What Exactly is this Japanese Trend Known as “Kawaii” All About?
Giant eyes, rounded shapes, little mouth and simplistic features are one of the cutest forms of this art. It’s known as “kawaii”. Kawaii looks to be a simple at the first time, but it hides a lot of meanings and entanglements.The kawaii movement is worldwide in scope, including Manga, Anime Comics, and Harajuku Fashion.
The Japanese conception of kawaii; best translated as “cute” or “cuteness” has grown from a national trend to a global happening. But kawaii is much more than cute lettering, colorful fashion.
Think of Hello Kitty, San-X, and other companies like Nintendo’s Pokémon Go recently became the most popular and most downloaded game in smartphone’s history. How can be even possible that a cat-like creature from simple lines to dominate the top-list of meaning “cute animal” for forty years now.
So, what is kawaii exactly? For the answer, we need to look at the history of kawaii in the Japanese culture. First, we need to decipher the word and all the ideas attached to it.
The word kawaii originally derives from the phrase “kawayushi “, which literally means “one’s face is aglow, radiant,” commonly used to refer to blushing of the face. The word first appeared in dictionaries during the Taisho era in the early
19th centuries when kawayushi principle meant shy, pathetic, vulnerable, embarrassed, lovable, and small. Obviously, kawaii retains much of that meaning while the term “kawaiso” derived directly from kawaii, means pathetic, poor, pitiable in a negative way.
But what’s behind the aesthetic, and why is it became so popular?
The kawaii concept first began as a rebellion against traditional Japanese culture in the 1970’s. The culture of cute began with a youth movement developed by teenage girls, involving cute handwriting. They wrote in a childlike style, doodled, wore cuter styles of dress. It has also appeared in wide range of products, shops, cafes, and food. Rebelling against authority, university students refused to go to lectures, reading manga in protest against prescribed societal knowledge. All of that in order to separate themselves from the strict roles of their society was pressuring them compulsorily to take.
Besides cuteness conquered the media and being used as a form of individual expression, it also carries a certain stigma of being feminine. This started with women imitating a style called “burriko”, meaning “woman who acts like a child”. Japanese women became more visible at every aspect of life and the childlike woman came up, portraying an innocence and adorableness that alleviated the threat of female emancipation, increasing her call as a potential marriage partner.
Think of the cuteness you would associate with a preschooler, apply it to an adult female, and you have got an understanding of burriko.
You’ll see it in kawaii styles of dress and subcultures of kawaii like Lolita and Decora with frilly dresses, bows, and stockings, pastels, colorful hair and wings, countless accessories, etc. These are indispensable and the most typical traits of a kawaii woman.To be fair and honest, kawaii is not limited by gender. Although kawaii is typically a female-dominated fashion, there are some men who decide to take part in this global trend. It is a creation of culture to refer to such imagery as stereotypically feminine.
It’s safe to say as it is very common of cultural rebellion, it was born in the art world: visual arts and music were being created in this genre. After all of this, I would rather say kawaii is more like a visual art, expedient of individuality and self-expression instead of just a fashion trend. It is not surprising the most common form of kawaii is visual art and fashion industry.
(Introducing Kawaii Sekai)