Kaichiroh Kurosu, the founder of the Japanese workshop Cherry’s Company, is one of the world’s top custom motorcycle builders. He’s been building motorcycles under the Cherry’s banner for over 20 years and is a 3-time Mooneyes Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show champion. He’s been flown all over the world as a special guest at prestigious custom events and has been commissioned by manufacturing giants BMW Motorrad and Harley Davidson to modify their latest motorcycles. As if that wasn’t enough during the past year his work has gone beyond the custom realm and into mainstream media.
First, Warner Brothers tasked Kaichiroh with creating Cat Woman’s motorcycle for the 2022 Batman movie. Then the Japanese production studios Ishimori Production and Toei Company engaged him as the builder of the motorcycles for their 2022 Amazon Prime series, Kamen Rider Black Sun.
Kamen Rider Black Sun is a reboot of the hugely popular Kamen Rider Black series that aired in Japan back in 1987. The release of the new series also marks the 50th anniversary of the Tokusatsu style (live-action fantasy) of Japanese filmmaking.
The Kamen Rider Black Sun story follows stepbrothers Kohtaro Minami and Nobuhiko Akizuki who were subjected to ‘cyborg surgery’ after being kidnapped by the cult Gorgom. The surgery enabled each brother to transform into Century Kings destined to battle one another with the victor becoming the next Creation King. When they are ready for battle Nobuhiko Akizuki, the antagonist of the series transforms into Kamen Rider Shadow Moon. His stepbrother Kohtaro Minami, the hero, becomes Kamen Rider Black Sun.
In typical Tokusatsu style, the Kamen Rider Black Sun series makes heavy use of choreographed fight scenes, special effects and fantastical costumes. Both of the Kamen Riders’ battle suits have an insectoid-like appearance and the motorcycles they ride are styled to match. Kaichiroh of Cherry’s Company was tasked with constructing both of the Kamen Rider motorcycles. Kamen Rider Shadow Moon rides a heavily customised BMW R Nine T. That bike is based on the Highway Fighter R9T that Kaichiroh built for BMW Motorrad back in 2014. But for Black Suns ‘Battle Hopper’ motorcycle, Kaichiroh teamed up with the production designers to create a one-of-a-kind Honda CB750F turbo.
With the Kamen Rider Black Sun series scheduled for release in late 2022, we spoke with Kaichiroh about his involvement in the project and the creation of the Honda CB750F Battle Hopper. The following is both the English and Japanese versions of the interview…
How did you become involved in the Kamen Rider Black Sun project?
Normally, the production of vehicles appearing in a movie and a TV series is done by a creative team within the studio. However, Kazuya Shiraishi, the appointed director of the “KAMEN RIDER BLACK SUN “, is famous for his insistence on realism. Therefore, he requested the production team to build a real custom motorcycle for the main character to ride. After a series of meetings with the production team, they decided to commission a custom bike factory that had experience in building custom bikes and then began to search for a factory. The producer was looking for a factory near the studio and Cherry’s Company happened to be a hit in the search.
Were you a fan of the original Kamen Rider Black Sun series?
I know the TV series Kamen Rider of course. I think that boys of my generation always watched the Kamen Rider series on TV. Kamen Rider is a TV series that has been running since 1971, in which the main character transforms into a warrior called Kamen Rider to fight enemies and save his friends and the earth. It may be like the American Superman and Spiderman. Each series runs for one or two years. The characters and stories of the Kamen Rider and their enemies change greatly depending on the series.
The Kamen Rider Black Sun motorcycle first appeared in the Kamen Rider Black series 1987. I was already a high school student when that series started airing but I was not old enough to watch it. I had never heard of Kamen Rider Black but after I decided to get involved in this project, I did a lot of research.
The Kamen Rider series that I watched as a child had a clear distinction between righteousness and evil, and the story was one of easy-to-understand good and evil. In Kamen Rider Black, however, the enemies are also Kamen Rider, and they are also friends. The story was a little more complex, and it was a different story from the previous Masked Rider series, with a strong human storyline between the two sides. The newly produced Kamen Rider BLACK SUN is an original new story, different from Kamen Rider Black.
Before building the bike, I was not informed of the detailed storyline. However, I did look up the old TV series and the Battle Hopper motorcycle that the main character rides, but it was a grasshopper. When I saw it, I was worried that they were going to build this, but I was relieved to see that the design drawing they gave me was completely different.
What involvement did the production studio have in the design of the bike?
The Battle Hopper was designed by a design team within the production department. The design team had created not only a design drawing but also a 1/12 scale model. They were well done, but there were many points that did not feel right when based on the full-scale motorcycle, so I added my own design to them. However, it is not a big change from their initial design drawings.
This was the first time I created a bike based on a design drawing by someone other than myself. However, it was impossible to come up with the concept and details from scratch, and build a bike that matched the story, atmosphere, and main character of Kamen Rider Black Sun so I was glad to have the design drawings.
Why did you decide to use a Honda CB750f as the donor and are all of the details of the bike fully functional?
I suggested the base bike. I chose the Honda CB750F Turbo because it fits the period setting of the story. The Battle Hopper bike that appears in the story is a motorcycle that has been ridden since the 1970s. Therefore, the latest model would not make sense. The base machine, CB750F Turbo, is produced in 1980, so the eras don’t exactly match, but rather than trying to match the eras, the emphasis was placed on the fact that the bike is an older model that has been ridden over and over. The production team brought me a photo of a sample bike that was also a 750F, so I went with that idea.
I was in charge of finding a base bike. A standard CB750F would be boring. At the time, the Battle Hopper had a top speed of 500 km/h and the maximum power was 415 horsepower. So I chose the CB750 Turbo, which had more power. Of course, it could have had a turbine cover to look like a turbo bike, but I set up that turbo to be as functional as possible. And all the other functions of the bike, I built to work well.
What was the most challenging part of the project?
The difficult part was the pursuit of realism. The Battle Hopper was built to show the rust and peeling paint on the body of the bike as proof that it has been ridden for a long time. The front face and other exterior parts were all made of steel so that the real rust could be expressed. This bike has more complex shapes than most custom bikes, and it was more difficult to form the steel, which is harder than aluminium.
In addition, the designers and directors had their own intentions for the various gimmicks, not only in terms of shape but also in terms of the way they moved and the way the built-in lights shone. I had no experience in building a bike while concurrently checking such things, and it was also difficult to realize.
The other thing to consider is the turbo setting. In the 1980s, when the CB750Turbo was released several other manufacturers released motorcycles with turbochargers. The turbo in that era did not work unless the engine was revved to high rpm, and the sudden increase in power made it difficult to ride. However, when shooting, the engine is not revved to high rpm. Therefore, it was necessary to reconfigure the settings of the turbo for safe shooting. I was not able to test the vehicle on public roads with its exterior and other fancy modifications so I changed the capacity of the surge tank and made other settings while monitoring the data. Even now, it’s still not perfect…
Do you have any favourite parts/details on the bike?
My favourite detail is the front face. The ageing process successfully expressed the period feel of the bike, which has been ridden since the 1970s.
The sense of period is something I always consider when I build custom bikes. The theming is very important to me in building a custom bike. In simple terms, it means thinking about the hypothetical story of the bike. The age of the bike, the people who ride the bike, the place where the bike will be ridden… The details that are important to me differ depending on the bike I am building, but if I do not decide on these details, the look of the bike will not be consistent and the finished bike will be unbalanced. The Battle Hopper had an absolute story. I think I was able to express that well.
How have Kamen Rider fans reacted to the 2022 version of the Battle Hopper?
At this moment, there are some people who have negative opinions about the Battle Hopper I created. Kamen Rider Black, on which the Kamen Rider Black Sun series is based had a different story and character settings from the previous Kamen Rider and many fans have strong feelings for it. Some fans have yet to accept the fact that this bike is different from the Battle Hopper of that time. The only thing left for them to do now is to watch the actual program that will be delivered and make their decision.
Kamen Rider is a hero that is etched in the DNA of boys growing up in Japan. To be honest, when I was asked to build the bike featured in the movie Batman I felt that the scale of the movie was too large, and Batman which is an American movie was far away for me. But Kamen Rider is totally different. When I was a child, I watched the Kamen Rider series on TV all the time; admiring the characters and the bikes they rode. I never imagined that I would grow up and be able to build a bike that the main character would ride. So, when I was offered the job, I was happy.
I displayed the Battle Hopper at the Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show in 2021 and Nagoya/Joints in 2022. I think it was able to give the bike industry a new topic and a new dream.
The Battle Hopper will make its on screen debut in late 2022 when Kamen Rider Black Sun airs on Amazon Prime. Long time fan or not we have no doubt viewers will soon be as enamoured as we are with this one of a kind Honda CB750F especially if it sounds as wild as it looks!