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A Nissan March featuring Hinagiku Katsura from the manga series Hayate the Combat Butler.
A Mazda 3 featuring Yamato from the video game Kantai Collection.

In Japan, an itasha (痛車, literally "painful" or "cringeworthy"[1][2] + "car") is a car decorated with images of characters from anime, manga, or video games (especially bishōjo games or eroge). The decorations usually involve paint schemes and stickers. The cars are seen prominently in places such as Akihabara (Tokyo), Nipponbashi (Osaka), or Ōsu (Nagoya), or Itasha-based events, such as Odaiba Itasha Tengoku.

Itasha only applies to cars. There are different names for vehicles that have features of an itasha, such as itansha (痛単車) for motorcycles, itachari (痛チャリ) for bicycles, itabasu (痛バス) for buses, itatorakku (痛トラック) for trucks, and itadensha (痛電車) for trains.


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, cringe, embarassing) and sha (, vehicle).[3] Itai here means "painful", with additional senses of "painfully embarrassing" → "cringeworthy", "painful for the wallet" due to the high costs involved, or "painful to look at" (an eyesore). 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).[4]


Itasha car meet, Moesha-ofu, in Iga, Mie

The subculture started in Japan in the 1980s with character plushies and stickers,[5] but only became a phenomenon in the twenty-first century, when anime culture became relatively well known via the Internet. The earliest known report of an itasha-decorated vehicle in convention was in August 2005, in Comiket 68.[6]


In 2007, the first Autosalone (あうとさろーね, Autosarōne), an itasha-oriented convention, was held in Ariake, near Comiket. Since then, the subculture has grown and allows people to express themselves and show off their customization to fellow friends and competitors. In 2019, Odaiba Itasha Tengoku, which took place in Odaiba, Tokyo, was also held. Another Itasha-JDM event was held on March 27th named "Itasha Tengoku JDM Paradise".[7]

International movement[edit]

An itasha in Taiwan with Reimu Hakurei from Touhou Project on a Mitsubishi Savrin
An itasha in Shanghai, China with Miku on a Xpeng P7 next to a regular Xpeng P7.

Similarly decorated vehicles have been found in Taiwan,[8] the Philippines,[9] Thailand, Malaysia, the United States, Brazil, Indonesia, and the United Kingdom.

Vehicles owned by character rights owner[edit]

The executive director of ACID Co., Ltd. (parent company of game developer Âge), Hirohiko Yoshida, was reported to own a Muv-Luv-themed Lamborghini Gallardo,[10] Lancia Stratos,[11] and BMW M5.[12][13] The cars were unveiled in 2008 âge×Nitro+ in Akihabara 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]

An itansha in South Tangerang, Indonesia featuring Honkai Impact 3rd on the body

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

Licensed model vehicles[edit]

Officially licensed itasha cars can be found both in display and R/C car models.

In June 2008, Aoshima Bunka Kyozai launched "ITASHA" as one of their model car product lines.[17] Since then, many model companies have produced various itasha versions of their car models. Fujimi, Kyosho, HPI and Tamiya also sell models with itasha decorations.

Recently, combinations between models and actual itasha are increasing, wherein models based on the original itasha were made afterwards.

Derivative uses[edit]

An itachari in South Tangerang, Indonesia featuring Hibiki from Kantai Collection on the frame

The itasha decorative style has also been found on railway cars, aircraft,[18][19] computer cases,[20] and other products.[21] The itasha equivalent in apparel is the "ita-bag", a bag covered in fandom-related badges, buttons, etc.

In-vehicle electronics, such as navigation systems, were also reported to be customized with character voices.[22] On 28 March 2008, Maplus began to offer character voices for its Maplus Portable Navi 2 GPS system, beginning with Shūichi Ikeda (Char Aznable from the Gundam franchise).[23]

Automotive consumables such as motor oil have also been customized. On 20 June 2009, T&E, a tuning shop, began to sell scented semi-synthetic motor oil under the Itayu brand,[24] with the first product being a Lucky Star-themed motor oil, unveiled at the 48th Shizuoka Hobby Show 2009.[25][26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nihon Kokugo Daijiten, entry for itai available online here, see sense ② (in Japanese)
  2. ^ 1995, 大辞泉 (Daijisen) (in Japanese), w:Tokyo: Shogakukan, ISBN 4-09-501211-0; entry for itai available online here, see sense 4 (in Japanese)
  3. ^ Tan, Lincoln. "Anime-decorated itasha car fad hits Auckland". NZ Herald. Retrieved 2021-07-01.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ "フェラーリも萌える「痛車」ビジネス". Sankei News. 2008-11-17. Archived from the original on 2009-05-23. Retrieved 2021-06-22.
  5. ^ Itasha and Intansha - Tricking your car out is the latest otaku craze in Japan
  6. ^ コミックマーケット68 2日目&痛車[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Odaiba, Itasha Tengoku (7 March 2022). "Odaiba Itasha Heaven 2022". Retrieved 4 May 2022.
  8. ^ 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
  9. ^ Philippine Itasha Cars Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine
  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!". Archived from the original on 2009-07-13. Retrieved 2009-04-08.
  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. ^ (in Japanese) 青島文化教材が痛車のプラモを発売、車種とキャラは Archived 2008-02-06 at the Wayback Machine (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. ^ "NieR:Automata Plane". wsyntax technologies. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  20. ^ 3/3 痛機殼... Archived 2011-07-10 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ 「痛機殼」改造你的電腦主機外觀
  22. ^ 【Gadget】古谷徹、池田秀一、若本、釘宮等聲線的車內導航即將發售
  23. ^ "【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!". Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2009-08-27.
  24. ^ TandE page Archived 2009-08-22 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ 痛車乗りに朗報! 痛いエンジンオイルが登場!
  26. ^ Lucky Star Engine Oil

External links[edit]