Here is an article that attempts to clear some confusion surrounding ZEN-NOH tractors. Anyone familiar with direct import Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) Kubota tractors is familiar with the name ZEN-NOH, or sometimes written as Zennoh or Zen-Noh. Exact semantics aside, many have seen the name adorn the side panels and hoods of what look like normal Kubota tractors. Before we get into a lesson on ZEN-NOH, I’ll tell you what ZEN-NOH is not – it is not a tractor brand name!
What is ZEN-NOH?
ZEN-NOH is an agricultural cooperative in Japan founded in 1948. It is a government owned and controlled organization that through their strength in numbers is able to buy large quantities of agricultural supply at a discount. There are many cooperatives that operate in Japan, but ZEN-NOH is the largest in Japan’s National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations. Actually, not just Japan, but the entire world. The largest agricultural cooperative anywhere, is ZEN-NOH.
ZEN-NOH is a means for millions of Japanese of farmers to grow and market their products and have access to basic supplies for running a farm. This is evident from the name of the co-op – the translation of ZEN-NOH is “all farmers”. The size of the cooperative means that vast supply quantities are available at lower pricing due to massive purchasing volume. ZEN-NOH makes sure fertilizers are available, oil, fuel, parts, equipment and so the individual farmer does not have to concern themselves with sourcing these.
How big is this Cooperative?
Pretty big. 2006 numbers peg annual turnover at about $56 billion USD. The cooperative has about 4.5 million farmer members and employees about 12,500 in the organization overhead.
They consistently maintain the number 1 spot in the Global 300 – a ranking of the world’s largest cooperative organizations. Everything from agricultural coops, retail, wholesale, insurance, electric power, banking and credit union cooperatives are listed in this index.
Interestingly, Japanese insurance cooperative Zenkyoren occupies the number 2 spot on the index which is actually ZEN-NOH’s insurance division. Combined, ZEN-NOH and their insurance division, generate a little more than $100 billion USD in revenue every year.
Where does Kubota Fit In?
Well, when you are the number 1 agricultural cooperative in the world, Kubota will make tractors just for you and stick your name on them.
Since ZEN-NOH is the largest agricultural coop in Japan, it has tractors, rice combines, wrapping machines and many other products – not just equipment, produced for them under their ZEN-NOH brand name by some of the largest companies in Japan – Kubota included. It is not unlike your local grocer having its own brand of cereal, salad dressings or pasta sauce – it had another company manufacture those items to its specifications.
Kubota has manufactured literally thousands of tractors for ZEN-NOH over the years and labeled them right on the assembly line with the ZEN-NOH name plate. Often a Z prefix was added to the existing Kubota model number identifier making an L1501 into a ZL1501 tractor. Once built, the tractor was mated to a matching Kubota tiller and shipped directly to The Procurement Division of ZEN-NOH for their disposition.
Established in 1890, Kubota has had a long history of producing farming machinery in Japan. Kubota sailed across the Pacific in 1969 and found a ready market in the US for its new product line that included never before seen compact tractors. Needless to say, the 21HP L200 was an overnight sensation and Kubota Japan got busy incorporating in the US in order to meet the demand for their hot little orange tractors. Domestically in 1974, Kubota followed up the success of the L200 with the B6000DT – at 12HP it was the first compact 4 wheel drive tractor ever made.
How did I end up with a ZEN-NOH Tractor?
At this point you might be wondering – “very interesting, but how did my ZEN-NOH tractor get from the cooperative all the way across the ocean to my shed in Tecumseh Kansas?”. Yes, this is an important piece of the puzzle. We have called this first article ZEN-NOH and Kubota: A Partnership because that is how these two organizations started out – one producing equipment for the other. In ZEN-NOH and Kubota Part 2, we start to see how these tractors started to make their way across the ocean…
Service Department Vic
ZEN-NOH and Kubota Part 2: Importation
ZEN-NOH and Kubota Part 3: Lawsuits
ZEN-NOH and Kubota Part 4: Loopholes
ZEN-NOH and Kubota Part 5: Fallout
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Forum: Gray Market & Zennoh