Home Facts and History The Remarkable Life of Jujiro Matsuda and the Making of Mazda

The Remarkable Life of Jujiro Matsuda and the Making of Mazda


Mazda is one of the largest automakers in Japan and in the world. Worldwide, Mazda car sales reached 1.1 million cars in 2002. The company is known for its innovative technologies, making Mazda cars impressive. But the company’s success now wouldn’t have been possible without Jujiro Matsuda founding the company in the first place.

Matsuda has made his fortune – rising from his humble beginnings at a small fishing village in Hiroshima to become a highly respected and successful businessman of a multinational car company. His journey is a true rags-to-riches story about determination, resilience, ingenuity, and innovation. This post takes you through the life of Matsuda, revealing how his early challenges and creative thinking shaped Mazda into a brand known for its unique approach to car manufacturing.

Early Life and Career

Jujiro Matsuda’s story begins in Hiroshima, Japan, where he was born on August 6, 1875. He was the 12th son of a poor fisherman in Mukainada. He started fishing early in his childhood after his father died when he was just three years old. This early life experience instilled in him a strong sense of determination and resilience.

Apprenticeship and Early Innovations

At the age of 14, Matsuda embarked on a path that would define his career. He moved to Osaka on his own, where he began an apprenticeship with a blacksmith. This experience was crucial not only in honing his skills in metalwork and machinery but also in igniting his passion for the machine industry. It was here that Matsuda’s inventive spirit came to light. By the age of 20, he opened his first metalworking shop.

The Invention of the Matsuda-Type Pump

One of Matsuda’s significant early achievements happened when he was 31 years old, with the invention of the “Matsuda pump” in 1906. He patented his creation, bringing a certain prosperity to his young family. He later took over management of the foundry, where he apprenticed and launched his own venture, the Matsuda Pump Partnership.

However, he was eventually forced out of his own company, but he responded with resilience. He then launched an arms manufacturing company named Matsuda Works. His business acumen and manufacturing prowess became evident as his company flourished. His fortunes really improved when he was commissioned to supply armaments to the Tsar of Russia and as the manufacturer of the Type 99 rifle for the Imperial Japanese Armed Forces. In its heyday, Matsuda Works employed some 4,000 people.

Founding of Mazda

Outside a Mazda car dealership

After his early achievements with the Matsuda-type pump, the management of his foundry, and his arms manufacturing company, Matsuda Works – he moved back to Hiroshima. With accumulated wealth and reputation, he was asked to take over management of the struggling Toyo Cork Kogyo Co., Ltd., an artificial cork manufacturer, in 1921. His co-owners in Matsuda Works were opposed to his move, so he eventually left his own company.

The Transformation of Toyo Cork Kogyo and the Birth of Mazda

Once again, Matsuda was met with adversity and an ambition to start afresh. Under Matsuda’s leadership, Toyo Cork Kogyo, who was initially engaged in the cork business, transformed. When Matsuda became the company director, he began transitioning the business away from cork production as the demand for cork was quickly declining. A factory fire in 1925 didn’t help – so Matsuda decided to steer the business in a new direction.

Matsuda renamed the company, dropping ‘Cork’ from its title, and refocused on metalworks. This change laid the groundwork for the company’s future success. It wasn’t long before Matsuda introduced the Mazda-Go, a three-wheeled truck that marked the company’s first venture into vehicle manufacturing – a decision that would pave the way for many more innovations.

Toyo Kogyo won big with the Mazda-Go, but their 10-car-a-day production wasn’t enough to satisfy the demand. The Mazda-Go was a game-changer in Japan’s narrow city streets, allowing for the transport of larger goods. It boasted advanced features for its time, like a four-stroke engine, showcasing Matsuda’s knack for breaking conventions and succeeding. Top of Form

The Significance of the Name ‘Mazda’

The name ‘Mazda’ itself is significant in the company’s history. The word is not only reminiscent of the Matsuda family name, but it was derived from Ahura Mazda, the Persian god of harmony, intelligence, and wisdom.

Challenges and Decisions During World War II

After his success with Mazda-Go, Matsuda even had ambitions to launch a four-wheeled car in 1940, but World War II halted those plans. Then, in 1945, the devastating atomic bombing brought a sudden and dramatic pause to life and progress in Hiroshima.

The Impact of War on Toyo Kogyo

As the war intensified, Toyo Kogyo, like many Japanese companies at the time, found itself in a challenging position. The company was tapped to produce weapons for the Japanese military, aligning its manufacturing capabilities with the war effort. This period was marked by a shift in focus from automobile manufacturing to armament production, a common trend among industrial firms during wartime.

The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima and Its Aftermath

One of the most devastating events of the war for Toyo Kogyo and Hiroshima was the atomic bombing in August 1945. The Toyo Kogyo headquarters in Hiroshima suffered heavy damage, but the plant, located over 5 kilometers from the epicenter, was unharmed. Matsuda himself narrowly escaped being vaporized by the bomb that day – he and his driver were thrown off the road by the impact as they were on the way back to the company, but they were unscathed. This stroke of fortune played a crucial role in the company’s post-war recovery.

However, the emotional toll of the atomic bombing was devastating. In an instant, 80,000 lives were lost, including many Toyo Kogyo employees. The damage extended far beyond physical destruction, affecting families and homes. Yet, the people of Mukainada showed remarkable resilience.

Led by Jujiro Matsuda and his son Tsuneji, the community began rebuilding. They converted the Mukainada plant into a multi-purpose facility, serving as a hospital, city hall, police station, courthouse, and newspaper office. This transformation was part of their effort to support the community, with employees actively helping locals reconnect with their family members. This response highlighted the city’s and the Matsuda family’s unyielding spirit and commitment to recovery in the face of overwhelming adversity.

Just four months after the devastating attack on Hiroshima, the company was back on its feet, ready to restart the production of its three-wheelers. With the nation in the midst of reconstruction, the demand for cargo vehicles skyrocketed, leading to a significant uptick in business.

However, the experience of the Hiroshima bombing had fundamentally changed the company. The shared adversity the city and the company faced fostered a new resolve to confront challenges with determination and resilience. This attitude, known as the “Mukainada Spirit,” emerged from the tragedy and continues to influence Mazda’s ethos to this day, embodying a never-give-up attitude that is a hallmark of the company’s identity.

Matsuda’s Role in Post-War Hiroshima

In the aftermath of the war and during the Allied occupation of Japan, Matsuda’s leadership took on a new dimension. He was not accused nor formally charged as a war conspirator, allowing him to focus on rebuilding both his company and the city of Hiroshima. Toyo Kogyo became a driving force in the economic recovery of Hiroshima, showcasing Matsuda’s commitment to his community and nation.

In 1950, Matsuda supported the establishment of a baseball team, the Hiroshima Carp. This initiative was not just about sports; it was a symbol of resilience and community spirit in the face of adversity.

Final Years, Retirement, and Death

In 1951, Matsuda made a crucial decision to pass Mazda’s managerial reins to his son, Tsuneji Matsuda. This transition marked the end of his active role in the day-to-day operations of the company. However, he continued to serve as chairman, maintaining an influential presence in the company’s strategic direction and overarching vision.

When Tsuneji took over as president of Toyo Kogyo in 1951, the company had already made a name for itself with its Mazda three-wheelers and some four-wheeled utility vehicles. However, Tsuneji, carrying forward his father’s legacy, was determined to enter the passenger car market. His vision came to fruition in 1960 with the launch of the Mazda R360 Coupé, a compact kei car that quickly became popular in Japan. The R360 Coupé’s success, characterized by its unique coupé design and technical innovations like lightweight construction, resonated with Japan’s growing middle class.

By 1963, Mazda had hit the one million milestone in total production, and this number had doubled by 1966, showcasing the company’s rapid growth under Tsuneji’s leadership.

Matsuda’s Death

Unfortunately, Jujiro Matsuda did not live to see this milestone. He died in his home in Hiroshima on March 27, 1952, at the age of 76, just three months after his retirement.

To honor Jujiro Matsuda’s contributions to Hiroshima Prefecture, a bronze statue of him was crafted by renowned sculptor Katsuzou Entsuba in 1965. This statue was then placed in Hijiyama Park, located in Minami-ku, Hiroshima, as a tribute to his lasting impact on the region.

Jujiro Matsuda’s Vision and Leadership

Jujiro Matsuda’s leadership style and vision were instrumental in shaping the corporate culture and identity of Mazda, leaving an indelible mark on the company that continues to resonate to this day.

A Culture Driven by Passion for Manufacturing

Matsuda’s early years, marked by a fervent passion for manufacturing and innovation, deeply influenced Mazda’s corporate ethos. Growing up in challenging circumstances and experiencing firsthand the transformative power of dedication and hard work, Matsuda instilled a culture of perseverance and resilience within Mazda. He championed the importance of quality and technological advancement, ensuring that these principles became the bedrock of the company’s philosophy.

Commitment to Technological Excellence and Innovation

Matsuda’s vision was not just about building vehicles; it was about pushing the boundaries of engineering and design. He believed in the power of technology to improve lives and contribute to society. This belief led Mazda to focus on in-house manufacturing of parts and dedicated research and development, setting the company apart in an industry often reliant on overseas technologies.

Matsuda’s Philosophy and the Corporate Mark

Matsuda’s philosophy is also reflected in the Toyo Kogyo’s corporate mark, a combination of a circle, symbolizing the earth, and the Chinese character for industry and engineering. This symbolizes his commitment to contributing to the world through the machine industry. His approach was not just about commercial success but also about using engineering expertise to give back to society.

The Legacy of ‘Faith’ and Resilience

Matsuda often spoke about the role of ‘faith’ in guiding his decisions and actions. This tenet became a guiding principle for Mazda, symbolizing faith in one’s capabilities and the future. Throughout his life, he threaded thorny and rocky paths full of difficulties, but his trust in himself is what drove him forward. His journey from a humble beginning to leading a global automotive company is a testament to this belief, encouraging generations of Mazda employees to pursue their goals with determination and confidence.

Contribution to Hiroshima’s Revival

Matsuda’s commitment to Hiroshima, the city where he began his entrepreneurial journey, remained steadfast until the end of his life. His support in establishing the Hiroshima Carp baseball team in 1950 was a significant contribution to the city’s post-war cultural and social revival. This initiative was more than just about sports; it symbolized hope and resilience in a city rebuilding from the war’s devastation.

Jujiro Matsuda’s Lasting Legacy in the Automotive World and Beyond

Jujiro Matsuda’s legacy extends far beyond his tenure at Mazda, leaving a lasting impact on the automotive industry and serving as an enduring inspiration in the realms of entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership.

Pioneering Contributions to the Automotive Industry

Matsuda’s innovative spirit and dedication to quality manufacturing played a pivotal role in Mazda’s early successes and its enduring reputation as a producer of unique and technologically advanced vehicles. His early work, notably the development of the “Mazda-Go” motorized tricycle, set the stage for Mazda’s future as a significant player in the automotive world. The Mazda name, inspired by both a Persian deity symbolizing wisdom and Matsuda’s own family name, became synonymous with quality, innovation, and technological prowess.

Influencing Corporate Philosophy and Culture

Matsuda’s philosophy of perseverance, commitment to quality, and dedication to societal contribution became deeply ingrained in Mazda’s corporate culture. His belief in the importance of manufacturing and technological excellence laid the foundation for Mazda’s future innovations and business approach. His leadership style, characterized by resilience and a forward-thinking mindset, continues to influence the company’s vision and decision-making processes.

A Symbol of Resilience and Hope

Matsuda’s life story, marked by humble beginnings and significant challenges, stands as a testament to the power of resilience, hard work, and faith in one’s vision. His contributions to the rebuilding of Hiroshima after World War II, including his support for the Hiroshima Carp baseball team, highlight his commitment to community and social responsibility. Matsuda’s impact goes beyond the automotive industry, serving as an inspiration for entrepreneurs, leaders, and individuals who aspire to make a meaningful difference in their fields and communities.


The story of Jujiro Matsuda is more than a chapter in Mazda’s history – it’s a story of resilience and innovation. Matsuda’s ability to transform challenges into opportunities led Mazda from its modest beginnings to a globally recognized brand. His approach to business and dedication to quality continues to influence Mazda today, reminding us that with the right mindset and commitment, significant achievements are always within reach.

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