Extreme Modding: The Japanese Art of Dekotora

It’s no surprise to anyone that the Japanese tend to go big. I think that one of the best things in their culture is that self expression is widely accepted, and if you roam the streets of Japan you’ll likely stumble across a series of larger than life characters dressed as though they’re about to fight crime in their favorite video game or Anime movie.

It doesn’t end in the way people dress, as you may have already guessed. No, Japanese citizens are very much into automotive modification. Cars such as the Honda Civic, the Nissan 350Z and the legendary Nissan Skyline are all good examples of vehicles you may have seen in the Need For Speed series of movies (modeled after the white hot Japanese automotive scene).

But we’re not talking cars today, we’re talking trucks – and BIG ones.

So you’ve read down this far and are likely frothing at the mouth for some juicy details, am I right?

Dekotora, is quite simply defined as – extreme modding, but there’s an official definition (per Wikipedia):

The Dekotora or Decotora (デコトラ dekotora?), an abbreviation for “decoration truck”, is a type of extravagantly decorated truck in Japan. Commonly having neon or ultraviolet lights, extravagant paints, and shiny stainless or golden exterior parts, such decorations can be found on both on the exterior and the interior.

These rolling art displays (or roaming Carnival attractions?) aren’t just for show, there are hard working men and women over there in Japan who use these big trucks to earn a living, or – at least support their modding as these vehicles run in upwards of $100,000! But how did this phenomenon start? All things this big HAVE to have an origin, right?

In the 1970’s a movie by the name of Torakku Yarō came out that featured a truck driver who wore outlandish costumes and had a highly modified delivery truck – think of it as Japan’s version of Knight Rider. The series followed the adventures of the show’s main character Michael Knight, Momojiro Hoshi as he made stops all over Japan.

Like any good cult classic, the popularity and uniqueness of the vehicles spilled over into real life with fans recreating what they saw on screen. This did not stop there, as the growing popularity of Dekotora blossomed into a mainstream hobby – supported by magazines, continued exposure on film and television and even finding it’s way into video games.

Now, while modifying big trucks isn’t unique to Japan – the way we do things here in the US just pales in comparison though. Truck drivers are known to modify their rigs, they just have a different way of expressing themselves by extending the vehicles frames, chopping the cab roofs, subtle lighting, flamed paint jobs and with chrome – lots of chrome. I mean, nothing too crazy.

So the next time you’re driving down the road and see something resembling a Transformer approaching in your rear view mirror – it’s not an Alien invasion, it could just be your local UPS or FedEX man driving around making his deliveries.

Or, you somehow wound up in Japan.


Check out this video of the Dekotora in action!