Bōsōzoku Aesthetic – Luke Nicol

Bōsōzoku is a subculture/ aesthetic originating in Japan. The word Bōsōzoku roughly translates to “mean motorcycle gang” and first started to appear in the 1950s after world war II. It started with young kamikaze pilots returning from the war looking for excitement and danger after watching western movies. This resulted in the formation of biker gangs with each gang customizing their bikes to be loud, flashy and obnoxious. The photo, taken by Esetvan Oriol, at the top of the page is from Highsnobiety depicting what these bikes looked like. When Bōsōzoku first started the groups were extremely violent and it became a gateway into the Yakuza. As time went on the style started to develop into clothing and even cars. The cars are what I am most interested in as owners wanted to emulate the body styling of touring cars at the time with large over fenders and aero dynamics. However, they took it to a whole different level with insane exhausts, bright colors and even crazier body kits. An example can be shown below. This photo was taken by Ron Celestine at a car meet in Japan.

These car are commonly called Bōsōzoku however, this is not the case. The proper term is actually “Kaido Racers” which originated from the style and aesthetic of Bōsōzoku. Kaido translates to highway so the term means highway racers where owners customize the car to look like a crazy version of their favorite race car. There are many different styles of “Kaido Racers” from different eras throughout the 70s and 80s with different terminology for each but to keep it simple we will refer to them as Kaido Racers. Below you can find another example of a Kaido Racer taken by Dino Dalle Carbonare.

This aesthetic doesn’t only apply to cars and bikes, as the style started to become more popular, it branched into vans which as you can expect, are even crazier. This photo below, taken by Mike Garret, shows one of these crazy vans. How does one even drive this?

As you can tell by this point, the aesthetic is really taking something ordinary and making it obnoxious and in your face. You might ask yourself what influences this crazy art style and why do they feel the need to be so crazy? Well it comes from the youth of Japan as a way to express themselves. As the loud gang violence of the biker gangs started to fizzle out, Bōsōzoku fans decided to channel that into their own rides. Most of these cars are illegally modified but that’s part of the style. Against the grain and standing out driven by a youth outlook is where Bōsōzoku is today. Below you can find some more crazy examples of Bōsōzoku cars and bikes.


First photo: Estevan Oriol, 2014, Highsnobiety, The Bosozoku: Japanese Motorcycle Gangs That Influenced Fashion (highsnobiety.com)

Second Photo: Ron Celestine, 2023, Speedhunters, An Unexpected Kaido Racer Encounter – Speedhunters

Third Photo: Dino Dalle Carbonare, 2013, Speedhunter, Kaido Racers Invade Auto Legends – Speedhunters

Fourth Photo: Mike Garret, 2014, Speedhunter, Van Meets Spaceship. Because Japan. – Speedhunters

Fifth Photo: Dino Dalle Carbonare, 2018, Speedhunter, A Night Out With The Bosozoku – Speedhunters

Sixth Photo: Ron Celestine, 2023, Speedhunters, An Unexpected Kaido Racer Encounter – Speedhunters


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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Brandon Phillips
    January 28, 2024 11:37 am

    It was very cool visually to see the designs of the vehicles get more and more extravagant as I learned about the history of the Bōsōzoku aesthetic. You mentioned most of the Bōsōzoku modifications are illegal, do the driers still have conflicts with police or gang associations in the modern day?

    • They do still have conflicts with police but not so much gang associations. Usually, as far as I know, they are written up for excessive exhaust noise and illegal body modifications. This is mainly due to the safety of other drivers on the road in the case of an accident. The Yakuza and gangs in Japan have started to die out so there are rarely issues with police from drivers on that front.


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