Say you want a blingy whip but an Escalade just doesn’t cut it in the cargo hauling department. Or perhaps it’s just a few acres short on chrome and a few millilumens short on lighting. What’s a ride pimper to do? Welcome to the Japanese phenomenon of dekotora, short for decoration truck. A new book, called simply Decotora, by photographer Masaru Tatsuki delves into the bright, chromey world of these gaudy customized lorries.
The trend began in northeastern fishing towns, where running near the sea and hauling fish pulled from said sea meant that salt water ate away the trucks faster than a shirtless David Hasselhoff masticating a hamburger. Drivers replaced the easily corroded panels with shiny stainless steel and a movement was born.
The stainless steel panels grew more and more ornate, but the dekatora didn’t hit it big until the 1975 film Torakku Yarou about a hard-driving dekotora pilot on the Tomei Expressway. The look spread like wildfire, getting exponentially garish with each iteration. Eventually, these trucks became show cars in their own right, with their own competitions and culture, which did not involve carrying fish at all. Truly grandiose dekotora even had a full blown love shack in the cargo hold, complete with furniture and chandeliers.
By the 90s, the popularity of the anime Gundam, about giant robots who battle in space, began to influence styling direction. Nowadays, however, a wave of nostalgia has caused the dekotora to return to the roots with retro-inspired machines. We can’t argue with that.