Dekotora - DIY semi truck culture: The pride of Japanese auto world

Updated Jul 17, 2018 | Same topic: Highlights of the Week

Japanese Dekotora or bespoke tuned trucks are nowhere to be found outside Japan.

Japanese Dekotora or bespoke tuned trucks are recognized by many as a unique art form, an exclusive cultural mark that no other places in the world have ever seen.

Dekotora or Decotora stands for "decoration truck", which is used to refer to a form of heavy trucks decorated with vivid colors in Japan. Drivers of these 18-wheel friends are willing to spend a fortune chrome plating the entire body, installing neon lights, wrapping Louis Vuitton flannel for chairs and even hanging chandeliers in their beloved vehicles.

The one-of-a-kind designs of these 18-wheelers have caught the attention of many foreign tourists to Japan, including professional photographers. In this article, we will witness the beautiful beam of Dekotora trucks captured by Robert Benson, who has lived in Japan for eight years and was fortunate to attend a gathering of more than 300 Dekotora drivers.

Driver in front of Dekotora trucks

The modest human vs Dekotora giants

Inside Japan's Tricked-Out DIY Truck Culture

Though Dekotora had already existed since the '70s, it was not until Toei released the action-packed "Torakku Yarō" comedy series about a truck driver in Japan decorating his car with outrageous colors that this unique car tuning culture rages the auto community throughout the country. One of the largest Dekotora events of Japan took place in Chōshi city, where Benson had a chance to participate.

"All these cars run well, and are used by the drivers for their daily work," Benson said. "What do not work or do not serve any purpose of the job are the chrome decorations, bells and whistles."

front decoration of Dekotora

decorations inside Dakotora

Many deco are just for the sake of aesthetic.

There are some drivers spending up to $100,000 to decorate their vehicles. As can be seen in photos, the cabin can be even compared to an airplane cockpit with countless neon lights, buttons and "power-full" dashboard. However, when running on the road, these lights must be turned off to comply with traffic rules.

Ben also shared that drivers are extremely proud of their accomplishments. "It's so overwhelming, and they spend a lot of money on what they do." Attending the event, he may not know whether the drivers are a group of good or rude people, but the fact is they are so happy to be there. They want him to take pictures of them and their cars like taking a family photo.

Dekotora event in Japan

Dekotora event in Japan

Dekotora culture attracts people of all age groups in Japan.

decorated cabin inside Dekotora trucks

decorated cabin of Dekotora tuned trucks

Complex decorations inside Dekotora's cabin

Dekotora trucks are often designed by the drivers themselves for fun or by Dekotora fans for special events. Since the late 1990s, Dekotora has been heavily influenced by Gundam animation. All decorations, either conforming to modern art or nostalgic design style, bear strong resemblances with motion pictures. 

"These trucks do not exist in the United States or anywhere in the world," Benson acknowledged.

Below are more photos of this once-in-a-lifetime event!

Dekotora trucks

Dekotora drivers

Dekotora and their drivers

Delighted smiles inside unique Dekotora

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