Automobiles Lowrider Culture’s Second Home is On The Streets of JapanIn Tokyo, the love and appreciation for a foreign culture celebrates style, community, and pride.
- Words Chris Nelson
- Images Hermann Koepf
Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo is the world’s busiest intersection, with as many as 2,500 people crossing the road every time the traffic light turns red. The first Saturday of every month, the spectacle becomes even more incredible when candy-coated lowriders gather outside of Tower Records and cruise through the florescent heart of Shibuya’s fashion ward: six-fo’ Impalas, boat-tail Rivieras, chopped Mercurys, and other big-body American coupes and sedans rolling on wire-spokes and white walls, hopping and three-wheelin’.
Mexican-Americans first dreamed up the lowrider as a canvas for self-expression and cultural celebration. A half-million Mexican-American soldiers went off to World War II, and those who returned home found America unfortunately unchanged and racially divided. That’s when the Mexican-American empowerment movement got going, and in Southern California, the lowrider became a vibrant symbol of nonconformity — in stark contrast to the high-horsepower, predominantly white hot rod culture.
It’s not a strange fascination; it's love and appreciation for a foreign culture that celebrates style, community, and pride.
Colorful, chrome-covered bodywork proudly wore statement-making depictions of Chicano leaders or religious figures, often accompanied by flowery, intricate pinstriping. Aircraft hydraulics made cars lift, drop, and hop with the flick of a switch, and well-appointed, ornate interiors made it clear that lowriders weren’t built to race, but to enjoy. “Low and slow” became a lifestyle that extended well beyond automobiles and the Mexican-American community, resonating with anyone drawn to the priorities of the lowrider way of life.
The Japanese understood and embraced the ideas of “low and slow.” Paradise Road, one of Japan’s best-known lowrider shops, opened in 1987; not long afterward the relaunched Lowrider Magazine started shipping overseas, sharing SoCal lowrider culture with free-thinking Japanese youth. Well-known car clubs like the Pharaohs and Majestics now have chapters in Japan, with new clubs popping up all the time. Lowrider culture has found a second home in Japan, where the natives proudly wear Lakers jerseys and bump Dr. Dre. It’s not a strange fascination; it’s love and appreciation for a foreign culture that celebrates style, community, and pride.