Bosozoku are the annoying motorcycle gangs (from 暴走族, violent running gangs) who periodically roar through Japanese streets in the evening (when the weather’s nice). Their real hey-day in Osaka was in the early 90s, when they were so loud that you literally could not hear another person speaking to you in the same room when they drove past your window (and opening or closing a window made no difference whatsoever). The burst of the Economic Bubble finished off a lot of those gangs back then. But they’re back and I’ve been wondering why – usually at around 3AM, when the gunning engines have awakened me and I’m staring into space, constructing subtle revenge fantasies.
No, the gangs aren’t as big as they used to be, so it only sounds like howitzer fire outside your window instead of right in your room. It should be easy now for Osaka’s Finest to track them down and pick them off one by one without the strength of numbers. But no, they don’t do much.
I was pondering this today after class and a student asked me whether I’d ever heard of (name of group pending – I forgot to write it down) – the law-abiding bosozoku. I had no idea what she was talking about. She explained: the new breed clued into the fact that making noise is, in itself, not really a crime in Japan in general, and Osaka in particular. So, as long as they wear helmets and stop at all the traffic lights (two things the old-time bosozoku were not in the habit of doing), the police can’t do much of anything. Besides, they’re all under 20 (the age of adulthood in Japan), so their records are wiped clean when they come of age.
How fiendishly clever they are, keeping the law in order to disturb the peace! On the other hand, it took the boneheads about fifteen years to figure this out. And then, of course, the police and city government also had fifteen years to figure it out, yet it never dawned on them. And there are still virtually no noise pollution laws in this town. If there were, it would mean that politicians would have to turn down their squawking campaign trucks at election time, and the right-wing nuts would have to stop braying patriotic marching music every time someone in the Imperial Family had a birthday – neither of which is going to happen in my lifetime.
Which means I might be moving soon. Or trying, for the umpteenth time, to get used to wearing earplugs.