Koichi Kawai, the company founder, was born in Hamamatsu, Japan in 1886. His neighbor, Torakusu Yamaha, a watchmaker and reed organ builder, took him in as an apprentice. Kawai became a member of the research and development team that introduced pianos to Japan. Yamaha died in 1916, and in the 1920s the piano industry faltered in Japan. New management took over control of Yamaha's company, Nippon Gakki Co. (later renamed the Yamaha Corporation), and began to diversify its production line. This led Kawai to leave Nippon Gakki in 1927 and found the Kawai Musical Instrument Research Laboratory.
After Koichi Kawai's death in 1955, his son, Shigeru Kawai became company president at 33 and expanded production facilities. In 1980, he opened the Ryuyo Grand Piano Factory. Shigeru Kawai was president of the Kawai company from 1955 to 1989, chairman from 1990 until 2002, and a company consultant until his death in 2006 at 84.
Shigeru Kawai's son, Hirotaka Kawai, was appointed president in 1989. He integrated advanced robotics into the manufacturing process, established Kawai manufacturing facilities around the globe, and oversaw the introduction of several new series of grand, upright and digital pianos.
The Kawai Musical Instrument Manufacturing Company distributes acoustic and digital pianos to over 80 countries.