Between scale plastic model kits and the art of origami paper folding, lies Japanese paper craft. Often pre-printed with graphics and textures, paper craft kits can be found for anything from vehicles, architecture, movie characters, and historical figures. Paper craft designer Nobutaka Mukaiyama produced paper motorcycle kits for Yamaha for over 20 years, producing everything from classic bikes, commuters, and MotoGP bikes.
According to Mosai WEB, a Japanese motorcycle magazine, Mr. Mukaiyama was approached to do promotional materials for Yamaha in 1997. The original plan was to produce a simple cutout box on the back of a catalogue, but Mr. Mukaiyama ran with the idea and created a far more intricate motorcycle model, produced in paper to keep cost and complexity down. From there, Yamaha began offering paper craft models on their website, not just of their motorcycles, but of rare animals, seasonal scenes, and greeting cards.
A graduate of the Department of Industrial Design at Hachioji Kogakuin College, Mr. Mukaiyama’s first model for Yamaha was of the VMAX, and was produced for the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show Special Site. From there, Yamaha started offering various paper craft kits on their website of such models as the 1998 YZF-R1, 2000 XJR1300, and the 50th anniversary M1 from the 2005 USGP.
Painstakingly detailed, the models took as long as a year and 2000 hours to create, utilizing Adobe Illustrator software and a lot of hands on paper prototyping. The creators would also have access to 3D computer models of the motorcycles.
Sadly, Yamaha Global decided to discontinue their paper craft website in 2018, much to the dismay of paper craft enthusiasts. Mr. Mukaiyama says he still gets requests for Yamaha kits, or to do new ones. Users from the website Reddit.com got word of the impending closing of the Yamaha paper craft website, and archived the contents before the site was shut down. Web.archive.org’s Wayback Machine also has most of the original site archived.
Sources: mc-web.jp, global.yamaha-motor.com, vice.com