Tips & Guides

The Collector’s Guide to Itabags

Rubber straps, badges, pins, and other similar small items have always posed a problem to me as a collector. I really love this type of merchandise, but never could find a proper display technique, so they would often end up in boxes… and then the boxes would pile up and up….

Enter the itabag!!! Itabags are my current obsession and the absolute perfect solution to showing off my small ‘useable’ collectibles like straps and keychains and pins, while still keeping them in pristine condition. If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you’ve most likely seen at least some pictures of my Love Live-themed bags.

Without further ado, let’s answer some common questions I get about itabags!

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So, what even *is* an itabag?

In a nutshell, itabags (痛バッグ) are anime otaku bags containing an excessive amount of character merchandise. Ita means painful in Japanese, and so these bags are painful to the eyes, painful to carry, and painful to the owner’s wallet. (‘Itarooms’ (痛部屋) and ‘itacars’ (痛車) also exist — anything that is excessively otaku can bear the ita prefix!) They’ve existed in Japanese otaku culture for quite a while, but within the past year have become increasingly popular in Japan and are starting to reach foreign anime fans as well.

For more general information about itabags, I recommend Kotaku’s article & dejavudea’s video!

Does my itabag need to be limited to one character?

No! While many people use itabags to show their dedication to a beloved favorite character, you can have as many characters from as many different series as you’d like on one bag. The point is to display your collection in a way you personally are happy with (*∩ω∩*)

I personally am working on two single character bags (Chino & Sumire), one Love Live bag containing all of my favorite girls, and a ‘free for all’ anything goes bag for all characters ranging from Vocaloids to Pokemon & Sanrio.

Where can I get a base bag for my itabag?

You can use anything you’d like as a base bag — clear plastic coatings are not required for an itabag, but highly recommended especially if you are using it to display your expensive collectibles. One option is to use any tote bag of your choice and then purchase a clear coat tote to go around it.

If you would like to purchase a bag specifically designed for itabag creation, you have a few options. ‘Mise Tote’ ‘Itamate’ and ‘MyColle’ are all brands of bags with an built-in clear coat. ‘Wego’ also makes adorable bags with a heart-shaped clear window. The ‘Uta no Prince Sama’ anime also has officially licensed itabags that are rather expensive, as they can be purchased at limited times only and have the highest retail price of all of the bags mentioned.

Unfortunately all of the above options are available for purchase in Japan only (and even in person, are strangely difficult to find), so you will have to either use a deputy with Y!J or find an import store that offers them for sale — to encourage your itabag desires I have a variety available at the Alluna Japan storefront here

Do I need to buy multiples of the same item to have a proper itabag?

Buying multiples is a popular method of collecting in general in Japan, but it isn’t a requirement for an itabag. If your favorite character or series doesn’t have a lot of merchandise however, it might be your only option. I personally like the look of a few multiples (especially of my favorite merchandise), or even a bag planned around a certain theme of multiples, but long strands of the same rubber strap or keychain is not really my personal style. It’s entirely up to personal preference!

How do you get your merchandise attached to the bag itself?

Badges and pins are your new best friends — use them strategically to also attach rubber straps and keychains. (These are something you’ll probably want many multiples of). Safety pins are also a popular option (with the main part of the pin on the inside of the bag), and some people attach chains or straps to their bags as a place to hang more merchandise.

The ‘Mise Tote’ bags mentioned above are particularly nice as they contain a hidden strap inside the plastic coating to hang keychains etc. from.

Do people in Japan carry their itabags everywhere?

Not really, no. People will bring them when meeting up with friends, going to an event, or going to an otaku mecca like Akibahara or Ikebukuro. Chances are if you’re riding the train in Tokyo, you’ll see at least someone carrying their itabag. But they definitely aren’t an everyday bag, and you certainly wouldn’t see someone bringing it to the office or other business function.

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Hopefully that gives you enough information to get started on building your own itabag! This was written intended for my collector friends who are already familiar with purchasing Japanese merchandise online, but I will also type up some tips and guides for those unsure of the best ways to get stuff from Japan to begin with.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that itabags are supposed to be about what YOU want! They are a display of your own personal nerdy otaku-y interests and there are really no rules surrounding itabag creation.

If you have any other questions about building an itabag or want to show off the bag you’ve been working on, please give me a shout on Twitter or the comments below ☆

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