The true value of a truck is found on the inside. What matters most is how it drives, whether the sleeper cabin is comfortable, and details that those on the outside can’t see but the driver relies on everyday. It doesn’t have to be the most beautiful truck in the world to be perfect.
But everyone likes to show off a little bit, right? And some people more than others. The Japanese practice the art of Dekotora, totally tricking out their semi trucks with lights, bling, and anything in between.
Dekotora, or decorated truck, has been a Japanese art style since the 1970s. Japanese production company, Toei, released a series of films chronicling the life and times of Japanese drivers and the rolling spectacles they owned. If you’re not familiar with those film pieces, maybe you’ve seen the INXS’ video, Original Sin. Although it’s not totally clear what Japanese art trucks have to do with the themes of love and race, the trucks do make an appearance in the video.
Modern Dekotora Art
Today, there are four styles that most decorated trucks fall into: Gundam, Kansai, Kanto, and Retro. Kansai and Kanto are regions in Japan with their own style and culture while Gundam relates to the popular Japanese media series centered on robots. Many of these semis look more like moving fairgrounds than actual vehicles but are still used by truckers to transport goods across the island country. Some vehicles are just decorated for display purposes but are usually still operational.
Some Dekotora pass on the light show and metal ornaments for professionally drawn paintings. The images depict a wide range of drivers’ interests with anything from popular musicians to Hello Kitty to Kabuki style art can be found on the rigs.
As you may have guessed, taking up this craft is anything but cheap. Some drivers spend up to tens of thousands of dollars on their rides and many make sure the inside is as elaborate as the outside. There are even paint and auto shops devoted to Dekotora creations.
Truck drivers aren’t the only ones devoted to making their ride as sweet as possible. Dekochari is the equivalent for children who have dived into the culture with their elaborate decorations on bicycles. Although bikes and trucks may have more differences than similarities, both art styles speak to the value of transporting yourself in something you care about and respect.
So, have you been inspired to take your big rig art to the next level? Start saving those Christmas lights and trick that truck out!