There is often a distorted image built in people’s mind because of the unknown reality. For that reason, I have been documenting a number of subcultures, often feared or misunderstood. I like misfits, outcasts, those who don’t follow the norms. Recently I have been following an alternative culture in Japan called Dekotora. I started this project as I was living in Japan in 2015 and went back in 2019 to continue.
Dekotora has a duality of attraction and repulsion: attraction, as it revolves around heavily decorated trucks full of colors and lights; repulsion, as people don’t know much about it, besides the visual aspect, and the truckers tend to have a “bad boy” reputation. Dekotora stands for “Dekoreshon Torakku” which is the Japanese version of “Decorated Truck”. This culture started in the 70’s. Initially, those trucks were painted for advertising purpose: for example, a truck selling fish from Hokkaido would have a traditional painting showing so. Today, because of the regulations forbidding such decorations and the bad image it could give, only a few small businesses, such as fish or flower delivery use those trucks for work.
I mainly spent my time with the group Utamarokai, the largest, oldest and only group to have chapters all around Japan. The president, Tajima san, owns a very famous truck: Ichiban Boshi (first star) which starred in a series of movies called “Torakku Yarō” (Truck Dude), with celebrity actor Bunta Sugawara. The ten movies made this culture quite popular. You can find Dekotora today in a music video, a video game, a coffee or tofu commercial. Although this subculture is a closed world, they regularly have public events where they proudly show their creations. A lot of them are for charity, such as relief for 2011 Earthquake victims, still in very precarious situations.
With this project, I want to reflect the esthetic, the mood and the essence of the Dekotora community. They are extremely proud and warm people, with a very traditional lifestyle. I find particularly interesting the contrast between the trucker’s world, often assimilated to a raw and hard world, and the poetry and nostalgia linked to the Dekotora scene. It’s a real journey into the sphere of dreams and ancient Japan.
Moreover, this work archives a part of Japanese culture that will one day disappear. Within 4 years, I already noticed a drastic change and the community getting much smaller.