Japan's noisy bosozoku (hot rod gangs) used to assemble in large numbers, bringing hell-bent-for-leather antics and ear-splitting exhaust sounds to otherwise quiet suburban communities. But as Nikkan Gendai (Oct 13) reports, the gangs, particularly those in Kansai, are only a vestige of their once-noisy glory, and last year might have seen their dying gasp.
Bosozoku in Kansai had once made an annual tradition of converging in the Osaka suburb of Kishiwada around the time of that town's famous "Danjiri Matsuri" (cart-pulling festival), an event that brings thousands of spectators to the town to watch rival neighborhood groups engage in competition by pulling carts through the streets.
But police have been cracking down hard over the past four years, and when the gangs attempted to organize a revival last November, the exuberant youngsters were quickly rounded up.
"Last November 14, communicating via social media, 32 bikes with a total of 53 guys and girls who were high school or middle school students got together," a high school student relates. "They were detained by the cops and other authorities."
On the night of November 14, 2020, a total of 53 high school students, students at occupational training schools and part-time workers converged on a park in Izumi City.
According to reports from the scene, the bikers were not clad in the customarily colorful red or white gear of dyed-in-the-wool bosozuku, but wore conventional attire. And for most, it was their first time to turn out. Members of long-established hot-rod gangs like the notorious "Black Emperor" group were nowhere to be found.
Their 2-wheeled vehicles included only one with 250cc engine displacement and another with 125cc displacement, with the remainder made up of scooters and mini-bikes having smaller engine sizes. Out of the 53 detained, 46 were males. Of the seven girls, one drove her own vehicle and the remaining six rode along as pillion passengers.
The police cited the noisy night riders for such offenses as driving without a license, carrying an unauthorized passenger, operating without a muffler and driving vehicles to which illegal modifications had been made.
Kishiwada residents fully cooperated, telephoning the local police to complain when the hot rodders began carousing in the parking lot of a convenience store. When patrol cars approached them, the hot rodders reportedly fled in all directions, behaving, as the expression goes, "like a bunch of baby spiders."
Meanwhile, on a 2.4-kilometer-long stretch of National Highway 26 that runs through Kishiwada, the hot rodders disregarded traffic signals, made zigzag lane-changing maneuvers (called dako or "snake running" in Japanese), and engaged in other wild behavior.
"Police were able to charge the 53 individuals thanks to use of images taken with their cameras, both mounted on vehicles and those set up on the roadside," a police source tells Nikkan Gendai. "The images were subject to analysis and violators identified.
"About half of those questioned claimed they had never met any of the others in person prior to that day, and the group did not appear to have any leader," the source continued. "Nor did any of them hold higher or lower ranks than their peers. Since they didn't have any contacts with local residents, the investigation turned out to be very time consuming.
"A few bosozoku groups still exist in Osaka, but even the larger ones only consist of about 10 vehicles. It's been a long time since we've had to round up this many," he added.
In past years, in the early morning hours of November 3 (Culture Day, a national holiday), hot rodders turned out on Highway 26 in Kishiwada for what's been named the Irebun-surii (11-3, a reference of the date). This once attracted as many as 2,500 spectators, who are called the kitai-zoku (hopeful tribe).
In 2016, the crackdowns began, with the prefectural police mobilizing 930 cops along a 2-kilometer long stretch of road from which traffic was blocked off. Because of that, no "parades" have taken place since 2017, and while bosozoku did show up last year, they attracted no spectators.
The hot rodders are a nuisance as well as a danger to both local residents and cars on the road, the writer notes, with the implication that if their activities do finally end it will be good riddance.© Japan Today