I saw my first blinged-out big rigs at a Truck and Tractor Parade in Wisconsin years ago. Since then, I’ve gotten turned on to car mod culture (and “Pimp My Ride” way back in the day) but I’ve never seen anything like these Japanese Dekotora Trucks.
Dekotora culture is not new.
Dekotoras began in the ’60s in poor Japanese fishing villages. Salty water turned already decrepit trucks, used to deliver fish, into colanders. To keep those delivery trucks running, the fishermen patched up their vehicles using whatever materials they could get their hands on.
As time went by, the embellishments got a little fancier and patched-up trucks became cool. Everyone started covering surfaces to the max with as many patterns and murals and light fixtures as possible.
Check out this link for more info on the true origins of this subculture.
Dekotoras really took off in the ’70s
In 1975, Toei, a Japanese film company released ten comedies called Torakku Yarō (Truck Guys) which featured a trucker driving a decorated truck all over Japan. The movies were a hit and soon dekotoras were showing up in video games and as toys.
In the late 1990s, interest in dekotora got a second wind as the art of Gundam (Giant Robots TV series) influenced the art and design of a new generation of trucks.
While there used to be thousands of dekotora trucks, today there are only about 500-600 left. I’m not sure exactly what happened but the Japanese police have been cracking down on dekotoras for any and all deviations from the standard. Also, perhaps it’s money. These trucks often cost the equivalent of $100,000 to deck out.
What I find interesting is the cross-over between the tuner crowd and the dekotoras. Many of the best posts on Instagram are from Supra fanatics who appreciate the grand scale of the modifications made by the truckers. I’ve also noticed that bloggers often refer to dekotoras as “tuner trucks.”
scroll down for pics of some of the coolest trucks.
I’ve seen some gussied up trucks on the road but nothing comes close to this level of artistry. I will, however, now be on the lookout for these magnificent beasts both on my travels and online. And definitely when I am in Japan next year.