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These Are the Facets of Japanese Car Culture

A look at the cars of Japan beyond that of Tokyo Drift.

Japan is home to some of the most influential cars of our time. The Toyota AE86 and Nissan R34 are just two of the many chassis that have left an everlasting impact on the automotive world. Contrary to what Tokyo Drift or Initial D might have you believe, there is more to the car scene than just iconic tuned street machines. Enthusiasts have found unique ways to express themselves through modifications. These are not your typical run-of-the-mill cold air intake or exhaust performance mods. Instead, they are extreme visual changes that transform everyday cars to pieces of moving art that anyone can appreciate.

Take, for instance, Wataru Kato, the man behind Liberty Walk. Buy a Ferrari, Lamborghini or any other exotic and bring it to Kato. He will cut it up and apply his famous wide body kit to make your car different from the rest. The result might not be for everyone but Kato doesn’t care. He genuinely enjoys what he does and because it so happens that others like his work as well, he is able to do it for a living.

I just want to be recognized by as many people as possible, for my own unique style.

Wataru Kato

If wide body kits are not your thing, then perhaps classic American cars are. Cholo’s Custom builds lowriders from the ’30s, ’50s, and ’70s. As with any lowrider, these cars are outfitted with hydraulics to adjust the suspension with the push of a button. It is no surprise to find a modified American car in Japan. Enthusiasts will mod just about anything they can get their hands on including Kei cars.

Exotics are not limited to just wide body kits. No one will bat an eye when a stock Lamborghini overtakes them but add flashy LED lights to the exterior and now everyone will be doing a double take. Italian supercars are not the only vehicle class to use LEDs in Japan. Dekotora takes trucks and decorates them in LED lights making them impossible to miss at night. Also hard to miss are Bosozoku style cars. These cars are instantly recognized by their upward exhaust pipes and extravagant bodywork.

The end goal for all of these modded vehicles is the same: to make them their own by customizing them how they want to fit the owner’s lifestyle and personality. To be different and to stand out without caring what anyone else thinks.