Although not a frequent forum poster, I have been a member of RMS since the late 90’s and I have owned the same car for roughly the same time, an Eunos Roadster imported from Japan in December 1997. And earlier this year, I got to visit where in was made, in Hiroshima, Japan.
Mazda are big in Hiroshima, as well as the factory they sponsor the Baseball Stadium (the Mazda Zoom-Zoom), have a hospital and their own port. And Mazda vehicles are everywhere around Hiroshima, much like West Belfast was full of Fords in the 80’s when the Ford Factory was open.
Visiting the plant and Museum is free, but they have only one English Tour a day, so you need to book in advance, which I did via their site about 6 months before we left for Japan. The tour starts in the Main Headquarters of Mazda, which is part of the Ujina 1 Plant. It’s only 20 minutes by train from Hiroshima, but the day started badly as my 9-year-old daughter was still sick from a combination of travel sickness and the time difference. So we had to get a taxi, which was interesting in itself in that Japanese Taxi drivers wear a uniform of suit, hat and gloves. Their cars are usually Toyota Crowns covered in dolly fabric with self-opening and closing doors and wing mounted mirror. In the Headquarters reception, they have their current fleet and rotate something unusual, the day I was there it was the Eunos Café Racer concept from 1989 but apparently, I just missed the Mazda Furai concept car. Once you register for the tour, you get a tour pass, some details about the tour and board a bus to take you south to Ujina 2 which is on the coast only reachable via a private bridge that Mazda owns. The bridge is closed to the public apart from once a year as part of a marathon. Unfortunately my daughter had to stay behind with her Mum in the headquarters reception as she felt too ill to tour.
Once on the bus unfortunately pictures were banned of the bridge and main complex, but it was huge, the factory is about 420 acres. The Museum itself is split into 6 sections, once you arrive at the Museum you enter section one, the Entrance Hall. This has the current model range, and a cinema where you watch a film about the history of Mazda, from the early days of 3 wheelers, the Atomic Bomb attack of 1945 and up to the modern day.
Then you walk upstairs to the History Hall, On the left as you come in, are what Mazda consider as their two most important cars in their history, the Mazda Cosmo 1100 and the Eunos Roadster aka Mazda MX5. On the right, they have cars starting from their first three wheelers all the way up to the modern day. The last car was an ordinary Mazda Demio (sold here as the Mazda 2) which surprised me, but when I asked the guide why, she explained it was an important car to Mazda as it quite literally saved the company when it was going through a bad spell. She also say there are more cars in storage, and they rotate them around often.
Next is the Rotary Hall with the stunning Le Mans winning Mazda 787B and it’s four-rotor engine beside it, the interesting thing about the engine being it’s very small but has huge variable length inlet vales. The 787B is part of the rotary section, every engine from early single-rotor experimental ones to the final RX8’s Renesis is there. The guide talks about the engine for about 5 minutes, it’s obviously something they are very proud of still even though it’s no longer in production. Although there is talk of it being part of a hybrid car in the future.
Moving on, next section is the Technology Hall, using a CX-5 as an example, you are shown how the vehicles are built, from a live-size plastic development model, to a CX-5 that has been used in crash testing.
Next up is for me was the best part, the factory assembly line, a fascinating place but unfortunately no photos or videos are allowed. What surprised me was it was a mixed production line, so you have a MX5 followed by a CX3 followed by a CX5 being built, with the occasional FIAT 124. The robots brought exactly what car parts were needed for whatever model the worker had in front of him, so everything ran like clockwork, the logistics involved was mind-blowing and fascinating to watch. An interesting thing we heard was nursey rhymes being played, I asked the guide about that and when a nursey rhyme was played, it meant a change of model was coming down the line. The MX5’s rhyme was “London Bridge was falling down” for example. At the back of the plant we could see the private dock and one of Mazda’s ship being loaded with cars to go to Europe. Interestingly for me, they were still making Orange 30th Anniversary MX5s in early July, I had assumed they had all been built by then.
Last section, Future Hall is about Mazda’s future plans, how they are currently using their SkyActive technology to lower emissions, but with their plans for hybrid and eclectic cars by 2030. Although they seemed to be a bit dismissive of hybrids I thought, thinking their SkyActive was a better technology.
Then to the gift shop and back to the bus to return to the HQ. That’s where a nice thing happened while my Son and I were in the factory, the Curator of the Museum had heard my daughter was sick and came down himself to see her and gave her some gifts and his business card, even though he couldn’t speak English. I thought that was a lovely thing to do, especially as he had to bring a translator especially. I know all car manufacturers are huge companies, but I always considered Mazda to be more a small, friendly company and that kind of proved it to me.