A Facility for Exchange and Communication that Gathers the “Unique Style of Yamaha” to Pass on to the Future
The Communication Plaza located on the grounds of Yamaha Motor headquarters in Iwata, Shizuoka Prefecture is where you will find on public display a full collection of definitive models from the company's earliest years to the present day, the latest offerings from our various business lines and the generations of racing machines that form a vital part of our Spirit of Challenge.
The Plaza opens its doors not only to those who work in the global Yamaha Motor group and our business partners but also to the local community and the general public. Here, visitors can see the company's history and future, get a picture of the global spread of our products and services and discover things about Yamaha they never knew before.
In this issue, we introduce this venue that seeks to be a place for broad-ranging exchange and communication.
A Corporate Museum Actively Collecting and Reaching Out with Our Corporate Heritage
The Communication Plaza (hereafter, “the Plaza”) was completed and opened in 1998. The facility was the result of a project to celebrate Yamaha Motor's 40th anniversary. The three-story building has a unique geometrical design with a modern atmosphere built around a spacious central atrium. Today, about 200 models old and new from our various product lines are on display, primarily motorcycles but also snowmobiles, recreational vehicles, electrically power-assisted bicycles, outboard motors and more. In addition to these displays, there are others presenting our corporate culture and history, displays related to Yamaha Monozukuri, areas that allow visitors to actually get on a number of different motorcycles or try operating a variety of products, and a hands-on learning corner for holding educational events for children. The Plaza also has a library with a wealth of books and other materials, event/lecture halls and presentation rooms, and a number of large and small meeting rooms.
When it first opened, the mission of the Communication Plaza was to gather and preserve historical assets from our various businesses, and to serve as a place where Yamaha employees could gather to talk about the past, present and future of the company. However, as time passed, the scope of the Plaza's “communication” gradually shifted toward the people of the local communities, customers and the general public. A large number of special exhibitions on themes like “Challenge,” “Racing” and “History” that Yamaha fans were interested in, and ones that explored Yamaha technology from a child's perspective were held, along with family-oriented experiential events where children and their parents could have fun learning how an engine or boat runs. As a result, the number of people from Yamaha distributors and dealerships, members of the media and the general public from around the world that visit the Communication Plaza is increasing every year. In January 2016, the cumulative total of visitors to the Plaza passed the two million mark.
Currently, the Plaza is undergoing a three-year program of large-scale display renovations launched when Yamaha Motor celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2015. That year, renovations were made to the 1st floor. In September 2016, renovations of the 2nd floor displaying company history were completed and the area was opened to visitors. What's more, as part of our ongoing efforts to make the Plaza an even more attractive and exciting place to visit, the regular open days for weekends were expanded from the second and fourth Saturdays of each month to include the following Sunday as well, all in hopes of actively encouraging new visitors to come to the Plaza.
Restoring Models from Throughout Yamaha's History to Their Original Condition
About half of the products currently displayed in the Communication Plaza today are historic models from the company's earliest years, like the YA-1 and YD-1 motorcycles and the P-7 outboard motor. Each of these models have stories to tell about the history of Yamaha Motor and most of them are kept in running condition; if you simply add gasoline and oil, they will run as they originally did. The restoration work undertaken at the Plaza is done in order to show visitors each model as it looked and worked at the time of its initial release. For example, in the case of motorcycles, one of the things the Plaza staff does is search throughout Japan for motorcycle enthusiasts or dealerships in possession of models that haven't been used or have been in storage for a long time, transfer ownership of the bike and then painstakingly restore them in every detail back to their original condition.
According to one of the restoration specialists, “It's our mission to not only restore a model's exterior appearance in terms of its shape, color and the look and feel of the original materials, but also the model's functions and performance, even the exhaust note. These historic models use parts that can't even be found in the company's stock, but we never ignore even a single bolt. We either make completely new parts or perhaps salvage them from extra models of the same type and restore the parts so they're like new. Then, whenever a model is restored in this way, a number of staff members are gathered to give it a final check in every detail and make sure it's truly in running condition.”
Models restored in this way are displayed in the Plaza's Product History Zone and in special exhibitions, while restored production models and racing machines are sent to circuit events, classic model events, motor shows and the like at venues around Japan and overseas where they can be enjoyed by a wide range of fans.
Also, from 2001 to 2008, Yamaha opened to the public the track testing sessions for verifying the running condition of models in the Plaza collection as the special “Historic Model Exhibition and Demo Run” event. The event has been revived for the first time in eight years and will be held at Yamaha's Fukuroi Test Course on November 5, 2016 (Sat.) featuring some 60 motorcycles and cars on display and being run.
The Route to Feel the “Unique Style of Yamaha”
There are some 200 models on display at the Plaza, so getting a good look at them all will take more time than you would imagine. If you have the opportunity to visit the Plaza, it may be helpful to check the official website ahead of time, where the Collection page shows and explains the models currently on display, and the Facility Guide page describes the floor layout.
The first floor features exhibits introducing the Yamaha Motor of today. Displayed on the center platform is the most talked-about Yamaha model at the time, and surrounding it are the latest models from a variety of product categories, including motorcycles, commuter models, electrically power-assisted bicycles, outboard motors, snowmobiles, Recreational Off-highway Vehicles (ROVs) automobiles and more. Beyond the circular Symbol Zone is where we display the latest models of our various business lines from around the world, arranged by product category. This symbolic arrangement provides a picture of the breadth of our product lines and fields of business that bring more fulfilling lives to people around the world.
Also, there are periodically changed special exhibits with Yamaha products displayed in ways that give a look into what life with a Yamaha can be like, and displays introducing the technologies and design work that support Yamaha's Monozukuri.
Considering all this variety, you might find it interesting to choose a theme to focus on when touring the displays, such as seeking out products that you usually won't see every day, such as our industrial-use unmanned helicopters, snowmobiles or industrial robots, models not marketed where you live, or the different variations of products intended for different regions. This type of tour is more likely to lead to new discoveries and scenes that other people won't see.
On the newly renovated 2nd floor, you will find displays divided into three zones that tell the history of Yamaha Motor. In the corridor occupied by the Corporate History Zone, visitors see explanations about the origins of the Tuning Fork Mark and the company's Spirit of Challenge inherited from our founder, Genichi Kawakami, plus more.
Next, entering the Racing History Zone, you come to what looks like a grand prix racetrack starting grid. In a space designed to represent a circuit's home straight, you will see racing machines from the 20th century lined up on the grid and a spectator stand from which you can get a view of the entire floor.
Next to this is the Product History Zone showing Yamaha motorcycles and other products grouped by category and the era they were released. The dynamic displays stretch all the way to the walls and there is a rich array of digital content to enjoy, including historical film footage of the models and the world at the time, product brochures and audio clips of exhaust notes.
With these resources on hand, the displays can give anyone, from people who know those times to younger visitors who don't and visitors from overseas, a vivid image of Yamaha's history and an experience of how the Unique Style of Yamaha was born and nurtured over the years.
Communicating and Fostering the Fascination of Monozukuri
As its name implies, the Communication Plaza is a place for communication that helps connect Yamaha Motor and the society at large. People who have never even used a Yamaha product before or people who don't know much about Yamaha Motor to begin with, are among the many we want to invite to the Plaza in the hopes that a visit here will become an experience that makes them feel more familiar with the company and the Yamaha brand. Toward this aim, we organize more than 50 diverse events each year around the Kando*-creating themes of music and Monozukuri. These events include ones for children to experience the fun and fascination of creating products and mini-concerts for families.
A good example of these hands-on activities is our engine dismantle/assembly workshop. In this very Yamaha-like educational program, children take apart and reassemble an actual 2-stroke engine with their own hands. One of the specialized instructors for this program explains: “This is a first-time experience for all of the children and they all work hard through trial and error to learn what tools to use. When they discover the tricks of using them, they all beam with pride for what they learned. Seeing the intense looks of concentration as they work is a very rewarding and encouraging sight for us. When I was young, I loved building models and creating things, and whenever I looked at machine, I was always so curious to find out what it looked like on the inside. I hope that in 10 or 15 years from now, some of these children will become engineers that build vehicles like us.”
Another Communication Plaza program is the boatbuilding workshop. Children think about what makes a boat float before they build a model boat to see what hull shape is the best. There is also a design class where the participants imagine a vehicle they would like to build and then use clay to give shape to the design they envision. As one of the program instructors says, “The important thing is to create more opportunities for young people to experience the fascination of creating things and take an interest in the process.” In these ways, the Communication Plaza is a place that expands communication two-fold through its interactive activities and various model displays.
*Kando is a Japanese word for the simultaneous feelings of deep satisfaction and intense excitement that we experience when we encounter something of exceptional value.