Jinba Ittai meaning: Mazda’s design philosophy explained

On our latest episode of Drive TV, we explored the notion of Jinba Ittai touring the Victorian High Country in a Mazda MX-5. But what does it actually mean? Here’s everything you need to know about the brand’s design philosophy.

What does Jinba Ittai translate to?

The Japanese phrase Jinba Ittai translates to ‘person [and] horse [as] one body’. The term is particularly crucial to Yabusame – a traditional Japanese archery.


What exactly is Jinba Ittai?

Jinba Ittai refers to the experience of a rider connecting with their horse. Just as a horse responds to its rider, that’s the perfect harmony you can expect when driving a Mazda, namely a Mazda sports car.

The company has made it its duty to promote a sense of connection, adopting the belief that if the car isn’t fun or comfortable to drive, then the connection is lost.

Along with a strong bond between car and driver, Jinba Ittai was created with the intention of providing a safe and stress-free driving experience.

What’s more, just as a horse communicates through tactile responses with its rider, Mazda’s belief is that the same relationship should occur between car and driver.

The Mazda MX-5 was one of the first vehicles that trialled the Jinba Ittai design philosophy, after which the brand intended to execute the theory in all future concepts.


How does Jinba Ittai translate to the real world?

Behind the wheel, Jinba Ittai should make the car feel like a natural extension of the driver’s being. The sense of connection and oneness is the intention, seemingly making every drive enjoyable.

For example, Mazda has ensured that strength and balance are of utmost importance. The positioning of something like the gear selector is crucial, so that the driver is using the correct muscles to operate it.

Who created Jinba Ittai?

Jinba Ittai first originated in 1987. It was created by Tetsu Kasahara, who was the Assistant Manager of the Chassis Dynamics Development Department at Mazda at the time.

Before it became the brand’s philosophy, Kasahara had the phrase printed on his business cards. The engineering expert was the first person to put the ideology into practice.


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