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Bosozoku break up: Wild ones on wheels wilting, possibly wiped out

Nikkan Gendai Mar. 20
Nikkan Gendai Mar. 20
Groups of hot rodders, referred to in Japanese as bosozoku (the wild running tribe), have terrorized motorists and confounded police for decades. Law enforcement authorities might be more tolerant if they were merely young kids letting off steam, but experience shows that at least some of them function as apprentice yakuza, with the worst of their lot graduating to become full-fledged career hoodlums.

But Nikkan Gendai (Mar. 20) reports that a police count of hot rodders in Tokyo found only 119 — a miniscule fraction from the peak in 1980, when 5,379 leather-clad born-to-be-wild ones cruised the boulevards.

What’s the reason for this drastic decline? For one thing, the prolonged recession has eaten into wages, so young guys just don’t have the cash to customize their cars and motorcycles, let alone purchase vehicles outright.

What’s more, Japan’s young people are changing.

“Delinquents these days detest superior-inferior relationships and disdain group activities,” explains a source at the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. “Even though they are bad, they don’t like to hang out with others of their kind. Belonging to hot rodders or groups of toughs is seen as old hat. I think in the future we’re no longer likely to see new ‘tribes’ emerge.”

Nikkan Gendai points out, however, that these developments do not necessarily suggest that delinquency is dead. We’re in an era where parents don’t have any money, and one in which even university grads are having trouble finding work.

“In the past, young guys who were rudderless could always find work as scaffolding laborers or as pipefitter’s helpers, and so on, but now the construction industry is hurting badly as well,” says the aforementioned police source. “So now some of these guys gravitate to host clubs or other jobs in the sex industry. There’s nothing left for them to do but join up with fellow birds of a feather and start doing sleazy pyramid sales or attempt to con the elderly with ‘It’s me, send money’ scams.

“Since they don’t join groups but operate as lone wolves, it’s harder for us to track them down. It also makes more sense for yakuza to use guys like these as their subcontractors.”

Before young toughs were merely “rebels without a cause” who wanted to let off steam, notes the tabloid. Now that things have changed, they’re out to turn a profit from illegal endeavors. (K.S.)

Source: “Zetsumetsu sunzen, kieta bosozoku no yukue” Nikkan Gendai (Mar. 20, page 5)