Monday, 19 May 2014

Decorated Vans (AKA Yankee Mobiles)

On a rainy Sunday we were dropping Tiger off at the park for a cub scout meeting and felt that our car was distinctly under-dressed. The park has a huge car park and is a fair way out of town, so trucks often stop there over night. These van modifying enthusiasts seemed to have started their get together/party on Saturday night judging from how drunk they were and how low the BBQs were burning at 10 am on the Sunday. They had set up a pavilion in the center of the carpark and filled it with BBQs and plastic garbage bins full of ice and beers.
I desperately wanted some photos but it is always important to get permission, and especially so in Japan where people are quite sensitive to being photographed or recorded. This put me in a bit of a bind.
Note the "safety driver" sign in the window
These decorated vans are part of yankee subculture, and there's a lot of overlap between yankee, right-wing-nationalists (who drive around in black or white vans yelling for gaijin to go home, among other things) and criminal organisations (yakuza links to the transport industry is one reason yakuza groups are able to deliver aid to disaster areas before the government does).

I noticed that several of the older men, the ones sitting on the comfortable looking chairs in the tent out of the rain, were wearing suits and expensive looking jewelry. We'd have an unpleasant encounter with some right-wingers not long before, and I was feeling nervous about approaching them. In the end it was a non-issue. They were still in the jovial stages of drunkenness and thought it was hilarious that I used honorifics when asking permission to take pictures. They sent the youngest and dampest-looking guy to accompany us and that was all.
Unfortunately a lot of the vans left before I could get pictures. Most of the plates were from out of town and several from other prefectures, so I guess many people were making a long drive back.

I had heard of decorated trucks before, but the first I had heard of these vans was after moving to Kyushu.
I don't think it is a particularly Kyushu thing, but probably something you are more likely to see in the 'burbs or country-side where people have space for cars that wouldn't fit in the under-building parking at most apartment buildings.
There are some great photos from a similar sounding meet up in Honshu here.

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