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Evolving the Art of Japanese Mastery

Mazda Designer and Clay Modeler

Mazda has always approached car making differently. Their designers and engineers are more like artisans, who seek mastery of their skills. After each spends decades perfecting their craft, they earn the title of Takumi – meaning master craftsman. Mazda’s Takumi Masters work to design and create elements that enhance beauty as well as function. They transfer their passion, energy and knowledge into each Mazda vehicle. And once you experience a Mazda, their obsession to detail is evident.

Mazda Japanese Mastery Takumi Designers

Designing with Clay

It’s only after at least 20 years of dedicated practice, not to mention immense pride and passion for their work, that an apprentice can become a master. Take the work of Osamu Fujiki, for example. Based at the Mazda Design Headquarters in Hiroshima, Japan, he’s been designing the interior cabin space of their vehicles since 1981. In this digital age, you’d think he’d use a computer. Not Fujiki. This master artisan sculpts clay models from a paper design.

“We try to keep a Japanese type of beauty in mind as we work,” he explained. “We try to realize it in the making of the car itself. A sense of touch is important, but it’s also how you look at the vehicle as it’s being driven and how the light changes as it reflects off the metallic parts. There’s a real beauty in these moments.”

Mazda Japanese Mastery Takumi Designers

Creating with Metal

Hisashi Watanabe works at Mazda’s forging factory in Hiroshima where cross-roll forging is used, one of the rarest and most complicated methods of piecing together the many part of a car’s engine and transmission.

Most engineers would have no idea of a product’s final shape, even if they closely studied the process. Not Watanabe. After two decades to master his particularly rare skillset, he can predict the product’s shape just by looking at the complex dies which mould the shape of an iron bar when it’s heated.

“When a defective product is found, you can instantly identify which die is the root cause if you can picture the image of the product shape based on the shape of dies,” he said. “Of course, you have to remember the roles of all 400 small pieces of die by heart, as well as understand how those pieces are related to each other.”

It’s an incredible skill and one that Watanabe is keen to pass on. “My job is to pave the way so the next generation can master my techniques in 10 years and the next ones in three years,” he added.

This drive for perfection explains why the Japanese production engineers, for example, studied and rejected more than 12,000 grinding stones.

Unable to find what they wanted, they made their own which allows them to precisely sculpt the master metal molds. These craftsmen are able to shave metal to a twentieth of the width of a human hair. It’s all done by hand, of course, as is most of the final finish.

Mazda Japanese Mastery Takumi Designers

Perfecting with Paint

As a final touch in realizing the beauty of Mazda, master craftsmen use meticulously controlled hand movements to apply color to 3D hard models. Instead of a brush, painting expert Kazumitsu Tamai uses his spray gun, along with a combination of meticulous hand movements and highly sharpened senses, to apply color exactly as intended.

“Repeating subtle adjustments and expressing colors through my own sensibilities, I find the whole process truly worthwhile,” Tamai said. “Each color has to be correctly painted to achieve the color you want.”

As he works, Tamai swiftly adjusts spray patterns by checking color particles, how the color sets, color shades, depth and lustre. It takes a master craftsmen like Tamai to keep a sharply honed eye on the two essential steps of car painting, paint adjustment and spray application. Through such passion, a car’s inherent beauty is enhanced.Mazda Japanese Mastery Takumi Designers

Finessing the Fabrications

Fabrications, from seat surfaces to the steering wheel, are the foundation of premium interior cabin design. Even a slight difference in where a seam is placed can impact the impression it creates.

“I want people to think, ‘This is good,’ when they see and touch those parts,” said expert fabricator Osamu Fujiki. “I want them to feel Mazda’s devotion to design. If they do, I believe they will feel the joy of driving and love their cars all the more.”

To create elegant yet playful combinations of materials and form in seam design, Fujiki looks both within the elements and heritage of Mazda and to the aesthetics of the world at large—for instance, the hilt ornament of a Japanese sword. A master craftsman’s stitching expertise gives the cabin space a unique identity and new edge that reference the most beautiful and innovative forms.

The embodiment of the highest level of training and integrity, these Takumi craftsmen believe that creativity and mastery is a way of being—a form of self-expression to evolve beauty—and that they can transfer this philosophy of passion, knowledge and energy into the vehicles they create. In the Mazda6, these master artisans manifest their unparalleled skills through the highest quality interior Signature Trim package with hand-stitched Nappa leather seats, Real Sen wood, and rich suede finishes, all meticulously crafted.

They refer to it as breathing life into each vehicle. We like to think that with the 2018 Mazda6, they absolutely have.