may 04, 2021 - Mazda

Beauty born from love – Mazda and Italian design

When Japanese automobile designer and journalist Hideyuki “Hide” Miyakawa met translator Maria Luisa “Marisa” Bassano at the Turin #auto Show in 1960, it was not only the beginning of an enduring love story. It also built a connection between Italian love for beauty and Japanese technological ingenuity – a historical moment that reverberated in many #mazda models of subsequent decades.

What could, at first glance at least, be more opposite than Japanese and Italian design? The differences between the two go much further than just the look of things and touch upon fundamentally different cultural imprints on each side. The history of Western societies is interspersed with distinctive, unchanging geometric shapes, like the Roman Coliseum, Greek columns or Gothic cathedrals.

Japanese Zen philosophy, on the other hand, appreciates constant movement, adaptation and renewal as it considers things without form, like wind or water, to be the strongest. This has had long-lasting effects on each country’s culture and has been reflected in the #design methodology of even modern products, including vehicles. Italian-designed cars have been engrained in car culture’s collective memory with unforgettable, sensual forms, while Japanese car #design is usually more unadorned, flowing, harmonious. But as the saying goes, opposites attract.

The latest demonstration of this is Ikuo Maeda’s award-winning “Kodo – Soul of Motion” #design which has been shaping #mazda passenger cars since its inception in 2010, providing a unifying line and expressing beauty and emotion, inspired by Mazda’s cooperation with Italian #design studios in the past, while still being deeply connected to Japan’s traditions and cultural identity.

A defining moment in bringing these apparent opposites together came to pass in the 1960s – when a Japanese automobile designer and journalist fell in love with an Italian woman with a passion for cars and everything Japanese.

A lasting bridge between East and West was built, and through their contacts to both #mazda and legendary Italian carrozzerias such as Bertone, the pair laid the foundations for what many car enthusiasts would view as the perfect combination: Japanese engineering and Italian #design.


It all began in 1960. 22-year-old Hideyuki “Hide” Miyakawa and a friend of his took some time off from their work as automobile designers to go on a motorcycle trip around the world. They started their journey in South-East Asia, crossed India and Pakistan, the Middle East and finally, Europe, writing articles about their experiences for a Japanese publication.

One place in Europe immediately stood out for Hide: “When I arrived in Italy in 1960, first in Rome and then in Turin, I immediately realised that it was a special place. You saw culture, art and style everywhere.” And the Turin #auto Show was an obvious point of interest for the two automobile designers. And that was when Hide met Marisa, one of the many translators employed by the show’s organizers for their international audience. The young woman from Turin was studying Japanese but also took an interest in cars. Hide, meanwhile, was a massive fan of Italy and a car nut as well – a match made in heaven.

Further information in the press release to download

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