By on December 11, 2011



The Daily Mail just woke up to a Japanese phenomenon: Blinged-out trucks. Some of these trucks have more neon than a pachinko-parlor.  Did I say that they have no concept of a “light vehicle” overseas? I take that back. But watch out, there are new kids in town. TTAC investigates …

Actually, gaudy haulers are part of an ancient Japanese tradition.  In the 70’s, Japan had its own infatuation with truckers. A series of movies called Torakku Yaro (“Truck Guys”) was made.  The hero drove all around Japan in a decorated truck. Soon, Japan was in the grips of “dekotora” mania. ( Tora = Truck.  Tora, Tora, Tora = truck, truck, truck.)

For long, these highly decorated trucks actually hauled stuff. These days, dekotora have been co-opted by maniacs who turn trucks into showpieces at dekotora meets, while shippers request that their dead fish is delivered in inconspicuous vehicles.

Of course, this being Japan, there must be something sinister somewhere. The Daily Mail headlined its story: “The Japanese ‘light trucks’ so bright they’re banned from the highway”.

That was quickly picked up by DVICE, which writes “The Japanese hobby of “Dekotora” or decorating trucks with blinding lights and themes has been dealt a blow as authorities have just declared them non-street legal. They cite the colorful, “light trucks” as a hazard to other drivers. DVICE alleges:

“While technically not street legal, the Dekotora “light truck” community still bands together, holding rallies to show off their vehicles and likely engage in a little friendly competition. We won’t ask how they get to their destinations.”

Well, DVICE should have asked. I asked TTAC’s in-house cross-cultural advisor, Frau Schmitto-san, to look into the matter. She reports, after consulting with the authorities at the Japanese Wikipedia:

“They are legal. They need a remodeling license for the conversion. And they can’t keep their neon lights on while traveling on public roadways.”

Keeping the lights on would annoy fellow motorists, which is a big no-no in Japan, where people blush and try to sink into the ground if their cell phone rings in the subway. Driving around with all neons blazing is also technically inadvisable.  Says the Daily Mail:

“Each one has so many light bulbs that extra generators have to be fitted under the chassis to power them, and they can only be turned on for about 20 minutes before they overheat.”

So there you have it: Dekotora are alive and well, and news of their persecution have been made up by irresponsible London tabloid journos, and wannabe Gawker-bloggers at Syfy, a Division of NBCUniversal.

Sunday Bonus! TTAC readers are being kept apprised of the latest craze from the land of the rising crazes. We told you about mamachari, to wit:

“It denotes a utility bike with chainguard, fenders, rack, skirt guard, dynamo lights, baskets, and child carriers. It used to be to conveyance of choice of a housewife with two small children and shopping bags.”

It is our editorial duty to report that mamachari are no longer the latest craze in Japan. The latest craze is:


As in blinged-out  mamachari. We kid you not. Want proof?

They even have menacing dekochari-gangs.

And what must be a dekochari-pizza-deli (as in delivery.)

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12 Comments on “The Truth About Japanese Crazes: Dekotora Meh, Dekochari Yeah...”

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    As has been said many times… “Seriously Japan, WTF?”

    • 0 avatar
      TwoTone Loser

      I think our confusion with the Japanese people stems from seeing a conservative and efficient nation adopting crazy fads and randomized…everything.

      Though years of having to be so conservative the inner party animal breaks out with unintended results. Light trucks, Penguin launchers, Glitter covered purple corn extruders with integrated MP3 players and pokemon custom graphics.

  • avatar

    Japan is about 3 minutes into the future, just enough to create discomfort.
    This is proof.

  • avatar

    Having spent a couple weeks in Japan, Tokyo and some smaller towns, I don’t think its really that different, as in crazy. Went to harajuku and saw the girls dressed up in their really very crazy outfits, went to a ballgame in Tokyo, thats on a whole ‘nother level from our fans. Sure, they’ve got some freaks, but you really have to seek them out. Most people, at least outwardly, are very normal. In fact, the major striking difference from the USA in terms of what you might consider subversive mores, is that I don’t think people are doing it as a form of rebellion, although I’m not sure I can exactly pinpoint what seems to be motivating them. Now if you go to Kabukicho in Tokyo, you will see some folks who look and act a lot like skid row Hollywood types.

  • avatar

    Japanese version of art cars/trucks/bikes

    We have things like this too, just not so shiny.

    On the other hand, like art cars you could probably spend your entire life in Japan and not see one of these.

    The number of to us oddball things the Japanese do are huge. If I visit Japan I want to see these oddball things, but I bet I won’t, I’m sure they are sufficiently rare that unless you know where to look you won’t see them.

    I wonder if there is a Godzilla themed truck?

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Apparently you didn’t see the side billboard mural on the second picture in the article, mate….

    Actually, these Japanese ‘fads’… I am sure Bertel and Frau Scmitto-san will concur, are a manifestation of the creativity and individualism which is genuinely suppressed in Japanese culture in most arena…work, school, day-to-day social interaction within the (close) confines of their highly-ritualized, tightly structured society. So, when our Japanese friends DO manage to find a creative outlet, all that repressed energy positively EXPLODES into over-the-top, supra-rational creativity….

  • avatar
    John R

    Phew! Don’t worry, Sodom, your stage is safe.

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