Written by Michael Ronaldo

When it comes to Popular Culture, there’s definitely one country that one should never leave out. Japan has always managed to surprise and captivate numerous people with its own version of popular culture, which has been obtaining a considerably large positive reaction from around the globe. When talking about culture, Japanese always have their own kinds of culture that is different from others. However, that does not mean that their culture is interesting only to them, it is in fact has gained the interest of people around the world. The Japanese Pop Culture varies to a wide range of multiple kinds of cultures, starting from the most well known Anime and Manga, which are their unique form of animation and cartoon, to their own style of Japanese Pop music which is known as J-Pop. However, the one which is the main focus of this essay is a pop culture from Japan which has captivated automotive enthusiast from the western nations and even the rest of the world. A popular culture that managed to sweep a large number of car enthusiast around the world to join and practice this very car culture named, JDM Culture.

JDM Culture is a popular culture that originated from Japanese street racing culture. The name JDM came from the term JDM, which is an abbreviation of Japanese Domestic Market, a term that is used to represents Japanese made automotive parts. This term then is derived to represent the whole car culture of Japan.  This culture focuses not only on the bodywork and visuals of the car, but also on the engine tuning and even driving style. This very car culture itself.

JDM as a culture also has its own share of history of how it was created and developed. The birth of JDM Culture is not exactly written down in the history book. However, It is believed that the earliest JDM scene was created by street racers of Japan. There are several origin stories, all of which lead to the creation of the whole JDM Culture. First, is the Kanjozoku. Kanjozoku is a group of illegal street racers which is based around the Kanjo Route in Osaka. Kanjo route itself is a 4.77 mile loop of several connected highways that run through the city of Osaka. Being an open long road that loops, it became the center for street racers in Osaka to race on the streets from dusk until dawn. These street racers create a culture among themselves in the style of their cars and how they drive. The make their car flashy, loud, and different from the other. This then influences other car enthusiasts and the whole car culture of Japan. Second, the mountain drifting scene is also believed as one of the origins of the JDM Culture. Drifting itself is believed to originate from Japan with Kunimitsu Takahashi as the foremost creator of drifting techniques. However, it was made popular by Keiichi Tsuchiya, whose nickname is “Drift King”, when he was captivated by Kunimitsu’s drifting and started practicing his drifting skills in the mountain roads of  Japan. Later he managed to gain popularity and attract several popular car magazine and tuning garages which helped publicize his drifting that in turn help popularize the JDM Culture. Third, there’s the  Bosozoku. Bosozoku was originally a culture of clubs and gangs of motorcycle riders. Although later on, the Bosozoku style was adapted into the car culture and created its presence within it. Fourth, the influence of motor-sport. Like in any other country, motor-sport always has been one of the popular sports among the people. Japan is no exception. The whole tuning and modification culture in Japan was created when motor-sport fans tried to make their ride to become similar to what the motor-sport racers drove. Last, JDM Culture started to become popular and gained popularity since the 1970s. When several Japanese car manufacturers made some of the world most iconic cars which gained a lot of attention from the world’s automotive industry. Honda NSX, Subaru Impreza, Nissan Skyline, Toyota AE86, and Mitsubishi Lancer are several iconic cars which made Japanese car manufacturer as a recognizable part of the automotive industry, making themselves a competitor for European and American manufacturers. This in turn helped promoted the JDM Culture to a far more wide audience outside of Japan.

The JDM Culture itself exists in several forms starting from zoku, aftermarket JDM products, JDM style modifications and driving style. Zoku is a gang or club in English. There are several car zokus in japan which are spread throughout the region. Each zoku has its own specific style. One example of zoku is the Morohoshi Family. Morohoshi family is a zoku which is led by Shinichi Morohoshi. This zoku focuses on costumed Lamborghini ranging from the old Countach model to the newer version such as Aventador and Gallardo. They often do meet up at parking lot and cruise the highway at night, sometimes with the door opened. Aftermarket JDM products are also part of the JDM Culture. There are several famous brands of Japanese Aftermarket parts such as Liberty Walk, Rauh-Welt Begriff, Enkei, Yokohama, and Toyo Tires. Liberty Walk for example is a performance car body-kit and performance tuning company. Their body kits are used around the world by various owners of Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and BMWs. As for modification, JDM has its own style of modification. There are several most notable characteristic of JDM style modification such as wide body kits, neon lights, and bosou exhaust pipes (exhaust pipe that is angled upwards and is longer than usual exhaust). The one driving style that the JDM Culture promotes the most is drifting. Although nowadays drifting is often not seen as a JDM culture exclusive thing, the whole concept of drifting was created by JDM culture.

As a popular culture, the JDM culture is an ever growing one. It is currently still expanding throughout the world and spreading its influence to all five continents. Although some Japanese enthusiast said that the current JDM culture is affected by other car cultures, the main form and spirit of the JDM culture itself still retained its form as a whole main concept of what JDM is about. In Japan itself, JDM Culture creates a whole new culture with its own characteristic and its own code, an eccentric lifestyle that many adores, as if they have found their own kind of New Bushido as the Samurai during their era. The country of the rising sun sure never ceases to amaze us, let it be with manga or automotive, to the point that the whole world considers them a recognizable presence.