Culture

'Dekotora' art trucks find way into Gucci's commercial video

by Takehiro Higashi

Kyodo

In Japan, some truckers spend a lot of money on decorating their trucks with neon lights, brand-name fabrics and shiny exteriors, and such drivable works of art have struck a chord with Italian luxury fashion house Gucci.

The “Gucci Fall Winter 2016 campaign” video, which shows a man and two women driving an extravagant dekotora truck to a pachinko pinball parlor, has been viewed nearly 800,000 times on YouTube. It was also displayed on a huge outdoor screen in the trendy Shibuya area of Tokyo.

The truck in the advertisement, produced as part of Gucci’s commercial videos featuring Berlin, Rome and other cities, is owned by Kazuya Sekino, 45, a self-employed business owner in Goka, Ibaraki Prefecture.

Dekotora trucks became known across Japan due to the popular movie series “Torakku Yaro” (“Truck Guys”) in the 1970s, featuring a trucker who drove his flamboyantly decorated truck across the country.

Sekino was attracted by dekotora when he was a small child. He bought a used truck at 18 and devoted himself to decorating it.

The current dekotora, named Misaki-jo (Ms. Misaki), is Sekino’s third, refurbished from a used refrigerator van he purchased for about ¥300,000 a decade ago. He spent several million yen on the decorations.

Images painted on Misaki-jo represent a mythological story of a Shinto god slaying an eight-headed and eight-tailed dragon.

Before Gucci’s commercial, the truck was used in a video for idol-pop group AKB48 and a TV show featuring actor Hiroshi Tachi.

The culture of dekotora has proven quite popular overseas. Members of Zenkoku Utamarokai, a national association of dekotora enthusiasts, say that TV crews from the West often come to Japan to report on them.

Closer to home, the association drew attention in Japan when its members carried aid supplies in their trucks and prepared meals outdoors for victims following the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 and the Kumamoto earthquakes last year.

Due to their flamboyance, dekotora used to be seen as somewhat “threatening,” but that is changing, according to Sekino, who transports fresh fish and seafood on Misaki-jo from Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture, to markets in Chiba and Saitama prefectures twice a week while managing his garbage collection business.

He says dekotora trucks are appealing because they show their owners’ personalities.

“I would like to help people in the world recognize the artistic quality of them,” Sekino says.