Itasha refers to cars decorated with vinyl stickers based on characters from Anime and Manga.
痛 (Ita): Pain, grief
車 (sha): Car
Nowadays, the word Itasha is more commonly used, however it is also known as Moesha (萌車).
Itasha was born in the early 2000s in Japan. In the early days, vinyl stickers on cars were small and simple, but after 2010, they have grown much larger and detailed. Around that time, Full Wrapping, which covers the entire car, grew in popularity.
Before then, stickers contained only characters, while now there is a also a large focus on the background because it allows the artists to demonstrate their originality.
Altough Itasha is a relatively new concept, it has grown to become a phenomenon even beyond Japan, especially in Asia where it is rising in popularity.
Today, Itasha can be considered a subculture of its own with a magazine 痛車天国 (Itasha Paradise), fully dedicated to it.
Nowadays there is even a road called ‘Itasha-road’ in Akihabara which is a very famous area in Otaku culture. Furthermore, in front of Akihabara station, there is a huge parking lot called ‘Akihabara UDX Parking’ where one can find a large numer of Itasha everyday.
magazine 痛車天国 (Itasha Paradise)
The growing popularity of Itasha is reflected in the rising number of Itasha conventions.
In these conventions, oftentimes organized by institutions and municipalities, owners of itaisha are invited to display their cars for the attendees. Because of the variety and uniqueness of each Itasha, these conventions can be considered true artistic spectacles.
Conventions are festive events with karaoke, cosplay, dance displays, drifting, etc.
There are now over a hundred Itasha conventions. The largest one is 痛車天国 (Itasha Paradise), organized by the magazine of the same name. Around a thousand Itasha are displayed there each year. We hold an exhibition every year at Itasha Paradise.
Most owners fall between the 20-30 years old category. However, these days, it is becoming common for those around 60 to turn their cars into Itasha.
In the past, most owners were men, but women have become more present since.
Owners are generally car lovers with an interest in anime, manga and video games.
“Nissan Silvia” “Nissan Skyline” “Nissan 180” “Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution” “Subaru Impreza” “Toyota Supra” and “Matsuda RX7” are cars which are popular among Itasha owners because of their status as dream cars.
In Japan, an Itasha is a highly regarded customized car, which leads many to dream of owning one.
Itasha is a well established part of Otaku culture, however, since it is a new phenomenon, the average Japanese are not yet fully accustomed to it.
Are people who love manga, anime and drive Itasha cars weird?
We are often asked whether those who drive Itasha feel embarrased about being seen driving one? it is natural to feel a bit embarrassed in the begining as you draw attention. However, as they start to interact with people who show interest in their cars, they grow more confident. Owners often tell us about how happy they felt meeting people who ask to take pictures of their car, or even have a conversation with those who are fans of the character(s) protrayed on the sticker.
Some owners get Itasha as a way to trigger a change in their lives, to help them become more expressive, outgoing, and grow in self-confidence.
Those who participate in conventions can meet many people with similar interests and make new friends, which is one of the factors many get started. Once they meet people who go to the same conventions, they oftentimes start interacting outside, going out drinking, traveling and staying together during conventions, etc.
Companies have started using Itasha with their mascots to advertise their products and services because of the ability it has to attracting people’s attention and the impact Itasha itself has had. We have also made 痛タクシー (Ita-taxi), and customized delivery trucks.
C.I. Office A