Unusual Tuning: What Is Itasha Style?


The painful love of the Japanese for “cartoon” characters and for various kinds of “Anime” is known all over the world. So, for example, it was wild for us to observe during our visit to Japan, on the Tokyo-Osaka high-speed train, students aged 20-25 years, reading not lectures (come on, lectures!), not detectives, not the press (not to mention the “yellow press”), but with ecstasy throughout the entire 2 hour drive to Osaka, reading comics and anime. It seemed to me then… overkill and “infantilization” of the nation. But, apparently, this is already part of their culture, which penetrates deeper and deeper layers and new directions. Automotive design and decor did not escape this fate either. One of the expressions of this “animesh” love of the Japanese was the Itasha style.

It would seem that who can be surprised by pasting a car with a film? But not everything is so simple. It won’t be possible to just visit the nearest detailing or repairing station.To put your favorite character on your automobile, for example, you must go to a specific car repairing service center, that will manage with this task. Special repair tools are required for such types of orders so it’s worth trusting them to well-qualified repairing specialists.


Interest in this type of tuning started growing in Japan during 1980s, but it really appeared massive in the XXI century, in the times when anime culture, thanks to the Internet, gained crazy popularity. Itasha’s engagement in live races is now a unique element of the Japanese motorsports business. Not only amateurs participate, but also various professional teams supported by manufacturers.

Itasha literally translates as “painful” car, originated from two words in Japanese: Itai – painful and Sha – automobile. Why is it painful? Most likely due to the expensive expense of providing the automobile such a style, i.e. a “painful for your budget” car.

But there is another etymology of this word. During Japan’s economic recovery in the 1980s, parades-processions of expensive foreign cars were common on Tokyo’s streets. Among these, the most wanted were Italian vehicles, known as Itahsa (“Itaria” – Italian and “sha” – car).

What kind of tuning happens?

There are 5 main trends in Japanese tuning: dekotora, itasha, bosozoku, bippu and grachan. All of them are distinguished by a bright catchy appearance and juicy filling. We still have to strive and achieve this for years.

Dekotora, or “dressed up truck”

The fashion for them was started by fish carriers who wanted to stand out from the gray stream of cars. The most creative decorated the trucks with everything that came to hand: light bulbs, panels, improvised parts. There must be a drawing on the body. Fantasy is twisted to the maximum and unusual devices are obtained, which even look more like trucks.

Itasha – “painful”


And the translation describes the essence very clearly. This trend was spawned by ardent anime fans, of whom every crowd in Japan is full. The car bodies are completely painted or pasted over with pictures of heroes from comics. And the bigger and brighter, the better. Not everyone decides to take up such tuning, so you will have to invest a lot of money.

Bosozoku is a “cruel gang”

Such cars in Japan only have gangsters or those who are trying to become them. They usually go to the “zoku” (as the cars are called) at night. They rev up loudly, play the theme from “The Godfather”, shine with multicolored headlights. The owners deliberately understate the cars, lengthen the hoods and sculpt a “duck tail” instead of a spoiler. They are recognized from afar. And it’s good if they give way.

Bippu – for “VIPs”

Relatively neutral, but very characteristic outwardly cars. Respectable motorists usually travel in such cars. Their devices are understated, discs of large diameters, the headlights are cold. It is based on business class models in gray or white colors.

Grachan – “touring car on civilian highways”

The style completely repeats the racing cars of the ring championship of the eighties Fuji Grand Champion Series. True, the equipment in the car is completely different, but outwardly it can not be distinguished: an understated fit, bright coloring, one wiper.

The first Itasha-themed car event was held in Ariake, near the Comiket venue, in 2007.

In Japan, Itasha cars can mainly be seen in the areas of Tokyo, Osaka, or Nagoya, but during the recent years this direction became international and cars in Itasha style can be seen anywhere from the USA to Philippines. And what is more, it has already been seen on airplanes!

Rachel Crib
Rachel Crib
Rachel has lived in Lancaster her whole life. Trish has worked as a journalist for nearly a decade having contributed to several large publications including the Yahoo News and the Lancaster Post. As a journalist for The Tiger News, Cristina covers national and international developments.

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