I know winter is finally over when the boso-zoku biker gangs start making their annoying evening rides past my house, revving their engines to make as much noise as possible. An odd exception to Japan’s harmonious society, boso-zoku (lit. “violent running tribe”) are gangs that dress in clothes with right-wing slogans on them while they ride on motorcycles modified to be extra loud, revelling in their rebellion-without-a-cause. These biker gangs are also known as yankii, similar to the English word “yankee,” a name which came about from the tendency of these individuals to frequent the entertainment district of Osaka known as “America-mura” (America Village) back in the 1970s. The motorcycle gangs from the Katsuhiro Otomo film Akira are based on the boso-zoku, but the real bike gangs are about 1000% less interesting, since they’re mostly bored delinquents who have nothing better to do but make noise. You could call them “yakuza scouts” because Japan’s mafia usually uses boso-zoku members to run errands for them. While it’s probably dangerous to get on the wrong side of these loud kids, they’re usually nothing more than an annoyance, especially when you’re driving somewhere and get caught in a traffic jam caused by a group of them. Often I’ll see a group of them at a summer festival, trying to look scary with their puffed up hair, but going up to them and speaking English really defangs them in a hurry.
Japan’s biker gangs are way less cool than in Akira.