Last week, my family and I had the opportunity to learn more about Mazda. I was already familiar with the brand but not so much with the culture and motivation behind it. I didn’t realize how large of an impact these factors play in how Mazda approaches vehicle design. So, we packed up our things and made our way to Japantown in San Francisco.
Mazda & the Japanese Culture — Japantown
We settled into our one-bedroom suite at Hotel Kabuki and then set off to explore a bit. The room was pretty amazing with shoji screens, a deep bath, and in-room sauna.
Japantown consists of a connected shopping center that spans several blocks. It is full of small shops that feature Japanese goods, snacks, trinkets, media, and more. If you like new, cool, and cute things, it is so enjoyable to roam around here.
Dinner was at Benihana. It was actually the first time my family and I have eaten here. The food was okay but the tableside dinner show was A+. Super cute gesture to have the rice shaped into an “I love Mazda” message. 🙂 If you have someone with food allergies eating with you, you have to be extra careful. You may want to ask to have your food cooked in the back if you notice danger of cross contamination.
Mazda & the Japanese Culture — Japanese Tea Garden
Day two started at the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Our family took a Mazda3 over (review coming soon). We were able to learn about matcha tea and watch a traditional tea ceremony. Such a relaxing custom. We had a short time to check out the grounds and then we had lunch. Just so you know, the iced green tea and the green tea cheesecake are delicious! Drinks were gluten free but the snacks aren’t.
The guided tour around the garden was so interesting. The Golden Gate Park area dates back to 1870 and was once full of sand dunes. The Japanese Tea Garden is the oldest Japanese garden in the U.S. The Hagiwara family landscaped and cared for garden. In 1942, along with other Japanese Americans, the family was sent to an internment camp. Their home was destroyed but many of Mr. Hagiwara’s work lives on in the garden today. After walking around a bit more, our family piled into a Mazda CX-3 to head back to the hotel.
Mazda & the Japanese Culture — Calligraphy
Time for traditional Japanese calligraphy lessons! Whew, this was harder than it looked. The calligraphy master gave us a brief history of the 1500 years of Japanese calligraphy. The language includes 2036 kanji characters (based on Chinese characters), 51 hiragana characters (simplified, phonetic), and 51 katakana characters (simplified, phonetic, used for non-Japanese words). She also talked about technique, different brushes, and how the art is an extension of one’s emotions. We could choose one of five example characters to practice. Then we created a “final” piece to frame.
Mazda & the Japanese Culture — Sushi Making Lessons
We actually had to make our own food for dinner. That’s not a problem when you have sushi making lessons with a professional chef at the Miele Experience Center. First, though, we heard from Director of R&D Engineering for Mazda North American Operations, Kelvin Hiraishi. He explained how Mazda reflects the fighting spirit of where the brand originated, Hiroshima.
That southern part of Japan survived tragic events and is now thriving due to hard work and determination. This is referred to as the “Challenger Spirit.” The company aims to create vehicles that encourage a “joy of driving.” The perspective he offered helped me understand why Mazda cars perform the way they do. Drivers should feel like one with their car and enjoy the experience that driving can offer.
Back to sushi making. Chef Kaz demonstrated each step and then set us free to try it ourselves. Our first dish consisted of California Rolls with Dungeness crab, avocado, cucumbers, and rice. Our second dish was a Rainbow Roll. This is roll had spicy tuna inside and raw salmon, tuna, and yellowtail on the outside. It was so much fun for each person to make their own food. I think my family did pretty well! By the way, only gluten-free soy sauce (Temari) was used as it’s just easier since so many have an allergy to wheat! 😉
Mazda & the Japanese Culture — Mazda CX-9 Joyride
On day three, Frans and I had a bit of time in the morning so we took the Mazda CX-9 for a spin. Wow, this is an impressive 7-seat SUV/CUV! Every seat is comfortable, even in the third row. There are a ton of bells and whistles, including the projected speedometer. The hills of San Francisco presented no problems for the small but powerful turbo engine with ZERO rolling!
Then it was time for the main event — 2016 J-POP Summit. There’s too much to write about here so I’ll have to tell you about that in the next post! 😉
My family and I were invited for an all-expense paid weekend event with Mazda. All opinions are my own.