Irasutoya: Japan’s Art Phenomenon

         If you’ve interacted with Japanese media at all, then you are sure to have come across something cute! From famous Sanrio characters (like Hello Kitty) to company logos, you can find cuteness just about anywhere; this is because Japan often uses this concept in many different areas, such as marketing, fashion, and… clip art? While it might seem strange, Irasutoya is here to make all of your graphic design needs adorable and fun to look at!

You might want to save this one up, just in case! | Illustration by Irasutoya

         Chances are, you’ve already seen plenty of illustrations from Irasutoya – even if you didn’t know it at the time! Irasutoya (which is a combination of irasuto [illustration] and –ya [a suffix indicating a store]) is a Japanese website offering free clip art from the illustrator Takashi Mifune; the art pieces can be used for commercial or non-commercial purposes, and cover a wide range of topics!2 These pictures are used world-wide in educational materials, government announcements, and so much more. But, why is its art so popular? How can you use it to enhance your projects? Why is there clip art of a person in a bear costume having heat stroke? We may not have the answer to that last question, but we have plenty of information about Irasutoya and its usage in Japan in this article!

Jump To:


Why has Irasutoya Stayed So Popular? 

Fun Facts

Can You Use Irasutoya in Your Own Projects?




Irasutoya’s Humble Beginnings

Setsubun festival, the festival of welcoming the new season, was the start of Irasutoya | Illustration by Irasutoya

         The website began on January 31, 2011, with the release of a series of illustrations for the Setsubun festival. From then until January 31, 2021 (ten years exactly!), Mr. Takashi uploaded new illustrations almost daily1. Mr. Takashi, who likes to preserve his privacy and dislikes giving interviews3, has never given a public reason for starting the site; though, from some of his few statements, one can surmise that it was partially a hobby4 and partially a way for others to see his work.

         Before Irasutoya was started, finding both quality and cohesive free clipart in Japan was hard to do. There were other sites that offered clipart (such as PrintOutFactory), but they either cost money, lacked the pictures you needed, or didn’t have enough works in the same style. This caused people a lot of stress! Creators either had to use pictures that didn’t look good together or pay someone to create the images they needed. Someone needed to start a site that solved these problems, and Irasutoya filled this role perfectly. 

Rise to Popularity!  

Ranging from activities into detailed daily items, they got you covered! | Illustration by Irasutoya

Irasutoya quickly gained a reputation for having pictures of just about anything imaginable. Though his daily uploads initially consisted of typical clip art topics (such as sports, foods, and famous locations)9, Mr. Takashi gradually covered more niche topics (such as how to cut various vegetables, the Japanese coming-of-age ceremony, and ancient creatures). He also began to release pictures related to current events and issues, such as LGBT representation , artificial intelligence, and environmental issues. If you could think it, Irasutoya had it!

In fact, this aspect became so notable that in 2016, a trend on X (formerly Twitter) was started which used Irasutoya illustrations to recreate album art, video game covers, manga, and other popular media.

People also loved that Mr. Takashi quickly posted illustrations related to current events, such as this picture of a Japanese meme that went viral5! Irasutoya’s frequent appearance in social media helped introduce it to many new users. 

It also didn’t hurt that more and more people were creating digital content around this time. Demand for clip art was (and remains) high, so Irasutoya’s free availability and consistent style was attractive for many creators. Some of this digital content (such as blogs, online books, and websites) were self-published as well, which meant that Irasutoya’s ease of use and relaxed legal policies were especially helpful. 

Eventually, the site became so famous that it even won awards! In 2019, Irasutoya won the Society for Digital Archiving ‘1st Society Award’ Practice Prize; this award, given by the Digital Archives and the Society for Digital Archives (JSDA), is for contributing to digital art forms and their use in society6. In 2022, it won the Excellence Award at the Digital Media Association ‘Digital Content of the Year ’21 / 27th AMD Awards; this award celebrates “excellent works and services from among the latest digital contents… and is held for the purpose of improving the quality of works and promoting human resource development.”7 Suffice to say, Irasutoya has come a long way from such a small start! 

Irasutoya Today

Today, you can spot Irasutoya illustration on any platform! | Illustration by Irasutoya

         Nowadays, Irasutoya is still being updated (just not everyday) and is still used by millions of people around the world! Of course, it’s still most popular in Japan; from shops to hospital bulletin boards to government websites, Irasutoya is used in a wide range of situations9. Its range has also expanded in social media, with some YouTube and TikTok accounts now using Irasutoya images in their content9. It has also been featured in a number of collaborations (which we’ll get to here in a bit)! Some in Japan have complained, since it can be tiring to see the same style of art everywhere you go10; however, since it’s such nice artwork, people are unlikely to stop using it any time soon! 

    Ok, that was a rather long history lesson! Let’s move on to something a bit more interesting – how Irasutoya maintains its popularity! 

By now, there are plenty of other free sites that people can use for clip art. So, why is it that Irasutoya still remains a popular choice? There are a few reasons for this, as you’ll see below! 

It’s Free! 

Generally, illustrations sourced out from Irasutoya are free! | Illustration by Irasutoya

Cost is always a concern in creative endeavors, so not having to pay anything at all is great! While you do need to pay around 1100 yen per picture if more than 20 are used for commercial purposes, or if you want high-resolution files3, you can use less than that with no cost whatsoever. Irasutoya is easy on the eyes and easy on the wallet! 

The Style is Consistent and High-Quality

With a consistent style of art, it’s definitely easier to coordinate an appealing visual. | Illustration by Irasutoya

People love that since all of the works are done by the same person, with the same color palette, with high attention to detail, and with similar forms, the art looks good together. This makes any project that they are used in look well-organized and top-notch. You can use Irasutoya art in newsletters, across website pages, and more; the result will always be that you end up looking cohesive with excellent quality! 

Takashi Mifune Isn’t Focused on Fame or Wealth 

Takashi Mifune, have a really down-to-earth approach in building the site. | Illustration by Irasutoya

         A last reason for Irasutoya’s success is because the artwork stands by itself. While we’ve mentioned that Takashi Mifune is the one behind the site, you wouldn’t know that unless you looked it up! He doesn’t use his name or his credentials to market his work – the images are simply presented as is9

Many other illustrators rely on name recognition and portfolios in order to make money; the more recognizable and distinctive your work is, the more you will be requested and the more money you can charge. However, Mr. Takashi instead makes a profit by

  • allowing advertisements on the site, 
  • selling images on LINE (more on that in a bit!),
  • selling merchandise from different collaborations, and 
  • providing high-resolution images for a fee9

Instead of the “Takashi Mifune” name, people use Irasutoya because, even though it does have a recognizable and distinct style, it’s not enough to distract you from the surrounding main content. Its soft and general style makes the illustrations applicable to a variety of situations and people. By not seeking fame or money and instead focusing on the usability of the art, Mr. Takashi ensured that his illustrations will be used by many people for years to come.

  Alright, enough of the informational stuff – let’s get into the fun stuff now! 

Irasutoya Fun Facts

Irasutoya: Mobile Game Edition

Who would have guessed? An illustration site having it's own game! | Illustration by Irasutoya
Who would have guessed? An illustration site having it’s own game! | Illustration by Irasutoya

         Yep, you read that right! During 2016 when Irasutoya was going viral on X, mobile game company Mokosoft created the game いらすとやからの脱出 (irasutoya kara no dasshutsu), known in English as “Escape from Irasutoya”11! Users play as someone who has gotten stuck in the world of Irasutoya; using items found in different scenes, you have to navigate your way through the world in order to finally escape11! All of the items, backgrounds, and characters in the game are taken directly from the Irasutoya website. While it’s not officially linked to Irasutoya, Mokosoft said that they received permission to use the name11.

         Today, the game is still available for download on iPhone and Android phones! If you’re struggling to find a fun way to practice your Japanese, this could do the trick (for a little while at least)! Alternatively, you could also check out our list of fun ways to study Japanese here!


Don't you think you will find your favorite character? | Illustration by Irasutoya
Don’t you think you will find your favorite character? | Illustration by Irasutoya

         For a clip art website, Irasutoya has collaborated with a lot of companies! A major one is with the messaging app LINE; this app is used by just about everyone in Japan, so having your artwork available there is a huge deal! Users can purchase different image packs for use as reactions, memes, or just to send something cute! Some of these packs are collaborations themselves, with a few even being with Disney (Spider-Man, Winnie the Pooh, Mickey Mouse)! You can also follow Irasutoya on LINE to see new illustrations that are posted! 

         Another big one is with the manga / anime One Piece! In 2021, to celebrate the release of its 1000th episode, Irasutoya created a series of illustrations depicting characters from the popular series12! These were created with permission from One Piece’s author, but Mr. Takashi warns not to use the images in a way that could reflect poorly on the series!12

         Moving away from the purely digital, Irasutoya also worked with Nintendo to create a limited line of Pokémon merchandise! In a 2021 line called “Pika Pika Friends,” Pokémon fans could order items such as a Jigglypuff hand towel, a Mimikyu T-shirt, or a Wooloo keychain – all drawn in Irasutoya fashion!13  Since these items are no longer available for purchase, let’s hope we get a new line sometime in the near future! 

Irasutoya’s Mascot

Meet Pyoko, their adorable mascot! | Illustration by Irasutoya

         Finally, no brand is complete without a cute mascot! Irasutoya is represented by the adorable bunny named Pyoko; totally black with her ears bundled together, Pyoko directs users around the site and serves as the profile picture for Irasutoya’s X account. She also has her own set of illustrations! From grilling fish to jumping on mushrooms, Pyoko keeps rather busy with all her activities!

Can You Use Irasutoya in Your Own Projects? 

Be sure not to violate the rules upon using the illustration! | Illustration by Irasutoya

         Now that you’ve learned so much about it, maybe you want to use it for your own projects! But, can you? You can use Irasutoya artwork for just about anything – commercial or otherwise – so the answer is most likely yes! However, Mr. Takashi does note that you can’t use it when

  • You’re promoting social disorder and indecent morals.
  • You’re promoting anything offensive, illegal, discriminatory, or sexual.
  • You’re trying to market the images as your own.

These are the main points, but you can see more detailed explanations on Irasutoya’s Terms of Use page.  

         Hopefully you aren’t doing any of the above activities, so you are in the clear to use the site! Other than that, Irasutoya does give a few other restrictions – such as not using illustrations when demonstrating picture editing software, not using them to criticize political parties, and not using characters as the main figure in YouTube videos3. On the positive side, Mr. Takashi also notes that you can change the colors, don’t need to credit Irasutoya, and can use it in design competitions3. We recommend checking out Irasutoya’s FAQ section to get a complete picture of what’s allowed before you start browsing the sites’ thousands of illustrations!


Reflecting on the journey, being consistent and determine in your passion could lead to success! | Illustration by Irasutoya

Takashi Mifune said at the award ceremony for the Digital Media Association ‘Digital Content of the Year ’21 / 27th AMD Awards, “I’m surprised and happy that free materials don’t get much attention. Illustrations and logos, even if they are inconspicuous, support our lives behind the scenes…”8 Similarly, during its journey from a small site to a major player in digital art, Irasutoya has subtly helped many people. It doesn’t matter if you are a small business, a student, or a website writing articles for Japanese language learners; anyone from any background can use the adorable pictures from Irasutoya. 

While it may be one of the best representations of cuteness in Japanese culture, Irasutoya is also a great representation of what can happen when you don’t give up and stay consistent. The same could be said of learning Japanese; if you persevere and keep moving forward, you are bound to meet your language goals. But, sometimes you might need a little help to get there; we here at Coto Academy are more than happy to help you wherever you are at in your learning journey! Just take a look at our classes or contact us to get started! 


What is Irasutoya?

Irasutoya is a Japanese website offering free clip art covering a variety of topics. 

Is Irasutoya really free? 

A: Most of the time, yes! You will need to pay for the images if you are using more than 20 at a time for commercial purposes, or want high-resolution files; you can find out more about this at Irasutoya’s FAQ page ( 

Why is Irasutoya so popular? 

A: There are a few reasons for this. For one thing, it’s free and of good quality. It also offers a wide variety of images. Irasutoya also focuses on being usable for many different projects, which appeals to creators from all over! 


1.      Okada, Yuka. “「いらすとや」10年目毎日更新、忙しすぎて終了へ「心配かけると悪い」と事前に報告.” ITmedia NEWS, 25 Jan. 2021,

2.     Takashi, Mifune. “ご利用について.” Irasutoya,

3.     Takashi, Mifune. “よくあるご質問.” Irasutoya,

4.      Takashi, Mifune. “今後の作家活動について.” Irasutoya, 9 Mar. 2016,

5.      Duck Cat. “いらすとや、今度は「水を吐くフグ」をイラスト化!何用だよ!! → 1万5000リツイート.” RocketNews24, 15 Mar. 2019,

6.     Dejitaru Akaibu Gakkaishi. “1st Japan Society for Digital Archive Awards Recipients.” Dejitaru Akaibu Gakkaishi, vol. 3, issue 2, 2019, pp.71-76. J-STAGE, 

7.      Kataoka, Yoshiaki. “大賞はTBSの金曜ドラマ「最愛」に決定, 2021年の「AMDアワード」.” INTERNET Watch, 15 Mar. 2022,

8.      “AMDアワード大賞は吉高 由里子主演の「最愛」に。「いらすとや」「ウマ娘」なども選出.” ASCII, 23 Mar. 2022,

9.     Kawakami, Itsuko. “官公庁からテレビ、YouTubeまで…始動から10年、 フリー素材『いらすとや』が変えたイラストレーターの概念.” Oricon News, 7 Jan. 2022,

10.“「いらすとや」がどれだけ画期的なのか現役のデザイナーの立場で説明します.” OMGmag, 7 May 2019,

11.  Kutsuzawa, Shinji. “「いらすとや」の世界から脱出せよ!人気サイトのフリー素材が今度はゲームに.” Netorabu,  29 Mar. 2016,

12.  Takashi, Mifune. “ONE PIECEのイラスト(まとめ).” Irasutoya, 3 Jan. 2021,


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