Hokumeiryo 北溟寮 is a male dormitory located in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture. Such dormitories and their traditions are fast disappearing in Japan. I had the pleasure to live next door to Hokumeiryo dormitory for several years. And during that time I observed some of the annual rituals that took place. In the evening hours after the day’s classes had finished things often became…well some might say “boisterous” or “raucous,” but I would term it as “festive.” I particularly appreciate their having allowed my son and I to join the ranks of their parade as it snaked through the narrow, winding streets of our neighborhood one night.
I also enjoyed the larger than life bottle of sake that the students handcrafted. It denotes a central element in the dormitory life. And the array of television antennas on the roof, which students most likely set themselves, caught my eye as well. Resourcefulness.
Anime Cars, known as itasha 痛車 (compound of the word itai 痛い meaning “pain” coupled with the sha 車 meaning, in this case, “auto”). Itasha are automobiles decorated with manga and anime logos, characters, and so forth. The meaning of the name itasha then is in effect expressing the idea that the cars being so unabashedly adorned actually hurt the sensibilities (of even the otaku, fan).
Generally, two techniques are used to create an itasha. Designs may be painted on the cars and professional auto painters are often employed for this. Or, a more popular method calls for applying printed adhesive labels (stickers) to the car body. These may be purchased or self-produced. In the latter case, the images may yet again be downloaded and scanned images, or self-designed. Larger images may require the printing of several sheets, which are then carefully aligned together. When printed adhesive are used great care is given to not damage the design, a wax coat is applied over the labels and automatic car washes are avoided.
Itasha owners often assemble their cars at places such as Comiket (Comic Market). But the photos shown here are of cars assembled at one of the Japan’s many anime pilgrimage sites. In this case, the Washinomiya Shrine in Washimiya City, Saitama Prefecture.
Fans of the Lucky Star anime series are said to gather throughout the week. The setting of the anime is based on locations within Washimiya City, and the shrine also appears in the anime. A Lucky Star decorated wan bokksu ka (one box car), which is a popular style of automobile with a smaller size engine (less than 660 cc). A look at the rear hatch door. Notice the round yellow sticker from the Washinomiya Shrine. Not just for itasha, but many drivers place stickers from shrines and temples on the back of their cars in order to receive protection from traffic accidents.
Additionally, motorcycles and bicycles are also decorated in similar fashion. Motorcyles are known as itansha, and bicycles are called itajitensha. It should be noted that bicycles are heavily used for commuter transportation not only by students, but working people, and housewives, particularly in metropolitan areas. This is an itajitensha (pictured left), a bicycle decorated to commemorate the Lucky Star anime. Like itasha the owner wants it to be conspicuous. One motivating reason for creating and displaying these artistic spectacles is the desire to attract attention. Photographs of seiyu 声優 (voice actors) or the singers of anime songs are also sometimes affixed as we can see on the back wheel.