Dispatch № 26: Cultivated Disorder

At the shore of Kasumigaura Bay

36°3’56.286″N 140°113’15.078″E

Sitting on the beach near the campground, the coarse gravel cold and damp beneath me, watching the little waves lapping the lakeshore. Houses and other buildings dot the far edge of the inlet, with clusters of lights leading off into the darkness.

A peaceful setting, but something feels strange. If I pay attention to ambient noises, what I hear most are the small sounds of the water, the wind rustling the tall grasses to my left, and a violent, gasoline-fuelled roar at a moderate distance.

Imagine a man on a highly customized motorcycle revving his engine rhythmically, swerving about the road, making a point of being as loud and disruptive as possible. Now imagine dozens of such men, perhaps even a hundred or more, all doing this together.

These are the bosozoku. Written 暴走族, the first two kanji indicate running out of control, while the third indicates a tribe. A tribe of young men running out of control on their motorcycles.

You won’t see sizeable groups of them in areas like Tokyo anymore, but they’re still out there in other places. In Ibaraki Prefecture, for example, where I am.

One of the other guys saw them when he went out, said there were at least a hundred of them in this marauding gang cruising around, taunting the police. Every once in a while, the police fire up their sirens and the engine noises cease. Only for only a few minutes, though, and then it all ramps up again. They’ve been doing this for hours.

At close to eleven in the evening, it finally stops in earnest. All fun eventually wears thin, and even motorcycle gangs eventually get tired.

When this happens, I am still near the water, writing in my notebook in the lantern light. The bosozoku are done for the night and the wind has died down. What I am left with are just the little wet sounds of the lake meeting its shore and my pen meeting the paper.