Japan’s ‘Dekotora’ Custom Trucks Combine Giant Gundam Cosplay, Light Shows, and Edo Art

Dekotora 'Decoration Trucks' is Japan at its best.

When did Japan’s love affair with car customization begin? We don’t have a clue, but before we saw street drifters in the ’90s, Shakotan cars in the ’80s, and Bosozoku tribes in the ’70s, there was a subculture called Dekotora that began 50 years ago.

The Japanese term Dekotora is a portmanteau of “Decorated Truck,” and despite the massive size of these machines, the information available regarding the subculture’s origins is rather thin. In a documentary short by Great Big Story embedded below, Dekotora veteran Junichi Tajima said the wild truck movement started almost 50 years ago, while he as built three Dekotoras over the span of 35 years himself.

Though customizers in the States tend to worry more about things such as how much power they can get by supercharging their hot rod, Japan’s Dekotoras are purely aesthetic in nature. Enthusiasts combine massive amounts of chrome, neon lights with flaked paint jobs, and extravagant Edo-period style hand-painted murals across the length of the box. In the cabin, lavish upholstery and even chandeliers on the roof make Dekotoras just as special inside as they are on the outside.

“You can’t worry about money when you modify a truck like this. the value of a dekotora is more spiritual,” Tajima-San said. “You can express your way of life, your hometown, your family all through the decorations.”

On Tuesday, YouTube channel lowstyle.japan shared a group of Dekotora trucks pulling into a VIP car meet and completely stealing the show. Check out the incredible trucks below: