If you’re in the Japanese car scene you’ve more than likely come across the term VIP or bippu with a general but somewhat vague understanding of its meaning. So where exactly does this term come from and how should you pronounce it?
Though clearly mimicking the English use of V.I.P. (Very Important Person) and having the same general sentiment of being special and important, the Japanese took the term and pronounced it “bippu.” So in most cases you should pronounce out the letters of VIP but when it comes to the Japanese car culture it’s bippu.
Now that we’ve cleared up that confusion, we can now get to the real meat of the culture.
History: Gangster Roots
The Japanese Yakuza culture dates back hundreds of years and is deeply intertwined with Japanese society, including VIP culture. The roots of VIP style stem from the vehicles driven and modified by the Yakuza (edit: I should specify that these are low level wannabe gangsters, real Yakuza wouldn’t be so reckless or outwardly flashy).
Initially in the 70/80’s many Japanese gangs fell under the Bosozoku style of modification and culture. Due to the attention this style provoked (loud exhaust, colorful paint, eccentric body modification, as well as a general hooligan gang mentality) the richer part of this subculture divided into a different style. The gangsters who strived so hard to stand out and rebel from the homogenous Japanese society needed a new style to showcase their wealth and power while still maintaining a sleek low profile. Rather than riding around in sports cars or cheap foreign cars, they began using large domestic sedans to mimic the large Bimmers, Mercs, and Rolls.
Bippu was born.
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