Japanese Hot Rod Culture Pinstriped & Flaked!

Custom Pinstriping on a Japanese daruma doll


Every year at the Grand National Roadster show, Von Hot Rod assembles local, and as it turns out international pinstripers for the Pinstriper’s Reunion. The get together of 30+ pinstripers culminates with an auction where proceeds from the sale of donated items goes to charity. Hats off to Von Hot Rod for organizing this event.


Cruising through the end of building 4, the main hall with the AMBR contenders, many of the pinstripers are at work, including Von Hot Rod, but I what caught my eye was a couple of Japanese guys shooting a video.Von Hot Rod, pinstriper and organizer of the Pinstriper's Reunion


I lived in Japan for a couple years and I speak some Japanese. I’m not sure what I like more… speaking some Japanese is great because you get to sneak up on guys and spit out “Hajimemashite, Pike desu.” (kinda means, How are you, I’m Pike). The look on their faces when this tall lanky American dude (call me henna gaijin) hits the accent dead on, but usually they look past me to see, who really just said that? When they finally see me smiling, they realize, it was me. After that, with some mangled grammar and alot of arm waving and picture drawing, communication happens and I meet some really cool people; especially when they’re hot rodders.


Nash and pinstriper Ghost from JapanNash, the guy shooting the video, from KustomKulture.jp (Japanese hot rod webiste) was the first guy I spotted. I figured he MUST recognize me since we’re friends on Myspace, but I had to introduce myself anyway. He was interviewing a pinstriper named “Ghost”. Ghost had painted and striped what I recognized as a Japanese doll I had seen before. Nash filled me in that it was named Daruma (da-roo-ma) (Japanese kanji: 達磨, or だるま). Too cool!


Japanese daruma doll, no eyes yetDaruma is kinda like a wish doll. Daruma start out as a hollow and round shaped character with a man’s bearded face painted on. The face has eyes but they’re only 2 white spots. The dolls are generally purchased around the new year to help with a resolution or a wish for anything from good health to a promotion at work. When making the wish, you traditionally fill in the left eye with black ink, then if the wish comes true, you fill in the other eye. At year’s end, you burn the daruma and start over again, with or without the wish coming true.


I checked with my mother-in-law in Japan and also found out that the weeble-wobble shape of the doll has meaning, too. It says, ‘you can’t knock me down’ and symbolizes persistence.


Japanese daruma painted and pinstriped by artist Ghost


That’s all probably more than you wanted to know, but now you’ve dabbled in Japanese culture and you can see how another country’s spin on an American art form like pinstriping can be taken to a new level. Japan’s hot rod movement is growing and their creativity and daruma-san like persistence that’s required to build and drive a hot rod in Japan is admirable if not truly amazing. More on that in a future blog!


So check out Ghost’s page (if you can read Japanese) and there are a few other pictures of his custom painted daruma with this story.


Great story? Want more hot rod and custom car stories from around the globe? I should get back to cars and hot pinups? Let me know in a comment below.