Japan is known for its unique take on vehicles, such as the small kei car range. Another interesting concept is the art of dekotora, which involves extravagantly decorated trucks. Several materials are used, including neon lights, bright paint and stainless components. They combine together to create a vehicle that is eye-catching and practical. Dekotora trucks can often take decades to build, so where did the phenomenon come from and why is it so popular in Japan?
The origin of dekotora can be traced back to the 1970s, with the release of a film series called Torakku Yaro (Truck Rascals). The series involved a trucker driving his gaudy truck all over Japan and it received critical acclaim from old and young viewers. The truckers got into different shenanigans that could be described as similar to the American road trip story of Smokey and the Bandit. People started decorating their trucks in a similar way.
In the 1970s dekotora was restricted to north-eastern fishing transport trucks before Torakku Yaro came out. It caught on soon after and drivers started decorating their trucks with plenty of colour and vibrant features.
Modern day dekotora
In the 1990s, dekotora became influenced by the art of Gundam, a cartoon series featuring robots. What sets the art form apart from other automotive subcultures is that many drivers take a personal approach with their decorations. They constantly update their trucks and work together, as evident from Utamaro Kai, a dekotora organisation. Run by Junichi Tajima, the group does charity work around Japan.
An example is when they provided volunteer help after the 2011 tsunami, transporting food and cooking for victims. This has been carried on in decorating a truck with tsunami inspired paint to make sure people remember the incident.
The world of dekotora was captured in detail by London based photographer Todd Antony, who went to Japan to photograph the trucks. He met up with Tajima and did a creative, night time photo shoot that brought out the beauty of the dekotora trucks.
Dekotora is one of the most intriguing vehicle design formats out there. It brings together fine art and high-class engineering.
Image Credit: Flickkr