A brief history of JCW, Japan’s first carwash company

We recently came across a news item about a new system in Japan that washes coronavirus off of your clothes and shoes. You walk through a metal frame while nozzles spray chemicals all over you, in droplets too small to feel any wetness, to sterilize. If that sounds like a car wash for humans, it’s because it was developed by the same company that built Japan’s first car wash, and that sent us down a weird rabbit hole.

Nihon Sharyo Senjoki Co., Ltd., translated as Japan Car Wash (JCW), was founded in 1947 as the country’s first maker of vehicle cleaning machines. The history is a bit murky, but it seems that originally JCW’s contraptions were built for buses and trains. This would align with the dominant forms of wheeled transportation present in Japan at the time.

The train washers were particularly impressive, giant booths straddling tracks at depots. They served everyone from he Tokyo Monorail company to Japan Rail, operators of the Shinkansen bullet trains. JCW exported their machines to 18 countries, mostly in Asia and the Middle East.

The first passenger car washes came out in 1962. Early systems had brushes, something that we would later learn damages paint. So in 1983 JCW came debuted the world’s first brush-less washing system. Anyone who doesn’t want their shiny finish to be scrubbed by abrasive bristles covered in other cars’ dirt can thank them.

In the 70s, machines that both washed and waxed started to appear. However, other companies in the passenger car washing game had grown even faster, and JCW fell behind. Luckily, it could rely on its main focus, the industrial machines that cleaned mass transit vehicles.

In their 73 years of business, JCW has built washers for taxi companies, bus companies, and a 200-meter movable machine for rail carriages. They’ve also supplied factories with industrial bearing washers, restaurants with meat grill washers, and the Kyowa Town Potato Epidemic Prevention Association with Japan’s first washer for stopping potato cyst nematodes dead in their tracks.

One of the striking things about Japan is that almost all vehicles are kept sparkling clean. As long as they are regularly driven, even the lowliest kei cars are usually maintained with pride, and JCW played an important role in keeping Japan’s vehicles looking fresh.

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6 Responses to A brief history of JCW, Japan’s first carwash company

  1. Ian N said:

    Good. Different.

  2. Scotty G said:

    This is a great history lesson. Anything JNC car-related – which includes keeping our vehicles clean – is fair game, in my opinion. Well done!

  3. Negishi no Keibajo said:

    “So in 1983 JCW came debuted the world’s first brush-less washing system.”

    That’s pretty remarkable! It’s also remarkable to see taxi drivers dusting off their cabs with those ostrich feathered brushes while cued up. You won’t see that at the airport in the U.S. with those banged up Prius’s.

  4. james said:

    Scotty G hit the nail on the head.

  5. jamesmccartney90 said:

    I’ve seen cars wash in Australia and the Far East. I was young and studied the features of the automotive industry and the sales market. Back in the 90s, I tried to start a business related to auto and I managed to learn a lot of new things. For example, the appearance of brushes certainly surprised everyone, but in remote corners of the planet, people invented special lint-free napkins with which they wiped their hands. I was traveling, learning something new, and when I came to the east of Eurasia, I noticed that people rarely try to clean their cars. Then transport was worth its weight in gold. As a student, I remember being met at some kind of car wash, which reminded me of the current jet washing service https://www.thecarparkman.co.uk/service/jet-washing/, but there all the work was done manually. The worker could use several rags for the rear-view mirrors, separate rags for the interior, and wipe the nap on the textiles with a shoe brush. I was impressed by this innovation and since then I have been producing car mats. I would never clean it by hand, only a professional car wash.

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