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Itasha - Showing off Individuality

An Itasha/Cosplay collaboration (courtesy of © YAESU Publishing Co., Ltd.)

    In Japan you sometimes see cars with characters and logos from anime, manga and games drawn boldly on the bodywork. They originate from the so-called otaku culture (geek culture) and the main motifs used are heroines and beautiful young female characters from anime and games.
    These customized cars are called “itasha.” The linguistic origins of itasha are said to coin the slang expression "ita" from the Japanese term "itai" or "itaitashii"(meaning “ouch” or “painful”) as used for "something disgraceful that you cannot bear to look at" in joking combination with the term "Ita-sha" which is an abbreviation for Italian-made cars characterized by innovative design.

Cars with fancy characters

    Many “itasha” are created as hobbies, as part of the car owners' individual fan activities related to comic book/video works and characters. Owners express their own secret “love for the characters” using the car as their palette - demonstrating their sense of individuality.
    “Itasha” come in various designs - some cover the whole car, while others just have some parts painted such as the hood, windows and rear bumper. In some cases people have huge decals of their favorite characters printed, carrying out intricate cutting work and sticking them on the bodywork; or place orders with traders to customize their cars.

An “itasha” racing car that expresses its owners love for the character (courtesy of © YAESU Publishing Co., Ltd.)

An “itasha” themed on the popular character Hatsune Miku - with audio equipment installed in the trunk. Some car owners are also cosplayers (courtesy of © YAESU Publishing Co., Ltd.)

Itansha,” “itachari” and “ita-taxi“ are also appearing

    As well as “itasha,” there are also some cases of motorcycles and bicycles also being customized - these are respectively known as “itansha” and “itachari"(”tansha” meaning motorcycle, and“chari”meaning bicyle). The increase in awareness of “itasha” has led to the appearance of some “ita-taxis” that actually carry passengers.
    "Comic Market" is a convention displaying and selling self-publications (fan-zines) of the world's biggest manga, anime, games and other peripheral genres. When it was held, an “ita-taxi” covered in characters drawn by a graphic designer ran near the venue and became a hot topic of conversation. The taxi operating company said that it had started to run the “ita-taxi” based on the idea that "we wanted taxis to become something that young people feel familiar with."

Itansha (courtesy of © YAESU Publishing Co., Ltd.)

An “ita-taxi” attracted attention when it took part in the Nico-Nico Super Convention - a major event based on an off-line meeting of video sites (courtesy of Gojyo-Taxi Co., Ltd)

An “ita-taxi” that you can ride for the same fare as an ordinary taxi (courtesy of Gojyo-Taxi Co., Ltd)

Kurei Kei Chan” - a character from a community site known as "Pronama Broadcasting" (courtesy of Gojyo-Taxi Co., Ltd)

Collaboration with anime voice actors and cosplayers

    In recent years some large-scale exhibitions have been held of “itasha” in collaboration with anime voice actors and cosplayers - events that have caused much excitement. In 2018 some 1,000 unique “itasha” from across Japan gathered at "Odaiba Itasha Tengoku" - the world's largest ever exhibition of itasha held in Tokyo. There was live music on stage, talk shows, ceremonies for awards voted on by visitors to the event etc., and in addition more than 20 companies exhibited their booths, making it an event that attracted attention in terms of both art and business. As well as showing off their own artwork at the event, car owners also enjoyed interacting with the fans. Many people visited to see the “itasha” and take photos and there were also a lot of participants from overseas, including some from America, Russia, Turkey and China etc.

A collection of some 1000 “itasha” at the world's biggest event of its kind (courtesy of © YAESU Publishing Co., Ltd.)

A highly successful “itasha” event in collaboration with cosplayers (courtesy of © YAESU Publishing Co., Ltd.)

Cosplayers from Russia participating in "Odaiba Itasha Tengoku 2018" (courtesy of © YAESU Publishing Co., Ltd.)

    Around 60 “itasha” and “itansha” gathered to meet at "Kawasaki Daishi" - a temple in Kanagawa Prefecture known to attract many visitors who go there to pray to ward off evil (prevent disaster). Owners prayed for traffic safety, were awarded talismen and amulets and also pledged to drive in a courteous manner.

Itasha owners put their hands together to pray for traffic safety with a monk from Kawasaki Daishi (courtesy of: CarPrice)

“Itasha” gathered at an event to pray for traffic safety (courtesy of: CarPrice)

    This type of “itasha” event is not only taking place in Japan but also, in recent years, in Western countries like Germany, Switzerland and the USA etc., as well as in China and Taiwan - with the number of “itasha” enthusiasts outside Japan growing. In the future, “itasha” is likely to become one aspect of the otaku movement that will generate great interest.

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