One day, Denis, the founder of the website “Ruote Leggendarie”, who was in contact with the president of Fiat Ritmo Club Italia, told me that there was a Japanese member in the Club. If that had been all I heard, I would have thought that some people were just that enthusiastic. But I continued to listen to him. He told that the member was a lady and her name was “Ritmo”. What I thought when I heard that was “I have never heard such name in Japan”. I thought she might be using a nickname to let the other members remember her easier. I thought “Does that name really exist?” and I searched on the internet with half confidence. I found an article in Japanese about her and her car Ritmo! She does exist! She is the Japanese member of Ritmo Club Italia. I sent a message to her and then she replied very quickly. A rhythmic messages exchanging began between us.
What I heard from her about herself, her vehicle and also her family was quite unique and interesting so I would like to write this article in two parts.
Fiat Ritmo had been produced around the end of 70s to the end of 80s in Italy. It was very popular as a family vehicle. My father in law also owned one even it was for a short period. Then why does this Japanese lady have the same name as a vehicle that was popular in Italy some time ago?
Ritmo, her name is “璃萌” (in latin letters “Ritomo”) but I will write “Ritmo” or “She” in this article, was born a little bit more than 20 years ago as 4th daughter in a family who was running a car repair and maintenance service. The father, who has already passed away, was not only working as a technic but was also participating rallies with his beloved Ritmo, Lancia Delta and 124 Spider with enthusiasm.
Her parents were not particularly keen to teach her about cars when she was little, but being surrounded by cars all the time, she naturally developed an interest in cars. When she was little, she liked cars, shinkansen, trains, ores, space and other things that boys generally like. When she went out in the car, she would play a game by herself to guess the name of cars driving nearby. She liked cars, and big working cars in general. One of the interesting stories is that her mother used to drive her to and from nursery school in a Lancia Delta Integrale 16C. It seems that even as a child she was experiencing a different kind of car life.
Because of the unusual name, her friends made fun of her and gave her strange nicknames, but time passed without even asking her parents for the origin of her name. Then, when she was in the third year of primary school, she had the opportunity to present the origin of her name in class and asked her parents for the first time. Just around the time she was born, her father liked the Fiat Ritmo and drove it all the time, both on a daily basis and in rallies. His love for it was so strong that he wanted to name his child Ritmo and the mother was happy to accept the name. Her mother also hoped that she would grow up to be bright and cheerful, as “ritmo” means “rhythm” in Italian. It was only when she was researching the origin of her name in the third year of primary school that she learned that there was a car with the same name as hers, Ritmo, and she became interested in what kind of car it was and whether it was nice enough to choose as a name for a child.
As there are four sisters, I asked about the names of the other three sisters. She told that one of them is named after a Japanese racing driver. When asked if she might name her children after cars in the future, she said absolutely not. After all, she doesn’t want her children to be made fun of or, like herself, to try to get a car with her/his name on it, which would be very expensive and difficult.
Ritmo started to take an interest in the Fiat Ritmo in the third grade, and by the time she was in junior high school, she decided that she wanted to ride it one day. She started to read international articles about Ritmo and to read enthusiastically the blogs of Ritmo users in Japan. And so time passed, and in the meantime her feelings for Ritmo grew. When reached the age to get a licence, many people in Japan would get an automatic-only licence, but she got a licence to drive a manual car thinking “so that I can drive a Ritmo one day”.
The idea that “someday I want to ride Ritmo” does not disappear even after she started to work. About three years after that, when she had a bit more money to spare, she started to think more about riding a Ritmo. She went to see two used Ritmo’s in Nagoya, as she had been looking for one for a while. She thought she was just going to see them, but when she noticed the Ritmo she is riding now, she immediately decided to buy it. That was around the beginning of 2019, the contract was then signed and the car was delivered at the end of August. This was the moment when she finally received the car she has been dreaming of for years.
I asked her what she likes about the Ritmo she owns now. She has always been a fan of hatchbacks with an edgy look. You don’t see in cars these days, and the Ritmo is first and foremost a car that looks good from the back. The discreet spoiler matches the small bodywork. The press line from the side is also very good and shows Bertone’s taste as without it the car would look flat. The car is small, weights less than one ton and has a two-litre engine, which gives it good acceleration when stepping on the pedal, good handling, and the sound of the engine breath from the driver’s seat is superb and she is happy just to ride it.
According to people who owned a Ritmo, it has a lot of breakdowns. Her Ritmo had a lot of breakdowns in the first year or so after she bought it, but it has been repaired and maintained each time. Now it’s in pretty good condition. There is a lot to do if she wants to modify it, but she wants to take care of it in a relaxed way, consulting with time and money. I’ll write more about what she told me about breakdowns and maintenance in the next article as it’s a long story.
She uses the Ritmo for commuting and weekend trips, except in the middle of summer when the temperature can reach 40 degrees Celsius and in the cold of winter when the roads are frozen and covered with salt. She has a second car, but when the weather is good, she drives the Ritmo all the time.
She said she has never been abroad and speaks neither Italian nor English. I wondered why and how she had joined the Italian Ritmo Club, but it seems that a strong feeling of love for Ritmo can make anything possible. She said that she learned about the Italian Ritmo Club while researching about Ritmo around the world since she bought it. She contacted the club in Italy, where her car was once built and used, to let them know that Ritmo is still going strong in distant Japan. She has been using translation software by putting words together and she seems to be able to comunicate with other members. After becoming a member of the club and communicating with them, recently other members have started to worry not only about cars but also about the coronavirus situation in Japan. Sometimes the other members send her messages saying ‘Hello’ in Japanese. In the beginning, they didn’t believe that she was a woman and that her name was Ritmo. She is very grateful to the members of the club for welcoming her in such a warm way.
In the next article, I’d like to talk about the maintenance history of her Ritmo, other things Ritmo would like to do in the future with her Ritmo, and a bit more about herself. Stay connected.