Kimiko Kidd
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How Washi Paper Inspired the Interior of the Mazda MX-30

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Mazda MX-30 interior
Photo: Mazda

From its “Kodo: Soul of Motion” design philosophy to its pursuit of “Jinba Ittai” driving dynamics, Mazda seems to love drawing inspiration from traditional Japanese culture. Most recently, the automaker has utilized the aesthetic of traditional Japanese paper and applied it to the Mazda MX-30 EV.

Looking to Go Electric? Meet the Mazda MX-30

Why take inspiration from washi paper?

Washi paper is more than just a cool addition to your craft projects — it’s also a cultural icon in Mazda’s homeland. Keeping with the spirit of Mazda’s first EV, washi paper is made from all-natural, renewable materials. The materials are sourced from three plants: the gampi tree, the paper mulberry, and the oriental paperbush.

It’s also an emblem of craftsmanship. While washi paper production was once widespread, nowadays there are fewer than 350 families who know how to handcraft this elegant material. UNESCO has even declared the craft to be part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

In some ways, washi paper even symbolizes innovation — this ancient form of papermaking pre-dates European wood-pulp paper by about 600 years. It’s versatile, too. You’ll find washi paper used in the construction of everything from lanterns and umbrellas to banknotes and shoji screen doors.

Applying inspiration

While washi paper itself isn’t used in the MX-30, the paper’s distinct crafting techniques and aesthetics played a role in how designers developed the EV’s interior upholstery. Mazda designers Xintong Li and Akitomo Hara visited two washi paper producers to gather insight and inspiration on how to apply their techniques.

“The washi paper we usually see in daily life is brittle, weak and delicate,” Li explained. “I learned from these manufacturers that genuine Japanese paper, which can only be made by a limited number of craftsmen, has fascinating features, being very firm, durable, unbreakable and water-resistant.”

Those ancient paper-making methods were translated into the 21st century and applied to the MX-30’s upholstery. Since it’s made from recycled materials, the Mazda team managed to create fabric that was simultaneously durable, breathable, attractive, and sustainable.

The Mazda MX-30 will go on sale later this year, or in early 2022.