Minority Hobbies Just Suck You in: Itasha Driver Oda


Looking for an Embarrassingly Cool Car


It’s soooo embarrassing!!!


But….it’s actually pretty cool, too. Designed to attract the curious gaze of the world, an itasha car, painted with anime characters, is the kind of car that your wife or girlfriend would probably refuse to ride in, but if you own one, you probably don’t care at all. 


Today, we had the pleasure of interviewing itasha car owner Oda. We met Oda while we were reporting at the Toho Project event Reitaisai, where they had a booth in the Itasha section.



“I’m surprised you asked me to do an interview. I guess this would happen if you own an itasha for 10 years.”


What a veteran! It does look like their car was decorated by a professional. It’s done beautifully, down to the finest detail!


They came to our interview in their beloved car!



Graphic Designing with their Heart, Mind, and Soul

“That’s right. I have a specialist in Yokohama who prints the stickers and applies them for me. They’re very good at what they do, very trustworthy.”


They also shared a very valuable 10-year-old itasha magazine.


They’ve done a near-perfect job. The stickers have been deftly placed up to every nook and cranny. But though someone else applied it, the illustration itself is Oda’s own creation. 


“Since I work in video game design, I do illustrations for a living. Drawing outside of work helps me keep up my motivation. This character from Touhou Project, Aya Shameimaru, has a background in reporting, and since I tend to go around different places doing research, I felt a kinship with her, and grew to like her.”


They took a picture of the car before being decorated. 


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Uploaded it to their PC and made it a blank canvas…


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Then began sketching out their design.


Since it’s a perfect alignment of skills needed for their work and their hobby, you could probably call this car not just an illustration but a work of “graphic design”. 


The Result of Fusing Their Favorite Things

So why did they start decorating their cars?


“I’ve always loved cars, and I’ve always loved games. I especially love the Touhou series, so I thought, why not pour all my love into one thing! And so I started driving itasha.”


How many designs have they done so far?


“There’s a big event that happens once a year, so I always change the design for that. That makes this current design the 10th one, and this is the second car that I’ve made into an itasha. The first one was a Mercedes-Benz smart. I picked it because, well, first I was attracted to how it looked, but when I gave it a test drive, I realized it was so much fun to drive.”


The 2012 design of Oda’s beloved car. 


The 2013 design. 


The 2014 design. 



Customizing Your Beloved Car

Choosing your favorite car and decorating it with your favorite design…that is an expression of true love. But why make it into an itasha? Don’t you want to look at the graphic all day long instead of driving it?


“No, not really. Most itasha drivers probably want to show off their cars rather than look at them. I drive around hoping that people will look at my beloved car in this extraordinary world and fall in love with it. People might think it’s a weird thing to like but that’s what hobbies are all about.”


Oda’s 2015 model. 


The 2016 design. 



That’s something we can completely understand. A cosplayer, for example, can only see themselves in cosplay when they look in the mirror, but they still want to go out to an event and participate in the fun of being looked at and appreciated. It’s got to be the same feeling.


“That’s exactly right! It’s like building a huge plastic model. One reason I’m really glad I started driving itasha is because I’ve been able to make friends. We can show each other our cars at events, meetup offline…I’ve made friends from far away, and some even teach me the best places to sightsee and eat where they are. When I park at rest stops, I even get people asking to take pictures, so I get to have once-in-a-lifetime meetings like that, too.”


The 2018 model of Oda’s beloved car. 


Oda’s 2019 model. 



Japan at the Forefront of Itasha

Just as Oda said, hobbies are such a niche thing that they have the power to unify people who think alike, and people are always drawn to making new connections. 


“There are more and more itasha owners overseas now, and there are even people so dedicated that they load their cars on boats and ship them over for events. Japan is probably king when it comes to anime and manga, and we’re especially at the forefront of itasha. Also, Japan is really good for public safety, which means there isn’t much chance of the itasha being vandalized.”


Lastly, we asked Oda how long they plan to continue driving itasha.


“I have zero plans to ever stop, so I’ll keep on doing it! About half of my friends have been doing it for over a decade, so I still have a ways to go.”


With a culture that keeps advancing as the years go by, we hope that all the drivers will continue to show off their itasha throughout the future, too. 


Oda’s 2020 model.









Shiro Sato


Rhiannon Charles

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