Japan might be famous for mouthwatering food like sushi and sashimi, as well as for gorgeous geisha, technological advancements and cherry blossom, but this isn’t the only side of this unique country to have achieved notoriety. Whilst the main cultural reference points of Japan are more widely known, there are also a number of subcultures that have developed alongside over the years. One of the most fascinating of these is the subculture of customising vans.
Customising vans – sounds pretty dull right? Well no, as this customisation is pretty far removed from adding shiny hub cabs, a double exhaust or a pair of fluffy dice. When the Japanese customise a van, they customise a van. Whilst in other countries, the point of adding to vehicles is usually to make them more macho than the competition, to make them go faster, or to generally pimp a ride to make it cooler than any other car on the road, the Japanese seem to take a rather different view – anything as long as it’s completely over the top. They go big, cartoony, colourful and they don’t skimp on the effort.
This is why you shouldn’t be surprised to see a van with giant go faster lighting flashes affixed to the bodywork, an entire extra back section added on, enormous airbrushed drawings of anime characters, pop stars, girlfriends (or boyfriends) plastered across the entire side of the van, and the use of a whole rainbow of colours from pink and yellow through to dark red and purple.
The amount of time and effort that is poured into creating just the right, individual look for these vehicles is obvious when you take a look at the crazy designs. Fancy a boot that opens into an enormous soundsystem, complete with a whole rack of speakers and disco lights? There’s a Japanese customised van with one.
Want a unique double exhaust pipe that emerges from the front bonnet and runs over the top of the vehicle? You’ll see that on a Japanese customised van. In fact, whatever your idea of a fantasy vehicle is, you can almost guarantee that someone in Japan has thought of it and done it to one of these vans.
Around this fascinating – and time consuming – hobby has emerged an entire subculture with meets, shows, social events and forums for sharing the best ways to achieve the perfect bodywork additions and the best paint jobs, and to generally show off.
One of the biggest of the meets is the Japanese custom van show, which takes place on the Fuji speedway, and if you have any interest in these incredible vehicles and you want to see a large number of them in one place then this is the place to be to do it. You’ll see everything from tricked out futuristic purple batmobile type vans, to souped up sports cars with over the top bodywork additions and fantasy designs. There’s literally nothing these guys can’t do with a van. Whilst this trend hasn’t really caught on so much outside of Japan, that’s not to say that it won’t. If you’re feeling inspired then get customising and, who knows, you might start your own subculture.
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