For more than 20 years, Yamaha featured a dedicated papercrafts section on its website. If you wanted to spend your time, energy, and exacting X-Acto knife skills creating intricate paper models of Yamaha motorbikes, the company was absolutely there for you. After all, how else are you going to fit a whole VMAX on your desk (and still have room to work)? 

Best of all for the aspiring paper motorcycle artist, Yamaha didn’t even charge users for these designs. Instead, it provided the patterns free of charge, so anyone could download them, print them out, and create paper Yamaha sculptures to their heart’s content. Eventually, the company began offering papercraft models of rare animals as well, for a little extra variety.  

Eventually, though, Yamaha decided that its papercraft project had run its course. It closed down the project in 2018, although at least one fan tried to archive all the designs online for a little while longer. That archive site has since disappeared, but you know who’s still here? The single designer behind all those beautiful Yamaha papercraft designs, Nobutaka Mukouyama. He recently sat down with Japanese publication Mosai to talk about his work in a lengthy interview. 

Yamaha Papercraft YA-1- Engine Closeup

As Mukouyama tells it, back in 1997, he was working at a design company contracted by Yamaha for the upcoming edition of the Tokyo Motor Show. Someone else at the design company suggested a paper motorcycle, but the design looked entirely too primitive and simple to Mukouyama’s eye. He was nice about it, but basically said “let me do it” and started down the incredibly detailed path that Yamaha’s papercrafts ended up taking. Having just one person working on the project kept costs down, so naturally the OEM was on board, as well. 

Life informs art, and Mukouyama had been 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, and also the incredibly detailed Ultra Precision series that came later. Certain important models from Yamaha’s history came alive in these incredibly detailed forms, such as this YA-1 kit

Mukouyama relied on multiple tools to design, prototype, and refine each bike before releasing the final design for public consumption. Adobe Illustrator helped him get the ideas sketched out, and then came prototyping with various hand tools and paper. First, he used inexpensive drawing paper, and then later he’d move up to fancier paper, particularly if he was building a model that was intended for display or exhibition. Some prototypes, such as the one for the Ultra Precision-series MT-10, took around 2,000 hours to develop from start to finish. 

Gallery: Yamaha Papercraft Gallery created by Nobutaka Mukouyama

Although Yamaha’s papercraft projects website is no longer active, Mukouyama says the most rewarding part of doing this work is the enthusiasm some people had (and continue to have) for it. Even now, he said that he still gets enthusiasts reaching out to him about their own papercraft models that they’ve built using his designs. It turns out that some Yamahas don’t even need motors to rev your heart.  

While the patterns are currently unavailable on Yamaha’s website, Mukouyama is active on both Instagram and Twitter. He occasionally posts links to purchase some of his papercraft model kits on Mercari Japan, so you may still be able to locate them there from time to time. 

Yamaha’s craft projects continue in 2021, with its current focus on amigurumi and needle felting projects such as the YZF-R1M face mask and most recently, the YZF-R1M muffler. We love that Yamaha believes in creating fun projects like these for enthusiasts to enjoy, and hope that they continue to do so. 

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