ZEN-NOH and Kubota Part 1: A Partnership

A Kubota ZL1500.

A Kubota ZL1500.

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.

An organizational chart for the ZEN-NOH agricultural cooperative.

An organizational chart for the ZEN-NOH agricultural cooperative.

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.

ZEN-NOH and its insurance division, Zenkyoren, occupy the number 1 and 2 spots in the top 25 cooperatives in the world.

ZEN-NOH and its insurance division, Zenkyoren, occupy the number 1 and 2 spots in the top 25 cooperatives in the world.

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.

A Kubota ZL1801 manufactured for the ZEN-NOH agricultural cooperative.

A Kubota ZL1801 manufactured for the ZEN-NOH agricultural cooperative.

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

Related Articles
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
Discovered it’s a Gray Market Kubota? Relax.
Gray Market Kubota Oil Filter Part Numbers
Forum: Gray Market & Zennoh

13 Comments »

  1. Gerald Killian Said,

    February 23, 2009 @ 6:59 pm

    Very interesting! I look forward to your next article. I have a L2202 4wd and am very pleased with it. I’ve owned it for 3 years and it never ceases to amaze; however, I know very little of it’s history. Can you help?

    Thanks
    Gerald

  2. Vic Said,

    February 23, 2009 @ 8:24 pm

    Well, it was built by Kubota and Daedong, it’s brothers and sisters are the L1802, L2002, L2402, L2602, L2802, L3202, L3602 and the L4202. The L3202, 3602 and 4202 are seldom seen in North America.

    These are bigger tractors that performed utility functions other than rice tilling. They are very hard to find and like all 02 Series kubota’s are very difficult to find transmission parts for.

    Service Dept Vic

  3. Mr. K Said,

    February 23, 2009 @ 8:59 pm

    Gerald, we actually did a quick article that covers off the history of the “02″ Kubota and the joint venture with Daedong in the 1980s. You can read that article here:

    http://www.orangetractortalks.com/2008/09/the-other-orange-tractor-kioti/

    Sign up on our forums too if you want to meet other owners of gray market Kubotas for support and advice.

  4. Roger Longoria Said,

    March 12, 2009 @ 11:31 am

    I don’t even know how old my Kubota L1500 is. But I have been very pleased with its performance. If anyone could tell me its domestic equivalent, it would be most appreciated.
    Just discovered this site and have already gained alot of useful info.
    Thanks again
    Roger

  5. Vic Said,

    March 12, 2009 @ 2:53 pm

    Roger, your L1500 is a 1976-7 ish vintage, and is a combination of parts shared amongst the L175, L1501, L2000, L185, L1801 and L1511 and L245.

    Service Dept Vic

  6. matt Said,

    May 5, 2009 @ 9:15 am

    i have an L1801 gray market tractor and can’t find a head gasket. do you have any suggestions.

  7. Vic Said,

    May 6, 2009 @ 8:01 pm

    Hi Matt, We have that part in stock, $68.32. Let me know if you need me to ship you one.

  8. rodney Said,

    October 14, 2009 @ 12:06 am

    i have a L2000 model ZEN-NOH , Kubota 4-wheel drive tractor and i need either gears for the transmission or another one please help. I love my unit and would like to fix it. Thanks

  9. rodney Said,

    October 14, 2009 @ 12:12 am

    I purchased a tranny off of a L1500 will the gears be comparible?

  10. Vic Said,

    October 14, 2009 @ 7:14 am

    It depends on which specific gear(s) you require. The L2000 main transmission shaft is considerably different thatn the L1500, however, a few gears are common. What exactly do you need, send a parts description or diagram, or even a scan of your parts manual so I can see if I have what you need.

  11. rodney Said,

    October 14, 2009 @ 10:37 pm

    it is the idler gear and shaft assembly. I will try to take some photos and let you observe the tranny to see the bad gears

  12. rodney Said,

    October 14, 2009 @ 10:53 pm

    I found a tranny at tractor dealer but i think it was over priced due to availability plus it was open to the weather and filled water. There was rust on the gears and may even be seized

  13. rodney Said,

    October 15, 2009 @ 10:47 am

    i have some photos of the tranny i’ll try to send them so that you can see it . please respond asap

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