Hello everyone~. I am Ayumi, your favorite Manga.Tokyo otaku!
I am sure that most of you have your own favorite characters from anime and manga. A character you love so much that you end up cheering for him in every possible way, from hanging posters to drawing his figure in notebooks and school desks. In Japan there is a new way to show your love to your favorite character and it’s called an Ita-bag (or itabag). For those of you who have been to Japan, you might have seen people with bags covered in countless badges, especially around Akihabara or Ikebukuro.
Today I’m going to introduce you to these Ita-bags, the must-have DIY item for any otaku!
What is an Ita-bag?
An Ita-bag is a bag that no longer looks like a bag. Instead it is covered with badges, keyrings, and anything that is featuring your favourite character! It might look weird, but that’s why we call them Ita-bag or Itaba!
It is written 痛バッグ in Japanese. 痛 means ‘painful’ and バッグ means bag…so in other words ‘painful bag’! They are not painful to their owners, of course, but Ita-bags might looks a little weird or painful to look at for people who are not very comfortable with otaku culture.
They usually made out of bags that have either a clear window or an extra plastic coating on the outside to protect the items from damage. The bags are becoming so popular that shops like WEGO, Swimmer, and Animate started selling bags that are specially designed to be used as an Ita-bag.
By the way, this bag is from Daiso, the popular 100-yen shop!
The History of Ita-bag
Ita-bags are not recent. They started about 15 to 20 years ago with fans of the Visual Kei music movement. They would cut images of their favorite band members and stick then on their bags and jackets. It’s similar to the 80s and 90s rock trend of band logo patches and jacket pins. They would show their favorite band member, or oshimen, by covering their bags and jackets with them. The bag itself was a mini shrine that shouted, ‘I love this member!’
The same applies to anime and otaku Ita-bags. Fans will cover their bags with illustrations of their favorite character to show first their fandom and second their favorite member of that fandom.
Where and when do you carry an Ita-bag?
To be honest, there is not a specific time when an Ita-bag is appropriate and when it isn’t. After all, we are all entitled to our hobbies, aren’t we?
But most people carry them when they go to themed cafes, or events such as Comike. Especially in places where lots of otaku gather, Ita-bags are a way to support your favorite character.
How can you find stuff to put on your Ita-bag?
Ita-bags are like a blank canvas on which you can have all kinds of goods attached to them. You can have just a single pin or a hundred! There is no limit to how many things you can put on your bag. You just have to go to an event to see how many different shapes and sizes these bags take.
But where do they get these goods?
You can try online auctions or Twitter, but the most common way is direct exchange. People meet in person during events and collaborative cafes and exchange goods. There are many people who insist that there is ’No limit to collecting [character name]!’ No limit means that they will buy as many of the goods from you as possible. If you get a character that isn’t your favorite, you can sell them to these ‘no limit’ fans, or you can exchange them with somebody else and get the character you are aiming for. You can also find goods in stores such as Lashinbang, K-BOOKS, or Mandarake in areas like Ikebukuro and Akihabara.
It takes a lot of time and effort, but in the end you have a unique bag that you made yourself. That counts for something, doesn’t it?
Isn’t the bag heavy?
It’s heavy. I’ll say it again. It’s heavy. It’s really, really, REALLY heavy.
Some of these bags weigh several kilograms, so they can be hard on your shoulders. I will sound a little cheesy, but most otaku fans don’t care. It’s like carrying the weight of love.
Why do the bags have an extra clean layer?
The extra plastic layer is there to prevent damage to the goods and also to prevent badges from getting caught on other people’s clothes when you are in very tight situations as events.
The layer wasn’t always there. It became a necessity after seeing the problems with not having it on. At first it was really hard to find transparent bags that were the right size, but many Ita-bags now already have the protective layer on them.
There are bags likes the ones from WEGO that have a heart-shaped clear window, or the inside has a My Melody pattern. We called them Aitata-Bags. ‘Aitata’ is what we say when something hurts just a little bit. What a cute name. This one is was released on November, 2016.
There are also things called Ita-trunk and Ita-suitcases. These are just bigger versions where people attach pictures of their favorite characters, to attach badges to it and cover it with a transparent cover. This looks a lot like the ones made by the band fans, so it’s all coming full circle.
This way you can always promote your favourite character!
Things to note
The goods themselves may only cost a few hundred yen each, but when you attach so many of them to a bag, it can end up costing a lot of money. There might even be goods that are considered premium at auctions and cost even more money. There are Ita-bags whose cumulative cost is bigger that high-end brand bags.
I mentioned this before, but it takes a lot of love and effort to make a bag of this kind, and to us otaku they are very precious. Don’t just think of them as ‘bags with otaku goods attached to them’! Protect your own favourite character!
There is also the problem of piracy. Like games, movies, and music, there are a lot of non-official goods around these days. Just remember that if you don’t buy the official items, there is the chance that they will stop being made in the future due to poor sales. If you’re going to buy something, be sure that it’s an official item, ok?♪
If you can’t tell fake from official, check the the name of the title is displayed along with the © mark. Also, if you get the goods from Animate or collaboration events, then they are official!
Make you own Ita-bag!
In the next article, I’m going to talk with people who actually make their own Ita-bags! I can’t help but wonder what got them into Ita-bags in the first place and how much money they spend on goods each month! Of course, I’ll show you pictures of the bags.
Let me know what you think of Ita-bags and share pictures of your own Ita-bag if you have one! I will come back with the otaku interviews I promised you, so please look forward to hearing from these otaku ladies! ☆
Update (December 2017):
Maybe you would like to craft your own ita-bag and need to get hold of goods or even a bag itself to make one?
We know it can be difficult to get these items from Japan, but MANGA.TOKYO are here to help! Check out the following page:
MANGA.TOKYO Will Get Anime Goods on Your Behalf
Just fill out the form and we’ll get back to you! We can purchase the items and send them to you- you just pay for the item and shipping. We are currently charging a handling fee of ZERO yen!
If you are confused about the different types of bags out there then leave us a message on the form and we’ll introduce you do the different kinds!