DEKOTORA the extravagant phenomenon

Join me as we explore the fascination Japanese subculture of Dekotora a.k.a Decoration Truck

デコトラ (Decoration Truck)

Before studying and submersing myself in this Japanese subculture, I had a very inaccurate perception of it and the people who belong to this unique subculture.

"We experience everything in the world not “as it is”—because there is no way that we can know the world “as it is”—but only as the world comes to us through our sensory receptors." (Marshal Singer 1987)

Below is a short video interviewing some members of a unique national association known as Utamaro Kai.

Cultural studies scholar Linda Alcoff (1991/1992) acknowledges the ethical issues involved when students of culture try to describe the cultural patterns of others; she recognizes the difficulty of speaking “for” and “about” others who have different lives. Instead, she suggests, students of culture should try to speak “with” and “to” others. Rather than merely describe others from a distance, it’s better to engage others in a dialogue about their cultural realities.

Like the Dekotora in the video, every truck starts off as a regular dump truck, trash truck, flatbed truck, etc.

This everyday work truck has just arrived in a local Japanese shop called Art Planning Yuuma

The front bumper is decorated with dazzling lights

Monitors display every side of the truck

After Millions of Yen, around 90,000 dollars, the Dekotora is complete

Each Dekotora is unique and personalized

Between 1975 and 1979 a series of Japanese movies came out called Torakku Yaro (Trucker Guys) that inspired the Dekotora movement. These kinds of movies were very comical and overtly sexual, yet the decorated trucks were the focus of the films; a real expression of art.

Dekotora has been featured in films like Enter the Void, Millennium Actress, and Initial D, and TV shows like Nagareboshi Ogin, and Yo nimo Kimyo na Monogatari.

In the video game Street Fighter Alpha, a decorated truck can be seen in the background.

The video below shows one of the many parades that decoration trucks enter into.

We should not underestimate the importance of culture in providing us a feeling of familiarity and comfort. (pg. 89)

“My generation grew up with the movement [Miyazaki was the first president of the Utamaro Kai]. I cannot say he’s the first one who started Dekotora, but he is the one who organized and called up all the Dekotora guys for the movie ‘Truck Rascals’. The time when the movie was around, all the trucks gathered around from everywhere. Because they really believed that if they decorated their trucks and drove around, their trucks could be used in the movie. Before the [Dekotora] shop opened, we were going to auto parts junkyards to find and buy truck parts. Dekotora culture developed with the Japanese economy when it was blooming. You started seeing a lot of cars in Japan and shipping businesses were getting very active. Dekotora style changes depending on where you are from and what you are carrying. There used to be so many of them” (Taguchi San)

Dekotora is a fantastic example of what happens when something ugly or rough clashes with something beautiful and radical. “The goal of dekotora, it seems, is not to make a silk purse of a sow’s ear, but to test the limits of function in the face of radical form and transformation.” (Mary Duffy)

As Americans, we are a culture of excess. We want more of this or that. We want bigger, better, shinier, new and expensive, yet we don’t recognize the intricacy and transformation that is shown in the people who create dekotora, or the trucks themselves. We often choose not to see two things at once like the ugly beneath the beauty. What might seem outlandish or ridiculous, they see as a display of their very identities, and there hope is to bring joy to those that see their creations. Americans may have something to learn from the dekotora subculture.

Learning about this subculture in Japan really opened my eyes. I learned how important the Dekotora culture was for the Japanese who decorated their trucks, not only to have their trucks in a movie, but to show off their unique personalities, as well as where they are from. There is a great sense of pride that is shown with each truck. I think that there is a lesson for each of us, and that is that you can find beauty in even the most unlikely things.

Works Cited

"Dekotora." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Mar. 2017. Web. 31 Mar. 2017. <>.

Duffy, Mary. "A Look at Japan's Blinged-Out Trucking Subculture of Dekotora." Pacific Standard. Pacific Standard, 04 Feb. 2016. Web. 31 Mar. 2017. <>.

Martin, Judith N., and Thomas K. Nakayama. Intercultural Communication in Contexts: Instructor's Resource Manual to Accompany. Mountain View, Calif.: Mayfield Publ., 2000. Electronic.

Vice, and Mini. "Dekotora Trucks: "ALL THE WRONG PLACES" by MINI + VICE." YouTube. YouTube, 10 Nov. 2011. Web. 02 Apr. 2017. <>.

Created By
michael reid


Created with images by Moyan_Brenn - "Japan" • Viernest - "Dekotora: Así son los camiones que se van al cielo"

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