Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mazda Museum: Past, Present, and Future in 1 Hour

Hiroshima is often not high on a typical tourist’s list of “must-see, must-go places”. Getting there requires advanced planning since it takes a two-hour Shinkansen (bullet train) ride from the international hub city of Osaka (Kansai International Airport). Plus once you get there, the city center itself has little to offer compared to the likes of Tokyo and Kyoto. However a train transfer away from downtown brings you to the beautiful island of Miyajima and its floating torii gate in one direction, and on the opposite direction, the Mazda Museum.

The Mazda Museum is a five-minute walk from the JR Mukainada Station and situated right inside the Mazda Hiroshima Assembly Plant. Since it’s a fully working factory, advanced reservations are required (for security reasons) and photography is regulated in sensitive areas. The tour itself is guided and takes visitors through Mazda’s history, its present and its future.

The first area, “Entrance Hall” showcases the latest models from Mazda including their latest masterpiece, the CX-5 compact crossover and its fuel-efficient Skyactiv-G engine. The same area also shows all the Mazda vehicles past and present that have been judged as Japan Car of the Year including the Mazda Familia, Capella, and Roadster.

After a short introductory video on Mazda, visitors are ushered to the second area, “History”. Here, visitors can read through Mazda’s corporate history from its humble beginnings as a manufacturer of cork to becoming one of the world’s most recognizable car brands. Key vehicles from Mazda’s history are kept here in pristine condition including its first car, the 1960 R360, the 1967 Rotary-powered Cosmo Sport and several versions of the RX-7 sports car.

Its history with the rotary engine makes for the perfect segue to the next area, “Rotary” which highlights Mazda’s pride and joy: rotary engine technology. Detailed explanations on how the rotary engine works as well as its different iterations are all showcased here. But of course, the biggest highlight by far is the actual Mazda 787B (Chassis 787B-002) that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

In “Technology”, visitors are given a glimpse of how Mazda develops a car from conception to production using the RX-8 as an example. The tour then transfers onto a girdle walk overlooking the U1 Assembly Line which at the moment assembles the Mazda Demio (Mazda 2). Everything ends with “Future” which shows Mazda’s commitment to develop environmentally-friendly but fun-to-drive cars. Here, they showcase the latest concept cars as well as new and upcoming technologies such as hydrogen power and of course, Skyactiv.

Since the tour’s guided, you’ll often find yourself under extreme time pressure to read all the plaques or take pictures. Nonetheless, it provides an excellent glimpse to one of Japan’s most storied car companies. It may take two hours from Osaka to get to, but the trip was more than worth it. Indeed, a trip to the Mazda Museum is something both the enthusiast and non-enthusiast will appreciate.

Where: Mukainada, Hirsohima
Closed: Saturdays and Sundays (Advanced Reservations Required)
Hours: 10:00 am (for individuals and small groups)

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