Climb Aboard the Insanely Elaborate Delivery Trucks of Japan
Dekotora means “decorated truck,” but it is best described as Godzilla meets Transformers. The gaudy rigs sport acres of chrome, neon, and velvet, and drivers ride in cabs illuminated by chandeliers.
Some 300 dekotora rolled into a rally in Chiba that Robert Benson checked out in June. Every rig in his series Japanese Decoration Trucks is more outlandish than the last. “They’re either trying to be as badass as they can, or as hardcore traditional Japanese as they can, or to be cute,” says Benson.
Dekotora grew popular after the 1975 film Torakku Yarō, in which two drivers enjoy wild escapades in a flamboyantly decorated truck. Much like the colorful trucks of India, these trucks deliver everything from lumber to produce. Drivers spend ungodly sums bedazzling their Mitsubishi Fusos, Hino Rangers, and Nissan UDs.
The interiors are equally ostentatious. Chandeliers are ubiquitous, and Benson saw cabs swaddled in fur, leather, velvet and even imitation Louis Vuitton upholstery. Crystal knobs and buttons are a common sight, as are dashboards that light up like Vegas casinos. “They looked like the Millennium Falcon cockpit,” says Benson.
Benson wandered around with a Canon EOS 5DR R, a 24-70 mm lens, and a couple of flashes. He favored extreme close-ups that accentuate the enormity of the trucks and their elaborate decor. The show is one of four held throughout the year, drawing drivers from throughout Japan to swap stories, drink beer, and talk smack. Many bring their families, who dine in makeshift living rooms erected in the back of each truck.
For drivers, dekotora are about craftsmanship and pride of ownership. “It’s all do-it-yourself,” says Benson. “They’d have me get down to see under the truck so they could point out what they did. They’re ultra proud.”
As they should be … just so long as the dekotora don’t join the Decepticons.