One of the best things about car culture is that there are so many different sub-groups within it. Often those groups can bridge the gap between cars and something completely different. One example is the current Dekocar movement. Originating in Japan, “Dekocar” is a portmanteau of “decorative” and “car,” if it wasn’t obvious. In Japanese it’s referred to as “Itasha.” The majority of Dekocar enthusiasts aren’t necessarily concerned with adding performance or wild body kits. In fact, many Dekocars are nearly stock under all the dressing, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
The draw for Dekocar enthusiasts is to effectively turn their vehicle into a rolling tribute to their favorite anime, manga, or Japanese video game property. This usually involves having an elaborate custom vinyl wrap designed and placed on the vehicle. However, it can go much further, including decking out the interior and exterior with stickers, figures, and even props that are all themed to the entertainment they were inspired by.
The Dekocar movement has been growing in the United States for a few years now. Import car show godfather Ken Miyoshi had the brilliant foresight to retune his import car showoff event, hosted during the broader Nisei Week festival, to focus on Dekocars specifically to make it an all out celebration of Japanese pop culture.
Miyoshi made the switch to include Dekocars back in 2018, and while the movement itself has grown, this year’s attendance was on the low side as the world is still recovering from a global pandemic. There were still a few quality rides in attendance despite the small turn out.
On display were cars themed around heavy hitting anime and manga properties such as Demon Slayer and even video games like Genshin Impact. However, there were still a few “traditional” Japanese show cars like the obligatory wide body Toyota GR86 and Mike G’s Urban Green, 5th generation Civic hatchback, shown above with a milder, more OEM+ exterior.
If you are really into Japanese culture, anime, manga, or video games and you don’t mind toughing it out in some serious summer heat, then we recommend you hit up the Dekocar Nisei Week Showoff next year, likely to return to Little Tokyo in Los Angeles. Admission is usually inexpensive (this year it was free) and it’s a great way to learn more about one of the many facets of car culture.
Check out our full gallery from this year’s Nisei Week here: