Are the Japanese Afraid of the Bosozoku? All About the Biker Gangs of Japan

  • The Japanese biker gang is known as bosozoku. Bosozoku has a literal meaning of “the running beyond control gang”. The biker gang is also known as kaminari zoku which means “thunder tribes”.

    This sub-culture of Japan began in the 1950s and they were known for driving recklessly and ignoring traffic rules. Many members were from the lower socioeconomic class and they may have joined the gang to express their dissatisfaction with the society. Gang fights were also common where weapons like Molotov cocktails, steel pipes, baseball bats and wooden swords were used. The biker members usually have tattoos and customize their bikes to have their own distinctive styles which are usually showy, colourful and noisy.

    Tokkofuku is a uniform which is commonly associated with these Japanese biker gangs. Tokkofuku means “special attack uniform”, which was inspired by the Kamikaze pilots’ uniforms known as tokkotai. Tokkofuku usually has intricate embroidery design which can cost thousands of dollars. The bosozoku uniforms are usually passed down and could not be washed as this is the rule by their gangs.

    The stereotypical trend was to sport the tokkofuku with kanji slogans written on it, and completing the look with a pompadour hairstyle, sunglasses, hachimaki headbands and imperial Japanese flags. I recall seeing a similar look in the Great Teacher Onizuka manga as Onizuka used to be part of the biker’s gang.

    The bosozuku members are not only men but there are women as well who also sport tattoos and modified bikes. However, bosozoku girls in recent years have a more modern and feminine fashion approach such as having pretty, painted nails and flashy pink bikes.

    The trend of bosozoku has declined due to stricter laws which grants the police more authority to arrest any reckless biker gangs. The Aichi Prefecture has the most number of biker gang members. Thus, if you want to get a chance to see bosozoku, Aichi Prefecture will be the place!

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