An expat friend living in Tokyo sent me a link to a video some 12 years back. “You would love the scooters they ride over here” he tells me. At the time I had a 900cc cruiser from the early 90’s and a flashy little Vespa from the early 60’s, but these Japanese creations were in a decidedly different league.
These began life as higher-end maxi scooters, but their owners had higher aspirations. They were chopped and lowered, stretched and illuminated. Air shocks, sparkling paint and chrome, sound systems and accessory lighting. The sky seemed to be the limit with how much over-the-top styling these bikes can boast, and suggests there is no word in Japanese for “subtle.”
One of the builders he talked to said that he spent $9,000 on the bike, and nearly $200,000 on the customization.
I was selling my two bikes and wanted to buy a new one that was less of a constant pain in the ass to maintain, and these Japanese scooters fit my desire to not have a boring bike. I was fairly certain I’d have a bike that none of the kids on my block would have.
I had a Yamaha maxi scooter shipped to a local bike shop where it was assembled, and over the next two or three years I customized it using Japanese domestic market parts I ordered from Japan. It helps to have a friend in Tokyo, by the way, because most of these companies don’t ship to the U.S.
My bike is happily changed from stock, much more sporty and futuristic looking, it’s lightweight, quick, and very reliable. It’s also modest in terms of how much work went into it, compared with the two-wheeled masterpieces that prowl the streets of Tokyo.
I’m not sure if these bikes are still as popular in Japan as they were ten years ago. Mine is getting oneards in age, and I’ll likely be selling it in another couple years, replaced by a Triumph motorcycle. This bike has served me well the past 12 years, my own little piece of Japan on the streets and highways of Vermont.