The Glamorous Art of Dekotora

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Short for “decoration truck”, Dekotora is the intricate ‘art’ of truck decoration in Japan. You’re most likely to see ultraviolet or neon lights, stainless, chrome plating or even golden exterior parts and over-the-top kitschy interiors on these trucks. These trucks are either created just for fun, or for events, at a rather high price.

As far as anyone can tell, this whole truck decoration thing started in the 70s. More exactly in 1975, when film and television production company, Toei Company, Ltd. released about 10 comedy-action movies (between 1975 and 1979) called “Truck Guys” (Torakku Yaro). These films featured a truck driver who drove around in a gaudily decorated truck throughout the country. Toei hit the jackpot with these series of movies, as they were loved by young and old.

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Although dekotora was around before the movies, it was mostly reserved for the fishing transport trucks and it wasn’t quite as garish. Because back in the day, ready-made truck parts were not as easy to come by as they are today, drivers took parts from military vehicles or sightseeing buses.

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Of course, since the late 90s, dekotora has become something more of an expensive hobby than a necessity. This new decoration style was heavily influenced by the Gundam Series (a “space opera anime” series with giant robot) launched in 1979, as well as modern art and retro designs.

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These trucks don’t decorate themselves, however. Nor by the drivers, on their own. Nope, there are custom shops for that. Massive garages that have wall-to-wall stainless steel, Megatron-style body fixtures and bumpers that resemble something you’d see on steam locomotives. Of course, flashy license plates could not be missing from the whole affair; and the stickers, we must not forget about the stickers!

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In case you’re taken with these art trucks, you should know it’s a labor of love and dedication, taking almost a year to make. The cost? Oh, almost £100,000 each. Hand decorated with a little hint of the personality of the family of shop that invested the time to make this dekotora come to life, this kind of truck will certainly get you noticed!

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