Bōsōzoku: Japan’s Most Dangerous Motorcycle Gangs

A part of the Japanese motorcycle subculture, Bōsōzoku are motorcycle gangs, the Japanese version of the American outlaw motorcycle clubs.

When it comes to cars and the automobile world in general, Japan has given the Western world a lot. Think Acura NSX, Nissan Skyline, Toyota Supra and, Bōsōzoku.

A part of the Japanese motorcycle subculture, Bōsōzoku are motorcycle gangs, the Japanese version of the American outlaw motorcycle clubs. Of course, when we talk about Bōsōzoku in cars, these are the hi-risers, low-riders, and hydraulic rides, Japan-style. Very OTT, and often driven by people who are very into this kind of car culture, or simply, gangs.

But the term Bōsōzoku came to be with motorcycles, and you can see a glimpse of them in the Japanese anime cult movie, Akira, that remains to be a popular viewing choice to date.

The Bōsōzoku gangs of today are not what they once were but back in the day, they were rightly called Japan’s most dangerous motorcycle gangs. Read on why…

The History & Origins Of The Bōsōzoku

Bōsōzoku Street Gangs Began To Come Around The 50s
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The Bōsōzoku street gangs began to come around the 1950s. Much like the American outlaw motorcycle gangs that were all about the veterans returning from WWII and looking for their lost brotherhood, the Bōsōzoku members at first were the retired Japanese aviators who formed motorcycle groups called the ‘Thunder Tribe’, or kaminari zoku.

As time went on, the older members retired and these motorcycle gangs began to let in the younger crowd, from age 16 to 19, who tried to be as illegal as they could be.

Of course, the Bōsōzoku did not call themselves that and each Bōsōzoku motorcycle gang had an individual name. Much like the coinage of the “one-percenters” for the American outlaw MCs, in Japan too it was a damage-causing riot in the 70s that brought about the name, Bōsōzoku. Reporters in Japan used this word to describe the motorcycle gangs of the time and loosely translated, it means “out-of-control, speeding-vehicle tribes/gangs”.

The Bōsōzoku used to ride in large gangs, wreaking havoc where they went, indulging in riot-like violence while evading police with speedy Japanese roadsters. They would ride in large groups of 100 bikers or more, and not only got in tiffs with the law enforcement but also get violent with anyone who got in their way.

1982 was the peak for the Bōsōzoku, with over 42,000 members though since then, things have wound down.