File:Honda Prelude Itasha 2009 Tokyo Auto Salon.jpg

Itasha (痛車?), literally "painmobile", is a Japanese term for an otaku fad 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 predominately "cute" female. 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 Akihibara (Tokyo), Nipponbashi (Osaka), or Ōsu (Nagoya). Itasha also appears in customizable video games, such as Forza Motorsport 2.[1] Itasha have also participated in various real motorsport events.


In 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. However, in 1990s, the term 'itai' was adopted to describe intense, cultish otaku associated with serial killer Miyazaki Tsutomu.[2] 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?).[3]


The decoration was started in 1980s with character plushies and stickers[4], but only became a phenomenon in the 21st century, when otaku culture became relatively well known via the Internet. The earlist known report of the decoration vehicle in convention began in 2005-08, in Comic Market 68.[5]


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.

Involvement in motorsports

File:Studie GLAD BMW Z4 2008 Super GT qualifying.jpg

In recent years, the involvement of Itashas in real motorsport events has grown. Though most of them are amateur events, participation of Itashas in races are increasing, and they usually receive much media coverage.


In 2007, a Lancer Evolution VII featureing themes of Lucky Star and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya in Japan Dirt Trial marked the first itasha participation of professional events in Japan's motorsport, it clinched a win in SA2 class (mostly Lancer Evolution and Subaru Imprezas) in the JAF Cup in 2007, marked the first individual victory of itashas. The car served in 2007 and 2008 season, which they changed to the Melonbooks(a dōjin shop based in Kansai district)-theme due to the partnership of Melonbooks in 2009.

In 2008's Japan Rally Championship, Melonbooks put a Honda City Itasha into the JN1(cars below 1400cc) class. They started well with 3 wins in a row, and eventually finished as class Champion that year, claiming the first overall Champion title in Japan's motorsport event for Itashas[6]. They switched their car to Lancer Evolution VII in 2009 season and raced in both JRC and Japan Dirt Trial, where they clinched a Dirt Trial SA2 Champion in JAF Cup again.

It is known that Melonbooks will enter the 2010 JRC with a Honda Integra (DC2).

Onroad Events

In the Suzuka 1000km race in 2008 Super GT season, Studie GLAD Racing (a BMW tuning shop in Japan) team entered a Hatsune Miku-themed Z4 in the GT300 class, making Itasha's debut in international events under FIA. Three months later, MOLA introduced a Kagamine Rin and Len-themed Nissan 350Z in the same series' final race, which they finished sixth and claimed their driver and team's title in GT300 class[6]. Studie continues their participation the 2009 season in all races inside Japan.

Although Studie discontinued their participation in 2010, Team COX (Porsche's official dealer in Japan) supported other teams using itashas in the 2010 season, which included a Porsche 996 RSR and a 2010 FIA GT3 specification Porsche 997 GT3-R in season's midpoint (Although both Studie and COX are sponsored by Goodsmile company, which is in charge of Vocaloid's merchandising).

Apart from Super GT, itashas also appeared in the a lesser Super Taikyu series in 2008 and 2010.


Both Bee*Racing team's car (B324R and Toyota Crown) have a small sticker that features parody of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya since the 2008 D1 Grand Prix season, even though both drivers (Tsuyoshi Tezuka and Masayoshi Tokita) claimed that it was the team owner's idea and they have zero knowledge to the parody used.

International movement

Similarly decorated vehicles have been found in Taiwan[7], Philippines[8], United States.[9]

Vehicles owned by character rights owner

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.[14]

An official Macross Frontier-themed Suzuki Wagon R was unveiled in Macross Galaxy Tour Final.[15] It was later redesigned for the Macross Super-Dimensional Space Launch Ceremony.[16]

Vehicles from automotive manufacturers

In 2009 Nagoya Auto Trend, Phantom of Inferno-themed Chevrolet Corvette, Melonbooks-themed MINI Cooper, Chaos;Head Noah-themed Toyota Estima were unveiled.[17]

Licensed model vehicles

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,[18] Since then many of the model producers produced various Itashas 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

The itasha decorative style has also been found on aircraft[19][20][21][22], computer cases[23], and other products.[24]

In-vehicle electronics, such as navigation systems, were also reported to be customized with character voices.[25] In 2008-03-28, Maplus began to offer character voices for its Maplus Portable Navi 2 GPS, beginning with Shuuichi Ikeda (Char Aznable).[26]

Automotive consumables such as motor oil has also been customized. In 2009-6-20, T&E tuning shop began to sell scented semi-synthetic motor oil under Itayu brand[27], with the first product being a Lucky*Star-themed motor oil, unveiled in 48th Shizuoka Hobby Show 2009.[28][29]

See also


  1. (Japanese) YouTubeのゲーム動画が起こした予想外のできごと (Something unexpected happens by the game video on YouTube), Nikkei IT Plus report, retrieved on June 7, 2008.
  2. Itai culture: A closer look at otaku vehicles
  3. Itasha: Pimped rides, otaku style
  4. Itasha and Intansha - Tricking your car out is the latest otaku craze in Japan
  5. コミックマーケット68 2日目&痛車
  6. 6.0 6.1 Although Melonbooks got the JRC Champion in November 23, 2008, two weeks after the final race of the 2008 Super GT, appeals involving MOLA were raised, stating MOLA was not officially granted Champion Status until December 5, 2008.
  7. 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
  8. Philippine Itasha Cars
  9. America 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. Muvluv Itasha
  15. Macross Ero-Itasha
  16. Macross Ero-Itasha Gets Yaoi Facelift
  17. 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】
  18. (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.
  19. ANA's Pokémon Jet Home Page
  20. 2月再販 超時空要塞妖精痛機
  21. MIKU-29 米哭式制空戰"痛"機XD
  23. 3/3 痛機殼...
  24. 「痛機殼」改造你的電腦主機外觀
  25. 【Gadget】古谷徹、池田秀一、若本、釘宮等聲線的車內導航即將發售
  26. 【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!
  27. TandE page
  28. 痛車乗りに朗報! 痛いエンジンオイルが登場!
  29. Lucky Star Engine Oil

External links

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