Thursday Five: the best Japanese car mod cultures
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Japanese car mod cultures: a seething mass of crazy
We love Japanese car culture - it is a seething mass of crazy that is just awesome. The whole point of car customisation in Japan is to have fun and create something you love, and we love that!
That is why this week’s Thursday Five is dedicated to the Five Best Japanese Car Mod Cultures.
Actually, make that four best and one weird and creepy. Actually, there not all cars either. Still... enjoy!
Starting in the 1950s, Bosozoku was originally a Japanese motorcycle subculture that centred around riding quickly (and recklessly) and extreme customisation (usually illegal) of the bikes.
Extreme exhausts and over the top body mods were the order of the day and this soon spread to Japanese car culture.
While the Bosozoku as bike gangs are almost extinct now, the (generally more law abiding, but not always) car subculture flourished in the 1970s when FIA introduced the Group 5 “Special Production Cars” category into endurance racing.
The extremely wide, boxy fenders and exaggerated front spoilers appealed to the car-based Bosozoku and they just took that to its insanely impractical and utterly awesome extreme!
Onikyan or “Demon Camber” originally started as method of drift car modification, but generally the disadvantages of extreme negative camber proved to outweigh the advantages, so it quickly became a purely visual mod.
And what a visual mod it is!
The basic idea is to line the stop of the extremely large rims up with the top of the car’s wheel arch, then just get as much extreme camber as possible using hydraulics, airbags or whatever the hell you can come up with!
Although popular across a wide range of cars, it has particularly taken hold in both the Kei car (tiny three-cylinder or less city cars) and the VIP or “bippu” scene (luxury cars widened and lowered to the extreme).
It can’t make for terribly good tyre wear, but we have to admit that, done right, it looks brilliant!
This one, on the other hand, is a bit creepy.
Itasha literally translates into “painful car” and is the result of combining car modification with a love of manga, anime and video games. While broadly it involves covering the unfortunate car in fictional characters, being Japanese means it takes on a weirdly sexualised form.
Which basically means that horny teenage Japanese boys with WAY too much money slather their cars with their over-sexualised, scantily-clad female cartoon fantasies. And, yes, it is as weird and creepy as it sounds.
An abbreviation of the Japanese term for “decorated truck”, Dekotora is quite possibly the single most awesome thing on the planet!
The trend for extreme decoration on trucks started in 1975 when a series of movies called “Torakku Yaro” (“Truck Guys”) were released. The movies featured a trucker who drive his heavily decorated truck around Japan and were a massive hit, inspiring actual truck drivers to decorate their rigs.
Being in Japan, things quickly got taken to an extreme and you got the utterly over-the-top neon and chrome behemoths we have today. Since the early 1990s the Dekotora have been heavily influenced by the giant mecha robots from the Gundam Series, making them even more awesome.
Looking at both the Dekotora trucks and Bosozoku cars, we have to imagine that Japanese pedestrian impact laws are rather relaxed...
Okay, so this isn’t cars (or trucks) but it is too awesome to leave out - Dekochari sprang from a younger generation who also loved the Torakku Yaro movies and Dekotora trucks, but were too young to drive a truck.
So they did what kids everywhere do and did the same thing to their bikes!
Building plywood boxes around their bikes and attaching chrome plating and lights did the trick, and the young people of 1970's Japan soon had their own vehicle culture to be part of.
Of course, being Japan, it soon caught on among adults and now Dekochari has also been taken to its completely illogical extreme, complete with elaborate light displays and booming audio systems.
Plus there are also gangs. Yes, that’s right, there are a number of Dekochari gangs around Japan now, making it almost certainly the only country in the world to boast decorated bicycle-based gangs.