Bosozoku and Shakotan, the Japanese low riders were born like this

Bosozoku and Shakotan, the Japanese low riders were born like this
When it comes to low riders, the mind can only wander towards the United States - I still remember at 13 the first 'meeting' with the low riders included in GTA San Andreas - but probably not everyone knows that a subculture similar to that of American low rider also developed in Japan, with an evident boom in the late 80s and during the 90s.

Today's story is the story of Shin Sato, who over 20 years ago he founded the New Jack dealer-workshop in Ebina City, over the years specializing in very particular works, attributable to the bosozoku genre. The term has a very broad meaning, and is suitable for all those slightly rebellious cars, with noisy and wandering exhausts; the movement takes inspiration from the Japanese racing cars of the time and spread very quickly among the so-called shakotan, a term that indicates those who participate in more or less clandestine races on Japanese motorways.

The aesthetics of this cultural movement has been strongly dictated - as well as by the style of racing cars, such as the Nissan Skyline shown in the photo - also by the restrictive rules imposed by Japanese law: it is in fact forbidden to have tires that sprout outside the body of the car, so the easiest solution in many cases turned out to be to add bodywork parts at the wheels, often with visible rivets. Over the years, the aesthetic tastes of this movement refined so much to the point of having different styles of bosozoku depending on the region of Japan in which one was located.

Photo: Ken Saito But back to Sato-san: he was 30 years old when he founded New Jack, a reality that soon became known for its low rider style modifications, despite Sato-san having a past from shakotan. As a young man he had a group of motorcyclist friends with whom he met in the evening to "make noise", so that was how the desire to be different, to stand out was born in Sato. After a brief experience in the world of kei trucks, small vans normally used for commercial purposes, which in Japan are modified to have a more racing style, Sato-san found a job in a workshop specialized in low rider, and realized that this was the his way.

Photo: Ken Saito The slow decline of the shakotan movement allowed Sato-san to specialize in low rider style aesthetic customization; at this point we are in the second half of the 90s, a period in which the influence of the hip-hop movement in America is at an all-time high. Everyone, at the time, wanted a unique and more eye-catching car, so his was a choice dictated by passion but also by business. The similarities between the shakotan style and the low ride are not many, but without a doubt the use of small wheels that allow the car to be brought as close to the ground as possible remains a distinctive feature of these styles.

Photo: Ken Saito Sato-san, however, admits that he has noticed a similarity between people who appreciate these cars: in both cases, a car is appreciated not only for its capacity as a means of transport, but for its uniqueness. >
"Those who love customization love it on any means of transport, be it a car or a motorcycle."

About 15 years ago, the demand for shakotan-style customizations started to rise again, so Sato-san started doing work on demand again; there was no manual, nor a course to follow - Sato started working "by eye" and exchanging information with colleagues. Customizing this car has always been a challenge for Sato-san, who says: "If you buy an expensive car, you can do anything, but how special can a cheap car become? ”

As you can imagine, today the shakotan scene is no longer what it once was, despite the fact that the internet and social media have helped to spread this culture around the world. Undoubtedly, the strict rules in force in Japan have stifled the shakotan movement, but the main reason is another, much simpler one: the fashion has passed, and others have arrived - as often happens.

Furthermore, since 2004 onwards the police began to be very strict towards organized groups and rallies, especially those that are too noisy where people are not satisfied with admiring the stationary cars but making them roar in a parking lot. Despite the strict rules, still today there are those who manage to register cars made in this particular style, and it seems that the country is slowly loosening its grip on this type of event.

Photo: Ken Saito The rallies of recent years have become more and more static, as one-of-a-kind exhibits, rather than being races to those who had the loudest car as they once could be. You meet in dedicated parking lots, park your customized low rider and greet many colleagues and friends who share your same passion. The few who still try to be noisy and noisy are often ostracized by the group.

Fashions come and go, but style never goes away; Sato-san will continue to create his own customizations and spread a culture of aesthetics that is unique in the world.

Photo: Ken Saito

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