Some aspects of Japanese culture may seem very peculiar to Western eyes – and so are many of the weird and wonderful vehicle modifications that have been adopted by the underground auto scene in Japanese cities.
Many of these modifications are purely cosmetic, designed simply to mark the driver’s personality on their entire car, motorcycle or even their commercial truck. However, street racing remains a popular although illegal activity among young Japanese reducers, and modifications are needed if they are to beat their rivals.
Check out the list below for more on the best – and worst – modifications to Japanese cars.
Awesome: Dekotora – Decorated Trucks
Every now and then in the United States, you may come across a vintage semi-truck that has been lovingly restored, but the vast majority of utility vehicles in daily use are not decorated other than the company name of trucking.
This is not the case in Japan where dekotora truckers Cover their vehicles with hand-painted artwork, glowing neon lights and enough chrome accessories to decorate a 1980s nightclub! Even the interiors of these vehicles are beautifully decorated to reflect the personality and sense of style of the trucker.
Bizarre: Dekochari – Decorated scooters
Trucks provide a great canvas for lots of light fixtures, accessories and creative flair. Motorcycles and scooters, on the other hand, are a bit more difficult to decorate. That hasn’t stopped some bikers from trying to recreate the dekotora craze on their two-wheelers.
This rather exaggerated modification is known as dekochari, and while something is intriguing about those overloaded, glitzy scooters, the result feels like you could only go a short distance before losing your balance or one of your added accessories.
Awesome: VIP – Luxury Mods
As the name suggests, VIP modifications are changes that are made to luxury cars. Known in Japanese as beep, this style was once associated with gangsters, but like many automobile follies in the Far East, it quickly became more common.
Still, classic Japanese luxury cars like the Toyota Crown, Mazda Sentia, and Honda Legend are not vehicles you would expect to see in the underground car scene. These mods are meant for appearance only; VIP cars are unlikely to be risky in street racing.
Weird: Takeyari – Oversized Exhausts
Japanese car enthusiasts aren’t generally known for their subtlety, and the takeyari craze is one of the more ostentatious mods you’ll find in Japan. takeyari cars have oversized exhausts; and we’re not just talking about the slightly wider or longer tailpipes you can find on modified cars in the United States.
When it comes to takeyari, the bigger the better, and it’s not uncommon to spot vehicles with vertical tailpipes reaching heights of 6 or 7 feet, and sometimes even carved in unusual decorative shapes.
Awesome: Shakotan – Lowered Car
Lowering cars is a fairly common modification in the United States and can improve handling in tight corners while making the vehicle more aerodynamic. Considering the need for speed among street racers in Japan, it’s no surprise that drivers have also embraced the lowered vehicle and even given it a name: shakotan.
Compared to some modifications, the shakotan can be quite inconspicuous and is often paired with other common modifications such as body kits, larger fenders, and larger wheels, which also improve handling and braking.
Weird: Bosozoku – Excessive Changes
Bosozoku is the general name given to some of the strangest and most unusual car modifications, including ridiculously oversized fenders, bizarre body kits and garish colors. Sometimes these mods can completely change a car beyond recognition.
The name comes from the Japanese motorcycle gangs of the 1950s and literally translates to “violent speed tribe”. These bikers made changes to their bikes to stand out from the crowd, and now 21st car owners of the century stole the name and ethics of gangs, creating absurd vehicles.
Awesome: Itasha – Anime & Manga Wraps
Cars aren’t the only obsession of young men and women in Japanese cities; they are also in their popular culture, especially manga graphic novels, television shows, and animated films. The manga and anime also inspired an eye-catching and stylish edit, which sees drivers covering their vehicles with images from their favorite comics or TV shows.
Stickers and decals are also common on these itasha cars, although some owners are also known to include X rated images of comics and animation on their vehicles!
Weird: Onikyan – Demon Camber
Onikyan is one of the strangest modifications to come out of Japan. This modification, which sees the wheels and tires sprawl out at an awkward angle, was first used by street racers who wanted to improve their ability to drift or take turns at high speeds, but it became a full-fledged personalized modification.
In fact, the arch of some onikian vehicles is so extreme that they are no longer allowed on the road and would certainly cause significant damage to the undercarriage if they were to be driven at any speed.
Awesome: Doisha – Cars modified for drifting
However, not all drift mods are as disastrous as the onikyan. Dorisha is the name given to custom modifications made to vehicles that go into drifting street racing – or whose owners want their cars to look like an auto extra from Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift.
Drifting was first introduced in Japan in the 1970s, but can now be seen in street races and motorsport events around the world. A dorisha car has undergone both aesthetic and mechanical modifications to improve its performance.
Bizarre: Tsurikawa – Cars adorned with subway train handles
Years ago, fans of the Beastie Boys and other American rappers used to steal badges from Volkswagen cars to wear them as jewelry. Tsurikawa is the Japanese equivalent of this, only instead of stealing cars, motorists steal another mode of transport to decorate their vehicle.
The handles and straps that are an integral part of tsurikawa were stolen from the Tokyo subway and are said to be used to adorn the exterior of the car to show the status of the owner. Nowadays, you can buy tsurikawa handles online, which instead reduces its underground reputation.
Next: 15 sick photos of Japan’s underground car scene
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