort to push part of a mountain into the sea as part of the Kobe Bay Reclamation Project. When contractors needed more machines for the project, Cat machines won out over local Japanese competition based on the results of competitive on-the-job demonstrations. 

Let the Competition Begin 

It was decided that the demonstrations should be centered on machine production. To the dealers and their employees, it was apparent the Cat D9 could sizably outproduce its main competition, but it was necessary to prove the difference in the field. 

The Cat dealer made arrangements with the contractor for an on-the-job competitive demonstration. The test area was established and marked with flagpoles. Dozing and ripping production was to be calculated. 

The job site consisted mostly of weathered granite and powdered granite chips, and thin layers of granite, much like panes of glass, required ripping before dozing could be accomplished. 

Dozing tests were conducted for one-hour production periods. Analysis of the tests revealed the competition produced 223 cubic yards while the D9 produced 510 cubic yards—more than twice the total production of the competitive machine. Faster reverse speeds of the D9 had given a 20-second-per-cycle advantage. 

Ripping tests were set up on the same location. The D9 with ripper successfully produced 293 cubic yards per hour. The earth was so tough and hard that the competitors’ ripper shanks became red-hot in 10 to 15 minutes of operation, forcing them to be dismantled. The earth condition was not a rock base; yet, it was hard enough to reject the other machines’ ripper teeth. 

Job Well Done 

Seven Cat D9s and D8s, each equipped with dozers and rippers, along with two 463 Scrapers, removed a 140-acre slice of the mountain. The 19.5 million cubic yard job is still one of the largest earthmoving operations that has occurred in Japan. Completed in 1966, it reclaimed a valuable portion of the Kobe Bay and established a new residential and industrial area. 

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Caterpillar in Japan

Caterpillar locations in Japan include our Yokohama offices and manufacturing facilities.

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