Bosozoku is a biker gang style that emerged in the 1950s, and is active to this day. The style is well known for its unique leather biking gear embellished with symbols and Japanese characters, and for its connection to motorcycles, gangs, and sports cars.


The name bosozoku, or 暴走族, can be translated to mean "motorcycle gang", but more closely means "violent run tribe". The name was given literally to describe the lifestyle associated with the fashion style. [1][2]

The first bosozoku were known as kaminari-zoku, or "lightening tribes". [3] Another common name for the style is Yanki. [4]

Style BasicsEdit

The typical bosozoku style is centered around jumpsuits, known as tokkō-fuku, which are elaborately embroidered and resemble WWII kamikaze pilot uniforms, or the uniforms of manual laborers. The embroidery many include kanji army slogans, patriotic rising sun patches, ancient Chinese characters, or even manji. These jumpsuits are often worn open to reveal haramaki, or bandages wrapped around the torso, and are paired with baggy pants and military boots. Leather jackets and even full leather suits can replace the overcoat, but they are not quite as signature a look as the overcoat. These coats will also be embroidered. [1][3][5][6] 

Accessories often include hachimaki, or headbands with rebellious slogans, round sunglasses, surgical masks to protect the identity of the rider, dangling earrings, and tasuki sashes. Hairstyles prominently feature 1950s pompadour-like hairstyles, punch perms, and rockabilly inspired hairstyles. Hair is often bleached blonde as well, although not always.

In the beginning, bosozoku style and subculture were male-dominated. However, by the 1980s, women, mainly girlfriends of male riders, began to join. Today there are all female gangs, and mixed gender gangs, in addition to the stereotypical all-male riders. [7]

The female bosozoku style features long, dyed hair with excessive makeup. A common bosozoku girl will also wear high-heeled leather boots. Some modern girl gangs are also bringing long nails, pink colors, and other "girly" things to the fashion, while still keeping the core style the same.

Tattoos are common amongst both men and women in bosozoku gangs.

Lifestyle Edit

Unlike other Japanese fashion styles that are centered mainly around the clothing, bosozoku style is very closely connected to its lifestyle, which takes on a few different forms.

One form is the group who are interested in racing cars and motorcycles. Specifically, in the modification of these vehicles. These bosozoku will modify their vehicles in various, often illegal, ways, such as custom motifs, colors, adding Japanese characters and banners, and removing the muffler for a louder sound. They may also be involved in rebellious behaviors, such as running red lights, not wearing helmets, or swerving through traffic. Generally, these people are also under the legal adult age in Japan, making these actions extra rebellious.

While these groups are almost always considered to be "gangs" due to their reckless behavior, there are some of these groups that take the term to a more serious level, engaging in violent gang activity. However, many practitioners are not a part of an actual violent gang. In fact, many nowadays are more counterculture rebels than violent, and simply enjoy the style and its association to fast cars and motorcycles, and its condoning of rebellious attitudes and actions. In fact, older bosozoku believe that modern groups are too soft, and condone their adoption of helmets and customizing scooters instead of actual motorcycles. [3][5][6]

Regardless of whether or not these gangs are violent, they have had a long time association with the Japanese Mafia, and those who wear the style and are involved in these gangs are often feared. This is especially made true by the fact that their clothing is so unique, and can be recognized from far away. Sometimes, there have even been legal actions against this fashion, as in 2002 in Osaka where a court ruled the bikers clothes to be seized because their outfits were said to have inspired fear in the local population. They are additionally chased by the police often on sight, and harassed as well. [1][5]

The bosozoku subculture is often linked to extreme right-wing nationalistic groups in Japan due to some aspects of their fashion choices, however, this is not an intracetly connected part of the style. [4][6]

Popularity Edit

Bosozoku was extremely popular at its peek. At its height in 1982, membership was just under 43,000. However, modern reports in 2017 state that number has fallen drastically, to around 6,000. This is most likely partially due to targetting of members by police, and more serious law action against reckless driving by groups of bikers that was passed in 2004. [3][5][6] 

Brands & ShopsEdit

There are no brands associated with the bosozoku style. And as each gang will have its own symbols and slogans, each bosozoku piece is unique and one of a kind.


External LinksEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Bosozoku." Wikipedia. July 10, 2020. Retrieved August 21, 2020 from
  2. "What is bosozoku?" Bosozoku Style. Retrieved August 21, 2020 from
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Bosozoku Japanese Biker Gangs And Bosozoku Style" Mookychick. September 3, 2014. Retrieved August 21, 2020 from
  4. 4.0 4.1 John Spacey. "Yanki: Young and Angry in Japan." Japan Talk. July 17, 2012. Retrieved August 21, 2020 from
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 "The Rebellious Japanese Motorcycle Gangs Influencing Global Fashion." HIGHSNOBIETY. February 6, 2019. Retrieved August 21, 2020 from
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 "Bosozoku." Grinnell College. Retrieved August 21, 2020 from
  7. Lillian Radulova. "Tattoos and talons: Inside the world of Japan's Bosozoku gang girls where the women are just as bad ass as the men." Daily Mail. April 2, 2014. Retrieved August 21, 2020 from
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.