Who needs fireworks when you got this?

Over the New Year’s holidays, most people in Japan spend time with family but there are also those who like to hit the town or get a lot of shopping in as well. And then, there are those who like to spend time at the largest gathering in Japan of heavily decorated trucks, known as “dekotora.”

Our reporter Masanuki Sunakoma isn’t normally one of those people, but this year he made an exception and headed down to an event held by Utamarokai in the town of Yorii, Saitama Prefecture.

Utamarokai is the largest association of dekotora owners in Japan and hold regular events such as this, often with the aim of raising money for charity.

Since these types of trucks are normally prohibited from entering major metropolitan areas, events such as this generally take place in more rural parts of the country. So Masanuki had to drive out a little ways to get to it.

But leave it to truckers to be very transportation-minded and our reporter had no trouble finding the venue because of all the well-placed signs placed by Utamarokai guiding him along the way.

This event ran all night through New Year’s Eve to the morning of New Year’s Day and most people showed up in the evening to see these beauties lit up in all their glory.

However, Masanuki had plans that evening and could only check it out in the afternoon. This sadly made some of the vehicles look like unplugged pinball machines.

Just to give you a taste of what the trucks would be like lit up, Utamarokai often posts videos of the light shows that go on at night on their YouTube channel.

On the bright side, the broad daylight gave Masanuki a much better look at the vibrantly colorful paint jobs on many of the trucks. Many had traditional imagery and poems painted on the sides and back.

Others adopted more contemporary visuals from the world of anime and movies.

▼ This one kinda fits both categories because I’m pretty sure it was a Street Fighter background.

In addition to lights and art, many trucks were heavily kitted out with grills, bumpers, exhausts and more. It’s said that it’s getting harder to find people willing to do these kinds of customizations for affordable prices, making theses types of trucks harder to come by in recent years.

▼ This one has a piece of shimenawa rope used to demarcate a sacred space

But perhaps no truck was more customized than this one. Its pristine chrome reflected the surroundings so clearly that it could easily be mistaken for a painting.

It also had a small trailer specially decked out for the most precious cargo of all.

Masanuki could look inside the kids’ trailer and it was all decorated to look like the cab of a big rig! With this, aspiring little drivers can have their own convoy going.

And the centerpiece of this and pretty much any dekotora event is the Ichibanboshi. Masanuki was full of awe to see this legendary truck in real life.

The Ichibanboshi was the featured truck of the Truck Yaro films that spanned the late ’70s. For comparison’s sake, it would be like seeing the real Herbie the Love Bug or the Ghostbusters’ car in front of you.

In the Truck Yaro films, the hero Momojiro Hoshi would often have to race against the clock in the Ichibanboshi to help people out. The acts of kindness and generosity of the film have been a great influence on Utamarokai, whose members are often active at disaster sites, shipping in supplies to those who need them most.

In fact, at this event those who make a donation to charity are allowed to sit in the driver’s seat of this famous movie vehicle. Masanuki, who had fond memories of Truck Yaro, was overwhelmed with nostalgia to be able to look out over the same steering wheel as Momojiro.

The cab was also completely decked out with wooden sliding doors, a chandelier, tatami mats, and an altar.

Aside from the truck’s iconic status, the inside was like a museum in other ways. The radio alone was a throwback to a past that feels like a whole other world at this point.

Sitting in that driver’s seat, Masanuki could really feel that history. Not only the history of the films, but of Japan which was going through the turbulent period of the late Showa Era. It was a heavy feeling.

It was an especially poignant feeling to have as our reporter got ready to enter 2023. As he walked through the dekotora one last time, he admired the craftsmanship and pride that had clearly gone into these vehicles.

Utamarokai regularly holds these events around Japan and you can keep track of when and where the next one will be on their website. Be sure to check one out if you can because it’s not just a piece of Japanese art, culture, and history, it supports good causes too.

Photos © SoraNews24
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