And kanji with manga
Wednesday, February 28, 2018

dakimakura 抱き枕

You know what a dakimakura is? Those things anime fans talk about, but don't really own, and if they do own, they own it as a joke, and if they don't own it as a joke, they won't go around saying they own it and showing to everybody? Well, in this post I'll explain what is a dakimakura, and the meaning of dakimakura in Japanese.

English Definition

In English, the term dakimakura refers mostly to cylinder-shaped, body-sized pillows featuring images of anime characters. They're often associated with otaku who want to sleep with their waifu and so end up buying a pillow featuring her image to sleep with.

A Nyaruko ニャル子 dakimakura 抱き枕.
Anime: Haiyore! Nyaruko-san 這いよれ!ニャル子さん (Episode 9)

Erotic vs. Tame

Often, a dakimakura will feature some sort of sensuality, by the character doing a sexy pose, or being naked, or wearing pajamas or lingerie, etc. I mean, ultimately, the character is going to bed (with you) so it'd be weird for them to be wearing anything other than sleepwear.

Note, however, that not all dakimakura designs are erotic. There are also tame designs. And joke designs, too.

Female vs. Male

The idea of dakimakura is normally associated with female characters because male otaku like female characters, and it's true they're (probably) the majority. However, you'd be wrong to think male dakimakura do not exist. They exist. They may be fewer, there's an audience of female otaku and they do sell and buy this stuff, too.


NSFW warning: the following images link to Amazon, and though these do not feature naked characters, the "suggested products" on Amazon probably will.

And, of course, let's not forget the classic: the dakimakura dakimakura.

Other Names

Other names for a dakimakura include:
  • Love pillow.
  • Anime pillow.
  • Hugging pillow.
  • "daki" (plural: dakis)

The Two Sides of a Dakimakura

Normally, the image of the character on the dakimakura is actually two images: one on each side of the pillow. Needless to say, both sides are not the same, and you can just turn the pillow around to see the side you want.

The images on each side usually follow one of the following patterns:
  1. Each side has a different angle.
    The front is the front of the character. (boobs side!)
    The back is the back of the character. (ass side!)
  2. Each side has a different outfit.
    Sometimes one side is clothed and the other side in underwear.
    Sometimes one side is naked.
  3. Each side has a different character.

Of course there are other cases, like having two or more characters in one side, etc. Fortunately, if you're going to buy a dakimakura online there's usually an image showing what each side looks like.

How Do You Use a Dakimakura?

It's... it's a pillow. How the fuck do you think you use a goddamn pillow?!?!?!? You just... are... are you serious? Have you ever... like... slept? Like, on a bed? With... with pillows?

It' a pillow.

Dakimakura Are Not Pillows

Actually, dakimakura are not pillows.

They're pillow covers.

Yoshii Akihisa 吉井明久 holding a dakimakura 抱き枕 cover featuring himself crossdressing.
Manga: Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu バカとテストと召喚獣

That is, you already have a body pillow, and the so-called dakimakura you buy is simply a piece of fabric with the character printed on it. Or, more likely, you bought your first dakimakura, got it delivered, and only then you realized it was just the pillow case, then you bought the "pillow inner."

Fortunately, and unbelievably, the cover normally costs more than the pillow, so you're probably not gonna waste more money on the pillow inner than you invested on the pillow case.

Also it's kinda hard to make this blunder since most websites will say it's actually the pillow cover they're selling.

Space Savings

I mean, seriously, it doesn't make any sense for it to be otherwise. You don't need to buy a whole pillow for every character you want to sleep with. Then you'd have, like, a collection of body-sized pillows in your closet, or in your basement, or something. It'd occupy too much space.

What you're even gonna do with all those pillows, anyway? You wouldn't even need a bed at that point, you could sleep over a pile of waifus.

Switching Covers

It's the cover you buy. So if you want, you can replace the character on the pillow by changing covers like you'd change socks.

For example, say you got Ichigo on there, you can remove Ichigo and put Zero-Two in place. Or you can remove Rem and put Emilia in place. And if it tears or stains beyond repair you can just throw it in the trash and buy another, like you'd do with socks.

Combo Cases

In certain cases the dakimakura cover does come with the pillow inner, sold together, but in general they're sold separately.

Video Proof

I realize this may have been too much of a shock for you. Yes, it's hard to believe people had been buying covers all along and you were thinking they were buying whole pillows. So here's video proof.

Dakimakura Size

Generally speaking, a dakimakura is about 150cm or 160cm long by 50cm of width (4'11 or 5'3 by 1'8.). This is regardless of the canonical height of the character and standardized purely out of commercial convenience.

The 150cm dakimakura is naturally cheaper, but beyond that, some people feel the 160cm size makes for a better dakimakura. Of course, your mileage may vary.

(there's a story I've seen spread around that the 150cm version became popular because of its weight. The 160cm exceeds 2kg, which adds over 30 dollars in international shipping fees, but the 150cm is just under 2kg, so it doesn't have the same problem. I haven't been able to find this story in a Japanese website. By the way, the 2kg refers to the pillow weight, not the cover weight.)

Vs. Real People's Size

By the way, 160cm seems to be just about the average adult (20-49 years old) woman's height in Japan. In a dakimakura the corners and edges are, well, blank, so you'd think the character is scaled down, but on the other side the character is usually not standing still, in a completely straight position, so I guess the two things cancel each other out.

By the other way, 170cm is about the average male adult height. So unless your husbando is longitudinally challenged, you'd better steer away from the 150cm long size. There are 170cm long dakimakura, which, coincidentally, feature mostly for male characters, but this size is less common.

A reminder: while you can switch one cover (dakimakura) by the another, that'd be a bit problematic if the pillow cover and the pillow inner don't match in size. So if you buy the elusive 170cm cover, it's going to be too big for a 150cm pillow inner, likewise, a 170cm pillow inner probably won't fit in a 150cm cover.

Real-Life Sized

When the size of the drawing matches the canonical size of the character, you'd say it's a "real-life sized," or, in Japanese, toushindai 等身大.

Of course, there's no guarantee that every character will end up having a real-life size dakimakura.

Some characters are inhumanly enormous. For example, Miia ミーア from Monster Musume no Iru Nichijou モンスター娘のいる日常 is some goddamn 7 meters tall, I mean, long, so there's just no way anybody would be stupid enough to try making a dakimakura this b... oh, wait, shit, they made one?

And it costs 100 thousand yen, or 800 dollars.

Anyway, that was an exception to the rule. In some cases there's just no real-life sized dakimakura of a character and that's it.

Dakimakura in Kanji

When written with kanji, the word is dakimakura 抱き枕.

Dakimakura in Japanese

In Japanese, dakimakura 抱き枕 means "hugging pillow." The word makura 枕 means "pillow," and the word daki 抱き, "hugging," a noun, comes from the verb daku 抱く, which means "to hug, " or "to embrace," or, in some cases, "to have sex with," which is totally irrelevant to what we're talking about here, of course.

Himeji Mizuki 姫路瑞希, hugging a dakimakura 抱き枕 featuring a crossdressing Yoshii Akihisa 吉井明久.
Manga: Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu バカとテストと召喚獣

Dakimakura Are Pillows

Wait a fucking second. So a dakimakura is a pillow, after all?! What's going on here?!

Well, what happens is that, in Japanese, Japanese words mean a thing, and in English, Japanese words mean another thing, sometimes.

The term dakimakura only gets loaned from Japanese because of anime, so it's no wonder that fans of anime, when using the term dakimakura, refer only to dakimakura in the context of anime, which in case would refer to the pillow covers featuring anime characters.

In Japan, where not everything is anime (unfortunately), a dakimakura isn't a pillow cover, it's not even an anime pillow either, it's just... the pillow. Like, literally, the pillow. The cylinder-shaped, body-sized pillow. That pillow. The body pillow. The "pillow" so big you can "hug," the "hugging pillow." Kuzco's pillow.

Literally the only requirement for a dakimakura is that it's a pillow so big you can hug. If you were to search in online stores for a 抱き枕, you'd find, for example, pillows in the shape of bananas, dogs, sharks, and muscular male arms, all of which are technically huggable.

But if dakimakura aren't anime pillows, or anime pillow covers in Japanese, then how do you say dakimakura in Japanese? What's the equivalent word?

Anime Pillow in Japanese

To say "anime pillow cover" in Japanese, you just literally say "anime pillow cover" in Japanese. Actually, you don't even need the "anime" part.

I mean, think about it, a dakimakura is a body-sized pillow you're supposed to hug in bed. What the hell are you going to use as a cover for it if not half-naked anime girls in sexually suggestive poses???! Is it... flowers? You want a pillow cover decorated with flowers? Or... stars? Or something like that?

The reason precisely I don't know, but the truth is a "dakimakura cover," dakimakura kabaa 抱き枕カバー, normally refers to a cover featuring an anime character, because this is basically the only kind of cover that exists at all.

(I'm serious.)

Non-Anime Covers

You'd have a lot of trouble finding any other type of cover to buy on the internet. It's easier to just buy the pillow itself with the color and style you want than to try finding a cover for it. The hugging pillow cover industry is supported pretty much entirely by anime fans. Weird, huh?

To be honest, there is another kind of dakimakura cover, one that's not an anime cover, however, it's as bad, no, nevermind that, it's objectively worse than your garden-variety 2D girl cover: it's the 3D girl cover.

Real Person Dakimakura

Now you might be thinking: what the fuck? And indeed, what the fuck?! But it exists.

Essentially, it's pin-up photos of real-life idols, etc. sometimes in swimsuits, lingerie, naked, etc. basically the same thing as the anime dakimakura, but a 3D person instead of a 2D character. Furthermore, there are also cases of adult-video, "AV," porn stars being featured in said covers.

Japanese Terms for Dakimakura

For reference:
  • dakimakura 抱き枕
    Hugging pillow.
  • dakimakura kabaa 抱き枕カバー
    Hugging pillow cover.
  • dakimakura hontai 抱き枕本体
    Hugging pillow's REAL FORM!!!
    Hugging pillow itself. The pillow's "real body."
    The pillow inner.
  • piroo keesu ピローケース
    Pillow case. (not necessarily a dakimakura.)
  • saizu サイズ
    Size. (150x50, 160x150, etc.)
  • toushindai 等身大
    Life-sized. (150cm, 160cm, 170cm, as opposed to something smaller.)
  • sanjigen 3次元 (三次元)
    Three-dimensional. (the real-person kind.)

Dutch Wife vs. Dakimakura

In Japanese, a dakimakura is not the same thing as a "dutch wife," or dacchi waifu ダッチワイフ, despite comparisons found in a number of websites.

A "dutch wife," in Japanese, refers to a sex doll. Maybe "dutch wife" means pillow in English, but that's not what it means in Japanese.

The term "dutch wife" also refers to a pillow-like bamboo thingy you'd hug under the heat of summer because it stays colder than the bed sheets through the sheer power of thermodynamics. In Japanese, this would be called a chikufujin 竹夫人, "bamboo wife," not a dacchi waifu ダッチワイフ.

Furthermore, in Japan, a "dutch wife," the sex doll kind, isn't that cheap-ass stupid-looking blow-up doll as made in burger-eating 'Murica as a tool to satisfy one's sexual desire. It's a fine-derrière fancy-looking work-of-art ningyou made in the glorious sun-raising Nippon as a very refined kind of love.

Kaori 香織, example of dutch wife.
Anime: The Tatami Galaxy, Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei 四畳半神話大系 (Episode 7)

Jokes aside, they're seriously, disturbingly, well-made. It's a bit creepy, honestly. There are even cases these "dutch wives" have been mistaken for dead bodies of doll-like women and the police was called, or so I've read. It's like, you know how everyone says Violet Evergarden is as beautiful as a doll? It's like that.

Sexual Dakimakura

Obviously, just because a dakimakura is not a sex doll, and tame designs for dakimakura exist, that doesn't mean some people won't, uh, find a way to pervert those pure, innocent anime pillows into some sort of sexual deviancy.

The most obvious way is just to open a hole somewhere in the dakimakura and fit an onahole in there, but there are other, more imaginative inventions to remind you that these things are actually came from Japan.

Rittai 立体

Some dakimakura designed with "solids," rittai 立体, placed on boobs and ass for that 3D feeling. Yes, actually. They make this stuff.

Mouse Pads

This is the same principle used in some *cough* "ergonomic" *cough* anime mouse pads with *cough* "wrist support" *cough cough* that are sold around.

These even exist with Overwatch characters, which I guess makes more sense since Overwatch is a game, which you play with the mouse, which stays over the mouse pad.

Yeah, for that great sake that is the ergonomics people will buy the weirdest stuff on the internet.

With Legs

Back to dakimakura topic, there are also dakimakura designed with the lower part split in two, the pillow inner, I mean, with covers designed likewise, so you can move the legs around.

NSFW link: (images are censored but it's still a very adult depiction.)

With Arms

In similar vein, there are dakimakura with arms, but those are called Dakaretemakura instead.

Dakaretemakura 抱かれて枕

A dakaretemakura is a dakimakura with arms. The term comes from a different conjugation of the verb daku, "to hug." Instead of conjugating to daki, as usual in the word dakimakura, dakaretemakura has it conjugated to dakarete 抱かれて, the passive form, which means "to be hugged."

Essentially, dakaretemakura is designed so you can be hugged by your waifu and not just hug her one-sidedly.

Hizamakura 膝枕

A hizamakura 膝枕 means, literally, "knee pillow," but a better translation would be "lap pillow." You know when someone has knees, no, wait... you know when someone puts their head on someone else's lap as if it were a pillow? That's called a "lap pillow," or hizamakura in Japanese.

And yeah, they sell those. There's... pillows... shaped like lap pillows. Lap pillow pillows.

In the case of hizamakura products, they're usually shaped like a lower body, only hips, legs and feet. Which is mostly everything you need for a lap pillow anyway.

I haven't looked up, but someone probably already invented an mechatronic head-patter to complete the experience, and if nobody did, someone probably will, one day, I'm sure

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