No country for old bikers.
In Japan, being a biker known as a bosozoku is largely a young person’s game. Gang members typically range from 15 to 20 and then eventually grow out of it, moving on to other things.
That’s not true for everyone, however. On 17 January, the Kanagawa Prefectural Police arrested 43-year-old Akira Kakinuma for reckless driving. The incident occurred on 24 July last year along a stretch of highway between Chigasaki City and Fujisawa City in Kanagawa where Kakinuma was riding with a group of about 20 people on 15 bikes.
These people were known as a kyushakai which literally means “old-car club” but differs from an actual club of classic vehicle enthusiasts in that the last kanji character for “kai” is rendered in the old-fashioned and more complex kyujitai form preferred by biker gangs.
▼ Today’s Japanese lesson
This type of kyushakai is a group of former teen bikers who have moved on from the more delinquent aspects of riding and have gotten regular jobs, but still get the itch to climb on an obnoxiously loud motorcycle from time to time. In this incident, Kakinuma was riding with a kyushakai known as the Yokohama Rengo who arranged the ride on social media.
Kakinuma, however, is not a member of a kyushakai because he never quit being a biker in the first place. Riding since he was a teenager, he had gotten a reputation as a “master” of riding over the past 30 years, particularly in the area of dako or “meandering” on the road. This is where the rider causes the bike to make exaggerated swerves from left to right without losing control.
▼ A video of Kakinuma meandering which led to his arrest
In fact, in 2016 Kakinuma even released a DVD titled The Dako (The Meandering) which taught how to do the technique for 3,000 yen (US$23) a copy. Granted, “dako” does have a slightly cooler construction in Japanese with kanji characters for “snake” and “move” – similar to the English word “serpentine” – but has the same basic meaning of swerving side to side rather than moving straight ahead.
It is unclear whether last July’s meeting was an instructional one or just having fun, but Kakinuma is accused of “repeatedly swerving and driving too slow,” in a manner that could impede the orderly flow of traffic, along a 7.9-kilometer (4.9-mile) stretch of highway. Kanagawa Police already arrested one member of the kyushakai last November, fined him 300,000 yen ($2,290), and are still searching for the other members. Meanwhile, Kakinuma is denying the charges against him, telling police: “I have no idea.”
Context really is everything. In biker circles, being the “Master of Meandering” is probably a really good thing, but outside it’s really hard to ignore the oatmeal-thick irony of giving a 43-year-old biker that nickname, as illustrated in online comments.
“Master of Meandering, lol!”
“Doesn’t he have anyone in his life to tell him what he’s doing is lame?”
“This is that ‘Peter Pan syndrome’ isn’t it?”
“I guess if I had people around me calling me ‘master’ I wouldn’t stop what I was doing either.”
“A life of meandering…lol.”
“Are there really people out there going, ‘Wow! Awesome meandering!’?”
“He’s getting close to becoming a senior biker.”
“A legend lives in Yokohama… And his name is Meandering Master Kakinuma.”
As a 43-year-old who reviews slides for a living, I’m not as inclined to mock Kakinuma like the others. I think we shouldn’t be embarrassed by whatever gifts we’ve discovered throughout our lives. However, it’s also important to channel them into safe and healthy activities like pole dancing or catching crawdads. Hopefully he too can learn how to ride all swervy in a safe and lawful way for the sake of himself and those around him.