Despite having a relatively short history, the number of itasha has grown rapidly in recent years. With the popularity of Japanese pop culture spreading globally, these cars, covered with primarily female anime and game characters, are even gaining attention from abroad.

“From Hokkaido in the north to Kyushu in the south, we like to think that we’re helping local economies by making pilgrimages to the different towns anime shows were set in with our itasha,” said 34-year-old itasha veteran Sabugoro.

“While events are struggling to draw visitors, itasha motor shows are starting to receive wide recognition for their ability to attract customers,” said economist and anime figurine collector Takuro Morinaga. “Copyright is still an issue in the field, but I believe the same culture will spread to sales strategies of various other industries.”

‘Itasha’ cars decorated with images of anime girls drive up Japan’s cute quotient, Asahi, January 13, 2015

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