Traditional Japanese design is based on seven Zen aesthetic principles. Simplicity and removal of clutter. Dynamic, balanced asymmetry. Naturalness and absence of pretense and artificiality. Subtlety. Freedom from the routine or formulaic. Energized calm. And understated austerity.
It's a beautiful philosophy that has led to a popular and familiar aesthetic that pops up in art, architecture, furniture, food, music and a ton of other disciplines.
So… Where is it in the Japanese motorcycle world? Don't get me wrong, I love me some "GSZXCBR1000RR" action, but I can't see how Japanese motorcycle design has ever echoed traditional Japanese style, and to my mind the Europeans have done a far better job in recent years of building form in with the function of modern two-wheelers.
And that's the idea of the Samurai concept here, a bike that looks like it's Japanese first, and a motorcycle second. Something that draws inspiration from places like origami, robotics and anime, in search of a truly Japanese design feel.
The two guys who created it, Artem Smirnov and Vladimir Panchenko, aren't really motorcycle people; they're automotive designers. And this bike's never going to get made, so let's not be too hard on the obvious impracticalities of the thing, like the central twin shocks, the comical, height-adjustable plank of a seat unit or the highly knee-unfriendly tank shape.
Instead, let's look at it for what it might offer: a suggestion on a direction that may lead Japanese design back toward the traditional Zen principles. Simple, straight lines that contrast with the more voluptuous curves of an Italian bike. Gentle bends and folds that give an impression of solidity and lightness. Neat touches like the aerodynamic wing covering each fork, the flat electronic dash built into the triple clamp, and ergonomics that adjust at the touch of a button to change the fit and feel.
Honestly, I picked this story up planning to make fun of this thing. But the more I look at it, the more it makes me think yes, Japanese motorcycle design from the big four companies does need a kick up the bum. It doesn't take advantage of Japan's rich design heritage and there's clearly room for some fresh ideas.
Something like this might kick off a valuable discussion. Jump into the gallery, take a long look and tell us if you think this concept has anything to offer.