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An itasha in Xiamen, China featuring Nia from Gurren Lagann on the hood

Itasha (痛車?, literally "painful car") is a Japanese term for a fashion of individuals decorating the bodies of their cars with fictional characters of anime, manga, or video games (especially bishōjo game or eroge). These characters are predominantly "cute" females. The decorations usually involve paint schemes and stickers. Automobiles are called itasha, while similar motorcycles and bicycles are called itansha (痛単車?) and itachari (痛チャリ?), respectively.

The cars are seen prominently in places such as Akihabara (Tokyo), Nipponbashi (Osaka), or Ōsu (Nagoya).


In the 1980s, when Japan was at the zenith of its economic might, Tokyo's streets were a parade of luxury import cars. Among them, the "itasha"—originally Japanese slang meaning an imported Italian car—was the most desired. Since then, itasha (as the decorated vehicle) was derived from combining the Japanese words for itai (痛い?, painful) and sha (?, vehicle). Itai here means "painful", which can be interpreted as "painfully embarrassing" or "painful for the wallet" due to the high costs involved. The name is also a pun for Italian cars (イタリア車 Itaria-sha?), truncated in Japanese slang as Itasha (イタ車?).[1]


The decoration was started in the 1980s with character plushies and stickers,[2] but only became a phenomenon in the 21st century, when anime fandom culture became relatively well known via the Internet. The earliest known report of the decoration vehicle in convention began in August 2005, in Comic Market 68.[3]


In 2007, the first Autosalone (あうとさろーね Autosarōne?), an itasha oriented convention, was held in Ariake, near the site of Comiket. Since then the subculture phenomenon has grown and allows people to express themselves and show off their customization to fellow friends and competitors.

Involvement in motorsports[edit]

Nowadays, the involvement of itasha in real motorsport events has been one of the unique features in Japan's motorsport industry. Race cars in itasha decals can be seen from regional club event to international-level races (including events under FIA). Participants are also not bounded by privateers amateurs. Many professional teams, or even manufacturer-backed teams would not mind to turn their race cars into itashas; this not only acts as an alternative for sponsorship decals (if the character or design is provided by the sponsor), it is widely considered as one of the many ways of expanding their team's fanbase or promoting the event they participating.

Goodsmile Racing has run a series of Hatsune Miku-themed Itashas in the Autobacs Super GT since 2010. Similar involvement of itashas can be seen in motorcycle or even open-wheeler events.

International movement[edit]

Similarly decorated vehicles have been found in Taiwan,[4] Philippines,[5] Malaysia,[6] the United States,[7] Brazil,[8] and Indonesia.[9]

Vehicles owned by character rights owner[edit]

ACID Co., Ltd. (âge games developer)'s executive director Hirohiko Yoshida was reported to own Muv-Luv-themed Lamborghini Gallardo,[10] Lancia Stratos,[11] BMW M5.[12][13] The cars were unveiled in 2008 âge×Nitro+ in Akibahara UDX Gallery.[citation needed]

An official Macross Frontier–themed Suzuki Wagon R was unveiled in Macross Galaxy Tour Final.[14] It was later redesigned for the Macross Super-Dimensional Space Launch Ceremony.[15]

Vehicles from automotive manufacturers[edit]

In 2009 Nagoya Auto Trend, Phantom of Inferno–themed Chevrolet Corvette, Melonbooks-themed MINI Cooper, and Chaos;Head Noah–themed Toyota Estima were unveiled.[16]

Licensed model vehicles[edit]

Officially licensed itasha can be found both in static car models and movable car models.

In June 2008, Aoshima Bunka Kyozai launched "ITASHA" as one of their model cars product line,[17] Since then many of the model producers produced various itasha on the car models. Fujimi, Kyosho, HPI and Tamiya also sold models with itasha models.

Recently, combination between model and actual itasha are increasing. Where model based on the original itasha were made afterwards.

Derivative uses[edit]

The itasha decorative style has also been found on aircraft,[18][19][20][21] computer cases,[22] and other products.[23]

In-vehicle electronics, such as navigation systems, were also reported to be customized with character voices.[24] On 28 March 2008, Maplus began to offer character voices for its Maplus Portable Navi 2 GPS, beginning with Shūichi Ikeda (Char Aznable from the Gundam franchise).[25]

Automotive consumables such as motor oil has also been customized. On 20 June 2009, T&E tuning shop began to sell scented semi-synthetic motor oil under Itayu brand,[26] with the first product being a Lucky*Star–themed motor oil, unveiled at the 48th Shizuoka Hobby Show 2009.[27][28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Itasha: Pimped rides, otaku style
  2. ^ Itasha and Intansha - Tricking your car out is the latest otaku craze in Japan
  3. ^ コミックマーケット68 2日目&痛車
  4. ^ 痛車 in 台北! 世界は痛車に毒されはじめた…… (Itasha in Taipei! The world started to poisoned by itasha...), report, Feb 2008
  5. ^ Philippine Itasha Cars
  6. ^ Lowyat.Net forum, Itasha Car Thread
  7. ^ America Itasha
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ Mirai Millennium Itasha
  10. ^ Hentai Fans Airbrush a Mangallardo
  11. ^ Ridelust Daily Fail: Japanese Itasha Fad Makes Me Sad
  12. ^ Humor from Japan: BMW M5, Lamborghini Gallardo and Lancia Stratos Itasha decorated in style!
  13. ^ Age Soft Chairman shows off Manga Lambo, M5 and Stratos
  14. ^ Macross Ero-Itasha
  15. ^ Macross Ero-Itasha Gets Yaoi Facelift
  16. ^ 痛車天国? ナゴヤ オートトレンド!【出展企業&メーカー公認車編】
  17. ^ (Japanese) 青島文化教材が痛車のプラモを発売、車種とキャラは (Aoshima Bunka Kyozai sells a model car of itasha, the car and the character is...), report, retrieved on June 7, 2008.
  18. ^ ANA's Pokémon Jet Home Page
  19. ^ 2月再販 超時空要塞妖精痛機
  20. ^ MIKU-29 米哭式制空戰"痛"機XD
  22. ^ 3/3 痛機殼...
  23. ^ 「痛機殼」改造你的電腦主機外觀
  24. ^ 【Gadget】古谷徹、池田秀一、若本、釘宮等聲線的車內導航即將發售
  25. ^ 【ご連絡】「MAPLUSポータブルナビ2」用音声に池田秀一さんを追加!
  26. ^ TandE page
  27. ^ 痛車乗りに朗報! 痛いエンジンオイルが登場!
  28. ^ Lucky Star Engine Oil

External links[edit]