Bosozoku: When Car Customization Goes Extreme

The catchphrase “Gotta have it!” and car customization seem to go hand in hand. Things like authentic brand name wheels and certain brands of brakes are a staple when it comes to car customization. People have their cars modified mainly because they want to stand out on the road, but things can get quite awkward when they come across another one that’s been customized in the exact same way.

Which begs the question, how much does car customization really reflect your personality? How much does it reflect who you are?

In a bid to find the answer, we’ll be exploring Bosozoku, the hottest, most rebellious trend in car customization right now. With us today is Som Okumi, an American Bosozoku culture enthusiast behind Bosozoku Thailand Facebook page.

What is Bosozoku?

We all have our own uniqueness hidden inside each one of us. However, given the culture and tradition of each country, we’re often forced to live inside the box dictated by society. Most people don’t feel like they could truly be themselves. This is not the case for people like Som though.

“Bosozoku or zokusha means ‘thug.’ It’s a group of Japanese delinquents who go against society.”

“By standard, Japanese people are very conservative, but there are those who dare to be different. These people like to get into trouble, cause nuisance and terrorize others just for the fun of it.”

Ride or die

Stemmed from that rebellious spirit, “bosozoku” reflects itself not only through gang behaviors, but also self-expression through objects and personal possessions.

“If you’re a young bosozoku, then you’ll have your motorbike customized in your own personal style or like the rest of your gang. To show off and stand out from the crowd, some would do oversized fairings, flashy lights, and high seat backs decorated with colorful flags or diamond glitter.”

“As they grow older, they would switch to cars. However, the goal remains the same, which is to be different from others as much as possible. Some of the popular bosozoku decorations are vibrant colors, diamond glitter, rear-end rings (stolen from a railway track), bamboo tubes fitted with a horn that would announce the rider’s arrival, frontside oil coolers, and shark-shaped/pointy front modification.”

How bosozoku became a trend in Thailand

Som told us that the bosozoku culture has existed for a long time, but it’d never been that popular because people thought it was distasteful. The reason is that most cars were from the ‘70-80s and most owners were often a conservative when it comes to customization. But now that the world’s gotten smaller due to the internet, everything is more open. Bosozoku turned out to be the hottest trend on the scene right now.

“Nobody would think of even customizing their car this way. Not a lot of Thais knew about bosozoku. Even the ones that did know, they thought it was too garish.”

“My car is a 240Z and I’ve been customizing it this way since around 2004. It used to be white and people didn’t really get it at first when they saw it. I didn’t really care though. Back in the days, people only knew bosozoku from manga, but now with the internet, people are more informed than before. Society has become more open to freaks like us. Also, bosozoku has also been featured quite a lot lately in the Thai media, which definitely contributed to its popularity here.”

Creativity above all

“Bosozoku is more accepted today and people can get their cars customized for not a lot of money these days. You no longer need to have ‘70-80s cars, the ones ‘90-00s are perfectly fine.”

“When you do it, just make sure to retain the character of bosozoku in such a way that works for your personality. It doesn’t matter how authentic or expensive the parts are as long as the character is there.”

You don’t actually need a whole lot of money to get into it because bosozoku originated from kids who didn’t have money to begin with. Anything DIY or handmade is fine as long as it shows your creativity and personality. When you finally find that sweet spot, people will appreciate the style that you came up with.”

‘Break the mold’ moment

Som concluded that the most important thing for the bosozoku-style customization is to be yourself. “It’s your own car, your own style, do what you want and don’t care what others think. Car customization is more than just adding things to your car so that it looks like other people’s. It’s an artwork combined with your identity.”

“You have to overcome your limits and how people perceive you. Show yourself off the world. Just go bonkers on bosozoku!”

“With this car, I was hesitating for two years before I decided to cut out the wheel eyebrow fender. I’d wanted a lower car, but I wasn’t brave enough to go through with it. Once I made up my mind, though, I felt so relieved. Once you’ve broken away from the box, you’re free to do anything with your car.”

“If you keep following trends, you’ll be just that, a follower. Just be yourself and do yourself.”