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In the past, the mainstream media's M.O. has been: If there's a shooting, blame video games; if kids are having problems, blame video games; if someone farts, blame video games.

Like heavy metal and rap music before it, video games are an easy—and often, misunderstood—target. Yet, a recent report fingers video games (among other things) for something rather unusual: declining numbers of Japanese juvenile delinquents in motorcycle gangs.


They're called "bosozoku" (暴走族). They ride around on noisy scooters or motorcycles and raise a ruckus.

In the past, when not getting arrested for disturbing the peace, these bike-riding yanki got in fights, smashed cars, and beat up pedestrians. They carried Imperial Japanese flags and bats. They were generally bad news.

In 1982, bosozoku peaked, with over forty-two thousand young males claiming membership, the Mainchi Shimbun reported. But by last February, that number had slipped below nine thousand.


According to one individual investigating the trend, today's Japanese youth are less attune to hierarchy, making joining something like a motorcycle gang—which is based entirely on a pecking order—far less attractive. What's more, young males have an array of diversions vying for their time, such as computers and video games.

Gone, too, are the flashy hairstyles and outfits worn by bosozoku of the past. Today's members wear regular clothes, making it harder to identify them as bosozoku. According to the Japanese police, during the 1980s, bosozoku wore stylized clothing to stand out from society. Those outfits are now deemed totally uncool. Thus, in turn, awareness of bosozoku is on the wane. There's no longer a distinct style to help brand these gangs and make them into a lifestyle choice.


During the 1980s, bosozoku members poured money into modding and customizing their bikes. The Bubble Economy was in full swing, and young people had the excess cash to spend. Today's kids, living in stricter economic conditions, don't.

It's not simply video games or lack of cash that's hurt the bosozoku. The Japanese government passed laws during the last decade that made it easier for police to arrest groups of motorcycle riders who were disturbing the peace and putting others in danger. And who wants that when there's internet to surf and video games to play?


Culture Smash is a daily dose of things topical, interesting and sometimes even awesome—game related and beyond.


(Top photo: Reco, boxster/長野県警察本部/NPA)

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