Yamaha Papercraft Designer talks about 20 years of paper motorcycles

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For over 20 years, Yamaha has featured a dedicated paper craft section on its website. If you wanted to spend your time, energy and X-Acto knife skills creating intricate paper models of Yamaha motorcycles, the company was absolutely here for you. After all, how are you going to install an entire VMAX on your desktop (while still having room to work)?

Better yet for the aspiring artist of paper motorcycles, Yamaha didn’t even charge users for these designs. Instead, he provided the models for free, so anyone could download, print, and create Yamaha paper sculptures as they liked. Eventually, the company also started to offer paper models of rare animals, for a bit more variety.

Eventually, however, Yamaha decided that their papercraft project had run its course. He closed the project in 2018, although at least one fan tried to archive all designs online for a bit longer. This archive site has since disappeared, but do you know who is still there? The unique designer behind all of these gorgeous Yamaha paper designs, Nobutaka Mukouyama. He recently sat down with the Japanese publication Mosaic talk about his work in a long interview.

Yamaha Papercraft VMAX - Front view

As Mukouyama recounts, in 1997 he was working in a design company under contract with Yamaha for the next edition of the Tokyo Motor Show. Someone else at the design company suggested a paper motorcycle, but the design seemed quite too primitive and simple in Mukouyama’s eyes. He was nice about it, but basically said ‘let me do it’ and started the incredibly detailed path that Yamaha’s paper work ended up taking. Having just one person working on the project kept costs down, so naturally the OEM was involved as well.

Life informs art, and Mukouyama became interested in both model making and product design from an early age. He even went to school for the latter. By combining these two interests with paper, the end result produced both relatively simple Yamaha paper models, as well as the incredibly detailed Ultra Precision series that came later. Some important models in Yamaha history have come to life in these incredibly detailed forms, like this YA-1 kit.

Mukouyama relied on several tools to design, prototype and refine each bike before releasing the final design for public consumption. Adobe Illustrator helped him sketch the ideas, then came prototyping with various hand tools and paper. First he used inexpensive drawing paper and then later switched to more sophisticated paper, especially if he was building a model for display or display. Some prototypes, like the Ultra Precision MT-10 series, took around 2,000 hours of development from start to finish.

Although the Yamaha Paper Craft Projects website is no longer active, Mukouyama says the most rewarding part of this job is the enthusiasm some people had (and continue to have) for it. Even now, he said he still had enthusiasts contacting him about their own paper craft models that they built using his designs. Turns out some Yamis don’t even need motors to make your heart run.

Although the designs are currently not available on Yamaha’s website, Mukouyama is active on both Instagram and Twitter. He occasionally posts links to purchase some of his paper model kits from Mercari Japan, so you will still be able to locate them from time to time.

Yamaha’s craft projects continue into 2021, currently focusing on amigurumi and needle-felting projects such as the YZF-R1M face mask and, more recently, the YZF-R1M silencer. We love that Yamaha believes in creating fun projects like these for the enjoyment of enthusiasts, and hope they continue to do so.


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