Why Japan Loves Custom Prii and Bosozoku Rides

Ever wondered why many Japanese cars have tiny engines and can’t go that fast? It’s a legitimate question and the answer is... safety.
Japan custom kei car 1 photo
Photo: SpeedHunters
The Japanese culture hasn’t heard of YOLO yet, so they’re  concerned about health and safety more than other countries do. That’s why in many studies Japan is in first or second place regarding life expectancy, with around 87 years being the average there.

This translates into harsh laws regarding safety and speed limits are absolutely awful there if you want to travel on road. If you really wanna go fast, the bullet train is the quickest way as it’s not subjected to the same rules.

If you decide to take a car, then you should know that the general speed limit is 60 km/h (37 mph) except for highways where it escalates up to... 100 km/h (62 mph). Even worse, city traffic is stuck at 40 km/h (25 mph) and you can reach places outside the city where 40 or 50 km/h (25 or 31 mph) is the fastest you’re allowed.

Not sticking to the speed limits will be harshly penalized there, not only for short term via a ticket, but for long therm also, because if you cross the line one too many times your driving license level will fall down. Yes, there are different color-coded driving licenses, with the best one being the “Gold License”, of course. Drop bellow that and you will pay more for insuring your car.

As you might have thought so far, owning and driving a car in Japan can be a pain in the arse, especially if it’s very powerful. Of course, if you’re a resourceful man, you can flip the bird in the face of the law, get a Nissan GT-R and go crazy if money isn’t a problem, but for the average Watanabe this won’t cut it.

This leads to more and more people buying small, underpowered but fuel efficient cars in Japan, such as kei cars and hybrids. But then comes car enthusiasts that are forced to drive slow but they need to impress others.

If anywhere else you can just show up in a Mustang, do a massive burnout and speed away like crazy will attract you street credentials, in Japan you’ll have to find another way... one that doesn’t revolve around power.

And thats how Bosozoku, VIP, stancing or turning your ride in a neon with huge wings customizing jobs appeared. And they’re so widespread there that groups of enthusiasts made a whole lifestyle out of it. This current is so vast that even other countries have adopted it - stance your car, put some bling rims and cruise slowly so you won’t scrape the underpinnings can now be seen almost everywhere.

This pushed Japanese into creating those horrid-looking bosozoku cars and tuning programs for the Toyota Prius or other hybrids. People there don’t really care about horsepower if they’re not into racing; they only care about shocking others with sparkling paintjobs, LEDs, lambo-doors, massive camber angles, extra wings, dubious bumpers and upswept exhausts.

So before you open your mouth to shout that tuning a Prius is a waste of money and time, think at the factors that pushed Japanese into doing it. I’m sure if it wasn’t for their street law, the Toyota Aqua wasn’t topping sales for the second year in a row.
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