Meet Dekotora: the land of the rising sun’s homegrown and very cool trucker subculture that covers big rigs with neon and ultraviolet lights, colorful airbrushed murals, and shiny stainless or golden exteriors, all the while housing interiors straight out of Brewsters Millions or a 2-star Las Vegas casino, complete with elaborate chandeliers and velvet-lined seats.
There are plenty of truck-decorating customs in Asia, like Jeepnys in the Phillipines, but these Japanese trucks really are amazing. Drivers will often spend hundreds of thousands of yen and take years of painstaking effort to convert their trucks into art – and by art, we mean vehicles that carry thousands of pounds of dried squid across the Japanese countryside. Moving town-to-town lit up like crazy non-denominational Christmas trees, they’re like Beyond Thunderdome at the disco, and they’re impossible not to love. Road rage? More like road rave.
The Dekotora trend took off after these Japanese low budget B movies about truckers came out in the mid-70s. The first flick was called Truck Guys. The film’s main character was a trucker who drove his wildly decorated semi all over Japan, getting in adventures and chasing tail.
Truck Guys was popular enough for ten more Dekotora flicks to be made (all written and directed by Norifumi Suzuki), capturing the hearts and minds of lonely truckers across Japan. It’s a trend that still persists to this day – Dekotora is commonly featured in Japanese video games, toys, magazines, and TV shows.