It was announced on September 5 in Japan that Champ Road, the last bosozoku tuning magazine, is suspending publication. The so-called “Bad Boy Bible” has been in print for 29 years, showcasing the bikes, cars, and fashion of Japan’s rebel youth. The November 2016 issue, to be released September 26, will be its last.
Champ Road was launched in September 1987. It didn’t just cover the machines of the bosozoku, but also the uniforms, tattoos, and, perhaps most influentially, the actual experiences of Japan’s motor gangs. There were profiles on entire clubs, memoirs of those who were involved in criminal activities, and stories about going through the juvenile training schools. Critics say they glorified it.
However, Champ Road‘s insight into Japan’s disaffected and wayward youth was so raw, its volumes have been used in sociological studies on the subject. Except for some special edition volumes, every issue is available at the National Diet Library (Japan’s equivalent to the Library of Congress). Single early volumes from the 1980s start at $50 per issue on Yahoo Auctions.
At its height, the magazine consisted of 250 pages, most of which consisted of submissions from its many readers. Champ Road‘s own editorial content was minimal. However, the numbers of bosozoku are dwindling as the average age of members increases. It’s estimated that there are only 1/7 the number of active bosozoku left compared to the golden age of the early 1980s.
Ironically, Champ Road may have been able to survive, as in recent years among the younger generation of Japanese car enthusiasts there/s been increased interest in bosozoku cars and bikes. They don’t necessarily want to join gangs, but are attracted to the unmistakable style of the machines.
Older former bosozoku are also building custom cars in the olden style with top-quality craftsmanship that they couldn’t always afford in their youth. Recent issues of Champ Road reflected that, with arty photo spreads akin to something you’d find in Rodders’ Journal.
If there’s any solace for the fans, it’s that there’s a budding renaissance for these types of cars and bikes. The magazine may be done for now, but the very machines Champ Road has, um, championed all these years are thriving more than ever.
Has anyone thought to scan in old copies of the magazine as a means of preserving them?
The publisher is still in business and owns all the copyrights.
It’s a shame to see a business go down; especially one with 29 years of history.
250 pages to an issue, though? That’s not a magazine; it’s a tome!
Any chance they could just go to an online presence? Obviously, some jobs would be lost in the printing/binding/mailing, if it was all done in-house, but at least there’d be SOME survivors.
There are no plans for an online presence, but the publisher, Kasakura Publishing, is still around. There’s always the chance it could come back!
I’ll have to grab a copy next month when I’m in Japan.
Is Drift Tengoku still around?
Drift tengoku is still around, well I brought one in January this year
250 pages an issue? No biggie, weekly manga are that much, and there are tens of those published every week. I had a subscription to Shonen Sunday. Ended up with a wall of manga.
By the standards of most motoring magazines 250 pages is still impressive though. Depends how much of it is editorial of course, as it’s possible to end up with a very thick magazine full of advertisements. I can only think of a few UK car magazines that hit 250 pages or more.
Maybe they will do “mook” versions from time to time. (Magazine book).
Traditional print, even in Japan, seems to be getting thinner and thinner. So many motorcycle magazines seemed to have disappeared. It’s a real shame because when I bring back magazines from Japan, people go nuts over the quality. The photography is fantastic.
Just discovered this mag a couple years ago and was hoping to pick up an issue on the off chance I’m back in Japan… too bad to see it go, was pretty cool.
Japan seems to be losing touch with it’s automotive roots….
I wouldn’t say so. Trends come and go. It’s not a great surprise that a Bosozoku magazine is disappearing when the gangs themselves aren’t anything like as big in number as they used to be. And with heavier policing, it’s also little surprise that say, Kanjo style cars are less common than they used to be.
But you don’t need to spend long on this site to see that there’s still great love for other aspects of Japan’s automotive roots. Regular car meets, classic car shows, more recent modifying trends (current tastes seem every bit as wild in certain circles as anything the Bosozoku came up with, and plenty still carry the influence)… I’d say Japan’s automotive roots are alive and well. We’re just in a different chapter, that’s all.
I really don’t understand this current American (?) obsession with bousouzoku culture. I grew up in Japan during the heyday of bousouzoku, and knew more than a handful of guys who were part of gangs. It wasn’t a benign group of enthusiasts, you know, tied to numerous crimes from lynching, rape, extortion, robbery, etc., and of course, regular public annoyance, noise pollution, etc. Then there were Yakuza involvement with the groups. No, not a single normal citizen drove those cars/bikes. This isn’t a kind of things that we want to see celebrated.
I get that, but bosozoku captures the look and feel of a certain era. Lowriders often have associations with ne’er do wells in the US, but it’s a legitimate automotive art form on its own as well. My two yen.
Well, it IS the next, over-the-top customization thing…
I doubt most people know about the gang tie-ins, but hey, if they do, it’s GANGSTA! Up there with wearing your pants half-off (if only they new what THAT means!), and the sideways baseball cap thing.
Randy, is that your impression of a middle school vice principal circa 1998? I get that people have an issue with glorifying criminal behavior, but what’s the different between people appreciating these crazy machines in a magazine and say watching one of the millions of yakuza movies the Japanese film industry has cranked out? Or the whole VIP style? Anyway cool magazine Ben, I always enjoy learning about all the various Japanese car mags.
I’m not sure I understand the question…
On the cars – it’s the customization; go as far as you can/want with it.
Some people want the image of gangsta – think leather jackets and slicked-back hair in the ’50s U.S. Some get into the whole Hell’s Angels look, without knowing about the criminal behavior, however, some who DO know the unsavory aspects try to use the image to be “bad boys.”
That’s why I said IF they know the gang tie-ins in Japan.
Would this middle school Vice Principal in 1998 have been getting into knife fights, or just enjoying the customization of a car/truck? That’s why I said: “if they do.” I like the cars – dunno if I’d DO one, but I CAN appreciate them, though I doubt I’d be knockin’ over a liquor store.
As for the Yakuza movies – HOPEFULLY people get that it’s a movie, and not something to emulate in real life. Pulp Fiction was pretty cool, as were the 18-or-so Rambo movies, but they’re movies; a short vacation from everyday life.
Are we back on the same page yet?