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Wed, 30 Jan ’13

No Pain, No Gain: Japan’s Itasha Subculture

These cars have character – literally.

If you thought Bow Wow’s hulked-out ride in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift was equal parts impressive and eyebrow-raising, then you’ve got another thing coming. Do you love to show your otaku pride everywhere you go? Perhaps you’ve decided a small window decal is the best way to do that, but today we’d like to tell you about a group of anime fans taking their love to the streets of Japan in the biggest and brightest way possible: itasha.

Originally a slang term for imported Italian cars, “Itasha” is now a portmanteau of the words “itai” (which means painful) and “-sha (which, in this context, means car). These so-called “painmobiles” laugh at your puny window decal and cruise through the streets of Akihabara covered in gigantic pictures of kawaii anime ladies. It’s not quite as simple as slapping on a bumper sticker though. See just how far the rabbit hole goes in this detailed explanation of the process of DIY itasha-making. You know what they say – mo’ money, moe problems.

Itasha aren’t just shiny rides you keep hidden away in a garage; they’re made to be flaunted. A Hatsune Miku-clad car made quite the splash on US soil at Anime Expo 2011 and they’ve even been spotted in recent years competing in motorsport events! Of course, itasha-style decorations have been spotted on all sorts of other objects, such as planes, boats and even car navigation systems have been customized to feature anime character voices (win the affection of your tsundere GPS!) – because what’s a Hatsune Miku car without that high-pitched voice to match?

Would you ever drive an itasha? Let us know on our Facebook, Twitter and Google+