Thanks to popular anime, Lucky Star (RakiSuta), all of Japan has become familiar with the city of Washinomiya in Saitama prefecture.  The Washinomiya Shrine in particular has become famous among fans because of its appearance in the opening credits of the anime.  As a result, every year since 2007, Washinomiya Shrine has been invaded by hoards of otaku looking to ring in the new year; 2012 being a particularly busy year with 470,000 Lucky Star fans visiting the shrine.  Cities associated with popular anime often see an influx of visitors looking to take pictures and recreate scenes from their favorite anime, especially those that have been featured in magazines highlighting popular anime and manga locales, like Washinomiya Shrine.

Recently, a different kind of otaku gathering took place in Washinomiya.  Named “Crush Fest in Washinomiya 2012,” this event is arguably the most “painful” otaku athletic meet in all of Japan.  At the same time, a “painful” car festival took place, bringing in anime otaku from far and wide.

Itasha, literally “painmobile”, is the Japanese term for cars that been decorated with anime or video game characters. These decorations involve everything from full-body paint schemes to decals, and are usually so elaborate that it’s “painfully embarrassing” just to see them—hence “painmobile.”

Many of the cars at Crush Fest were decorated in Lucky Star characters, but other vehicles featured popular anime and manga, K-ON! as well as vocaloid idol, Hatsune Miku.

But cars weren’t the only “painful” thing at Crush Fest. There were was also a bizarre athletic meet that included a number of anime-themed events.  For example, there was a shouting contest titled, “Yell your crush in the heart of Washinomiya,” in which participants were encouraged to scream their feelings toward their favorite anime character.  Other events, such as the “Crush Ring Pick,” lived up to the “Crush Fest in Washinomiya 2012” event title.

In the small town of Washinomiya, where the population is just under 40,000 people, the influx of visitors exceeding ten times the population size has had a large economic impact.  We wonder how many visitors 2013 will bring to this small town.

^“Yell your crush in the heart of Washinomiya” event

^ “Crush Ring Pick” event

▼ Vehicles at the Extreme Car Festival

[ Read in Japanese ]