This article on the two Japanese riders in this year’s Tour ends with the following:
Shall one or both of them get selected, it wouldn’t be a first for Japan. In 1996, Daisuke Imanaka started the Tour for Polti and didn’t make the time cut on stage 14, but the pioneer is Kisso Kawamuro, who joined the peloton twice as a touriste-routier (individual without a team). On both occasions in 1926 and 1927, he pulled out during the first stage. Beppu and/or Arashiro are in contention to become the first Japanese rider to finish the Tour, something they are both capable of achieving while doing a good job for their team.
I had never heard of Kisso Kawamuro. This is his entire Wikipedia entry:
Kisso Kawamuro (August 1892, in Yokohama – 1973) was a pioneering Japanese racing cyclist.
Born the son of a ship’s captain, Kawamuro moved to France in 1918, where he was employed in the airplane and then automobile industries. He had participated in cycling races in Japan so he continued to ride in France. In 1926, he became the first Japanese to ride in the Tour de France by entering as a touriste-routier (an individual without a team). He also entered the race in 1927, but on that occasion as well, he retired during the first stage. The next Japanese to enter the race would be Daisuke Imanaka in 1996, and the first Japanese to complete the Tour would be Yukiya Arashiro and Fumiyuki Beppu in 2009.
In subsequent years, Kawamuro competed in domifon races in Germany (cycling races in which motorcycles serve as pacers). He eventually returned to Japan and worked in the motorcycle industry before passing away in 1973 at the age of 82.
A little more info on the races he was in is here:
The 1926 edition holds the record for the longest ever Tour — a monstrous 5,745 km over 17 stages, taking the race anti-clockwise round the Hexagone. 126 riders started — including Kisso Kawamuro of Japan who would abandon after stage 1 — and only 41 would finish.
From 100 Tours 100 Tales is a great site, by the way.