Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd.—Team Green to its friends—traces its roots all the way back to 1878 to the Kawasaki Tsukiji Shipyard. Founded in Tokyo by a tradesman and serial entrepreneur named Shōzō Kawasaki, the company made sturdy, western-style shipping vessels. In 1896, the company was incorporated as Kawasaki Dockyard Company, Ltd.

For the next thirty or so years, Kawasaki grew, diversified, spun off subsidiaries, and generally grew like a weed. During this time Kawasaki produced cargo, passenger and warships, submarines, aircraft, locomotives, railway cars, steel, and even took part in big civil engineering projects. It dabbled in heavy trucks in the late-teens, but suspended vehicle production in lieu of more lucrative pursuits until resuming in the early-30s. During World War II, the company built warships and fighter planes, including the successful Hien which was the only water-cooled aircraft developed in Japan during the war.

After the war, Kawasaki continued producing, well, everything. It wasn't until the early 60s that Kawasaki decided to get into the motorcycle game when its aircraft division acquired an interest in Meguro Motorcycle Company. Meguro had a license to build BSA A7 copies, and with an infusion of Kawasaki cash it released its Meguro K to significant fanfare. Kawasaki bought Meguro outright in 1963, and by 1965 was building motorcycles badged as Kawasakis. The legendary W series followed soon after, which led to the monstrous H1 triples and, eventually, huge success in the motorcycle business.