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DEKOTORA

Filmmaker Joe Almond Catches A Rare Insight Into The Fascinating Japanese Subculture

March, 2021
Dekotora charity gathering, Toyokawa, Japan, 2019 © Joe Almond
In 2019, London-based photographer and filmmaker Joe Almond caught a rare afternoon amongst a gathering of Dekotora trucks and their owners, the term dekotora used to describe Japanese decorated trucks embellished so impressively they hold a sense of pride amongst owners as works of art in their own right. Through driving long distances, these spaces become second home and reflect characteristics and personal tastes. From Louis Vuitton monogram-covered seating to elaborately painted and illuminated exterior panels — there is no frugality spared when creating one’s personal space. This phenomenon was first uncovered and popularised in the 70’s from the Japanese movie series “Torakku Yarō” (Trucks Guys), and has found worldwide interest, most recently in a Gucci advertisement in 2017. Extravagant, costly and now in decline, the fascinating subculture still remains and continues through its passionate drivers. Whilst the drivers mostly reside in Japan’s countryside, covering the wide highways of the vast country, it is their sense of community and generous spirit that is most compelling. Through frequent charity events, they are also usually one of the first responders to a crisis in Japan — particularly in the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami — gathering emergency supplies through their own resources and transport logistics. This is photographer Joe Almond‘s visual account — at a dekotora charity event — up close and personal not only with the decorated vehicles themselves, but the equally unique and vibrant owners behind their wheels.
Dekotora charity gathering, Toyokawa, Japan, 2019 © Joe Almond

JOE ALMOND

We found ourselves in Toyokawa, Japan for a Dekotora charity event. We were there as Zuketa films, filming a documentary on car subcultures for the V&A museum back in London. We followed Junichi Tajima, president of Utamarokai, the oldest Dekotora association in Japan. As a kid he’d dreamed of driving trucks, first customising his bicycle with hand painted patterns and lights before later customising working trucks. Covering long distances with their vehicles, drivers used this self expression as a way of showing their identities and personalities. 
Dekotora charity gathering, Toyokawa, Japan, 2019 © Joe Almond
We followed Junichi Tajima, president of Utamarokai, the oldest Dekotora association in Japan. As a kid he’d dreamed of driving trucks, first customising his bicycle with hand painted patterns and lights before later customising working trucks.
Joe Almond
Dekotora charity gathering, Toyokawa, Japan, 2019 © Joe Almond
Dekotora charity gathering, Toyokawa, Japan, 2019 © Joe Almond
Dekotora charity gathering, Toyokawa, Japan, 2019 © Joe Almond
It brought back that childhood spark in me as I rigged up my camera watching the extravagantly decorated trucks cruising past. They parked up one by one along the waterfront. The level of detail and customisation was hard to comprehend with hundreds of them neatly lined up. As the day rolled into night there was a buzz of excitement amongst the crowd. The trucks powered their lights up one after another sparking to life like giant arcade games. I set to “work” floating through the space, guiding my camera between trucks with kids gazing upwards bathed in the neon glow and barbecue smoke hanging in the night air.
Dekotora charity gathering, Toyokawa, Japan, 2019 © Joe Almond

I spend so much of my time as filmmaker trying to capture or recreate a feeling, with a focus on the technical side often separating me from the moment I’m filming. This was one of those rare times I could relax into the atmosphere in a childlike state of mind and let the camera film as an extension of that.

Dekotora charity gathering, Toyokawa, Japan, 2019 © Joe Almond
Dekotora charity gathering, Toyokawa, Japan, 2019 © Joe Almond
Dekotora charity gathering, Toyokawa, Japan, 2019 © Joe Almond
Dekotora charity gathering, Toyokawa, Japan, 2019 © Joe Almond
Dekotora charity gathering, Toyokawa, Japan, 2019 © Joe Almond
Dekotora charity gathering, Toyokawa, Japan, 2019 © Joe Almond
Dekotora charity gathering, Toyokawa, Japan, 2019 © Joe Almond
Dekotora charity gathering, Toyokawa, Japan, 2019 © Joe Almond
Dekotora charity gathering, Toyokawa, Japan, 2019 © Joe Almond
Dekotora charity gathering, Toyokawa, Japan, 2019 © Joe Almond
March, 2021