This is completely weird and something I’ve never ever heard of, or never even imagined would have happened, least of all somewhere like Japan.
The subculture is called Decotora (translation: trucks decorated with illuminations) and exists on the lonely highways of Japan. Nobody really knows the origins of the movement – it’s said that it began in the 1970s when fishing trucks in the north east of the country started decorating their rigs after the release of the cult movie Trucker. Yeah, haven’t heard of that one either.
Things got really serious though towards the end of the 90s and truckers started dressing up their trucks to look like they were hanging out in Las Vegas rather than Tokyo. Nobody really knows why they started doing this and why it developed so quickly.
Photographer Tatsuki Masaru started taking pictures of the trucks in the summer of 1998 and became friends with a bunch of the drivers too. He surmises that the truckers started decorating their trucks because they were so lonely and had nothing better to do, as obviously the job requires long periods of solitude with the open road.
There’s a sense of real community and competition between truckers as there are regular roadside meet ups where truckers can compare who has the most whistles and bells on their truck whilst staying within the legal safety requirements for a truck in Japan. Masaru also thinks it helps a lot of truckers – most of who didn’t ask for the job, but had to take it for lack of opportunity elsewhere – to take a real sense of pride in their job, and help them to actually enjoy it. I guess it’s the equivalent of having some photographs/wacky mascot on your desk over here, only times a billion.
Here are a bunch of the best of Masaru’s pictures:
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