Thursday, November 17, 2011

A little piece of Japan down under.

I never thought I would see a Bosozoku styled car on the suburban streets of Sydney. It’s evident that the owner of this TA22 Toyota Celica draws his inspiration from Japanese car culture.

Thank you to for providing the photo.
Thank you to slowNserious on Flickr for providing this photo.
After a couple of days spent reading and researching, I have learnt about the gang culture, cars and influences that define the Bosozoku way of life.

Bosozoku means “Running wild-tribe”, and is usually affiliated with a motorcycle gang that were renowned for revving their modified engines in the middle of the night and causing mayhem everywhere they went. This behaviour was in response to the consumer boom that swept Japan in the 1960's. The aesthetic statement that their bikes made gave the Bosozoku clan the rebellious attention they desired. The gang would drive in a reckless manner, purely as way to express their emotions and evoke their frustration towards affluent people in society.

During the 1930's Australia and America witnessed a similar social reaction with the introduction of modified cars. They were built by young enthusiasts, usually with little or no money, who were eager to cure their boredom and explore mechanical engineering. Many modifiers wanted to challenge wealthier car owners by proving to them that money wasn’t the only way to attain superior status. Despite its emphasis on power and performance, a modified car has always been a social statement.

In the 1980's due to increased Police and public pressures, the bikie gangs began to decline. Though they still exist, the groups are a lot smaller and many have taken to driving heavily modified cars. Although it can't be confirmed, many attribute this to what started the trend known as Bosozuku style car tuning. This style was embraced not only by gangsters but also by legitimate people who liked the style. Some of the behaviours that the bikie gangs displayed were carried over to this category of car tuning such as organ pipe exhausts, loud horns and the disorderly nature that came along with such modifications. Within the Bosozoku car culture there are subcultures such as the ‘Shakotan’ style, ‘Yankee’ style, ‘Kyusha’ style and the ‘Grachan’ style of cars.

'Shako' means “Ground Clearance” and the Japanese word 'Tan' translates to “Short”, so ‘Shakotan’ refers to cars that have negative camber and low clearance.

'Yankee’, ‘Yanki’ or ‘Yanky’ is a style that can be attributed back to the 1970’s and 1980’s where in Osaka the fashion was to wear colourful Hawaiian shirts imitating the uprising of the west. Others argue it stems from classic American muscle cars, such as the Plymouth Superbird. This style is very similar to ‘Shakotan’ with the exception of the wide fenders, external oil coolers and bigger spoilers.

‘Kyusha’ translates to “Classic Car”. These cars are customised utilising the period-correct styling of small fender flares, duck-bill spoilers, chin-spoilers and minus offset wheels.

‘Grachan’ translates to “Grand Champion”; it originates from the Fuji Grand Champion Series that was help in the early 1970’s to the late 1980’s. The modifications included protrusive wide body kits, very wide 14” wheels with racing slicks and were usually decorated in a race car theme from Formula Silhouette or the FIA Group 5 cars.

By now you will have realised that Bosozoku is more than just a collection of styles. Each person has their own taste and that transpires into the way they tune their cars. If you visit any of the mentioned hang out spots, you will most likely see an interesting assortment of classic Japanese cars, lines of sleek motorcycles and outrageous vehicles that are almost unrecognisable with their array of racing fins, neon lights and tinted windows.

The Bosozoku culture is usually categorized as a violent one, however it’s more about tuning their machines and racing into the night. These afterhours rendezvous are part of a car fetish lifestyle in which people spend hundreds of thousands of yen a year on their beloved machines. It seems that what was once a poor man’s ambition is fast becoming a rich man’s hobby. In Tokyo for around 1000 yen, fanatics can illegally race to their heart's content on the several circular highways that surround the city, provided they don't get caught by Police or exit at any of the off ramps. For this reason, rest stops like Yokohama's Daikoku Futo service area or the Shibaura and Tatsumi parking areas have become legendary among young street racers.

Despite those who embrace the trend, street racers have always tested the limits of the law and the patience of people living nearby. In recent times there have been Police stings and crack downs to deter racers who cruise the highway hoping to find their next challenger.
Thanks to for supplying the picture.
Thanks to for supplying the picture. 

 Manga has been part of Japanese street culture for generations.


Gucci Mane said...

Cool blog bro, those first two pics are of a 70s celica yeh?

Reinventing Wheels said...

You are right. The first two pictures are of a TA22 Celica. Pretty cool to see a JDM inspired one cruising the streets of Sydney.