1,000 cars gathered in Odaiba, a sacred place! Long time no see “Painful Vehicle Event” was a great success!
Held for the first time since March 2019 Many never-before-seen painful cars appeared in Odaiba
Ouch. These are cars with manga, anime, and video game characters plastered on them. This car culture has changed over time and is now seen not only in Japan but also in other countries such as the United States and China.
Nose art” originated in the 1940s, when it was painted on the nose of fighter planes and other aircraft.
The use of “women’s drawings” on “vehicles” was already a trend in the 1940s, in the midst of World War II. American bombers and fighter planes often had “nose art” painted on the nose section, often of belligerent animals, mocking images of the enemy, cartoon characters, and popular actresses of the time.
The practice of putting pictures of women on cars was also seen on Formula 1 cars in the late 1970s, but this is very different from the “gekuruma” (painted car) culture. The “itasha” is characterized by its ability to maximize the appeal of the love for characters in Japan’s unique manga and anime culture by combining it with the presence of a “private car,” which is easily seen by all and still allows for the expression of originality.
On March 27, Japan’s largest “Itasha Tengoku” event, “Itasha Tengoku 2022 RETURNS,” was held in Odaiba for the first time in three years, attracting approximately 1,000 painted cars from all over Japan. The event had not been held for a long time due to the new coronavirus infection and the Tokyo Olympics, so this time the event was very much enjoyed by visitors who were nostalgic for Odaiba after a long absence.
The style of the painted cars varied widely. No two cars are exactly alike in terms of model, location, design, character, and customization of the car itself. The choice of car models differs between those who started out as car enthusiasts and those who started painted cars because of their love of the artwork.
Many of the people we spoke with said that they had been inspired by the many painted car owners they knew around them and had actually created their own painted cars.
One of them said, “I know a guy who has a Love Live! I was so fascinated by the Legacy with the “Legacy” logo on it that I wanted to try it for myself.
I actually had a lot of fun making the painted car, and I’m eager to spread its charms to others.”
Recently, it has become common for people who like the same artworks to connect with each other through Twitter, etc., and it can be said that painted cars are part of the ripple effect brought about by such a community.
People who are car enthusiasts by nature tend to do painted cars, simply put, with sports car models or minor models. On the other hand, those who are not interested in cars, but simply want to put their favorite characters on their painted cars, tend to choose cars as their “canvas,” such as minivans, one-box cars, and station wagons, which have a large area to put their paintings on. Although it has been a long time since people started talking about the “young people’s shift away from cars,” there are quite a few examples of people who became interested in cars as a means of expressing their love for their favorite characters and actually purchased one. It may be a “painful” culture to watch, but it is an important one for the further development of automobile culture in Japan.
Painful cars without characters are also appearing.
In addition, there are also some methods of applying the characters, ranging from full wrapping level luxury to the application of the characters on individual parts of the body, such as the hood, fenders, trunk lid, and so on. In addition, the “painted car without characters” style is also gaining popularity, in which the car is a reproduction of a car that appears in the work (such as a company car or school car in the work), rather than just a large scale painting of the work’s characters.
The “itasha” style is becoming increasingly popular, with owners of “itasha” cars gathering together to display their cars at various events held throughout Japan. Among these events, “Itasha Tengoku” was launched in 2017 by Yaesu Shuppan, publisher of the Itasha magazine “Itasha Tengoku Cho,” as a successor to “Ita G Fiesta” of Geibunsha’s “Itasha Graphics” magazine. However, it was last held in Odaiba in March 2019, as the venue’s Aomi temporary parking lot was used to set up the “2020 FAN PARK,” an event facility for the Tokyo Olympics competition experience.
While the use of Odaiba was not possible, the main event was held at the Osaka Expo Park, and an online-style Itasha Heaven was also held in collaboration with the manga and anime event “Gatfusu” in Niigata City. However, the number of vehicles participating in the Osaka event was approximately 400, and 459 vehicles in the online event in 2021, which is still a large difference in scale from Odaiba, where approximately 1,000 vehicles are displayed each time.
At this year’s Itasha Tengoku, many of the cars were decorated with characters from “Uma Musume Pretty Derby,” a game service that will begin in February 2021, or with “Virtual YouTubers” (VTubers), which are very popular these days. Also, the anime broadcast of “Love Live! The “Nijigasaki Gakuen School Idol Club” is set in the Odaiba area, and the owners, especially those from far away and who created their cars while “Itasha Tengoku” was not held in Odaiba, must have felt great joy to finally be able to display their pride and joy in the holy city of Odaiba.
The painted car is a unique automobile culture originating from Japan. The “painted cars” that each owner proudly displayed were of various kinds, and one could definitely feel the “love” of the owner.
Interview, text, and photos： Hiroto Kato