Itasha

Good Smile Company

Itasha [ee-tah-sha] (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 ‘bishojo game’ and ‘eroge’ – dating and porn games). 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’ and ‘itachari,’ respectively.

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’ (‘painful’) and ‘sha’ (‘vehicle’). ‘Painful’ can be interpreted as ‘painfully embarrassing’ or ‘painful for the wallet’ due to the high costs involved.

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