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A History of Bosozoku

1:Kaminarizoku - カミナリ族:
Kaminarizoku (literally, lightning tribe), first seen in the 1950s, is often referred to as the precursors of the bosozoku (biker gangs). Those in the group were children of upper-class families who could afford motorcycles, which were considered as expensive luxuries at the time. The bosozoku were not violent; they were more focused on speed like the hashiriya (street racers). The name kaminarizoku comes from the fact that their motorcycles would make thunderous noises with their mufflers removed and the way they would zigzag through traffic like a stroke of lightning.

The Honda CB72 was a motorcycle that was popular among the kaminarizoku. It cost ¥750,000 in today’s money.

2:Press Rider  - プレスライダー:
Fax machines, let alone e-mail technology, were not available during the 1960s and 1970s, so photo negatives were sent to Japan by aeroplane from overseas, and needed to be taken from the airport to the newspaper companies for development as quickly as possible. Press riders were motorcyclists who were up for this task. These riders would burn rubber once they received the negatives. They disregarded speed limits, but it is said that even the police would not bother them, as they understood the importance of the press riders’ job.

A recruitment advert for press riders

Windshields were a must as press riders would ride at incredibly high speeds.

Handlebars were narrowed down to allow press riders to weave through congested streets.

Flags of newspaper companies were propped up near the front wheel.

Young riders, idolising the way press riders weaved through traffic at incredibly high speeds, would eventually start imitating the style of their motorcycles. 

3:Bosozoku and Tokkou-fuku - 暴走族と特攻服
It is said that the Tokkou-fuku (literally, special attack clothing)  were first worn in the 1970s by Tokyo-based bosozoku. They incorporated this style from conservative political groups and over time, the style of the tokkou-fuku changed.

The bosozoku had adopted the chivalry-system by the Heisei era. As such, riders would embroider words such as “— Clan” on their tokkou-fuku to indicate group affiliation. Nowadays, bosozoku are allowed creative freedom, and there are some ’unique’ embroideries. It is common to cover the tokkou-fuku with a significant amount of embroideries so a single jacket can cost ¥200,000 to ¥300,000. The more embroidery a rider has, the more expensive the tokkou-fuku.

The tokkou-fuku has nothing to do with the uniform worn by kamikaze pilots (known as kamikaze tokkou-tai). They share the same name from the fact that the wearer would bravely dive into a fight headfirst no matter how tough the opponent.

4:Ladies - レディース
A bosozoku team comprised of all-female members are known (somewhat ironically)  as Ladies.

5:SOTSURAN - 卒ラン
A sotsuran (literally, graduation western clothing) is a type of modified school uniform,with various designs and embroidery, that is worn by class furyo (delinquents) during graduation ceremonies. Many of these are embroidered with messages depicting the furyo’s ties with their comrades or words of gratitude towards their teachers and parents. Nowadays, the sotsuran is becoming somewhat of a fashion statement and is not only worn by bosozoku and furyo; many show off pictures of their sotsuran on Social Media or wear them to concerts.


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