The subculture has been thriving there for some time.
You’ve likely been told by someone “in the know” that the Japanese think our large, flashy American cars are ridiculous and that’s why they’ve never caught on there. That might have been the case at one time, and that might still be the case with the population at large, but what you probably have no awareness of is there’s a strong lowrider subculture in Japan.
See a Ford Model A meet from 1958 here.
Some might call this cultural appropriation since, after all, the Japanese didn’t invent lowriders. We don’t really care about that. After all, Americans have adopted some Japanese car culture trends, so it’s more of an exchange among enthusiasts.
You might also be shocked to learn Harley-Davidsons and hotrods are also sizable automotive subcultures in Japan. We’ve included video of the setup for a hotrod show in Yokohama that’s been running for over 30 years and going strong.
Of course, some of the lowriders (and hotrods) you see in Japan have a distinct local flavor. There’s some mixing of traditions from America and Bosozoku styling, which makes for some truly fascinating builds. But many of the cars look like they’re straight from East LA or San Antonio.
A great example of the lowrider culture in Japan was captured not too long ago by automotive photographer Larry Chen. His footage, which we’ve included, shows lowriders bouncing and tilting as they drive down the road. For anyone who knows how frowned upon that sort of behavior is among most Japanese, it’s a shocking sight.
But keep in mind, drift culture comes from Japan, something that’s also frowned upon by most of the very law-abiding citizenry. Even among a group where toeing the line is highly valued, there will always be those who want to color outside the lines and do things a little different, if not a lot.