Cute Little Things, or ‘Kawaii’. We all know that kawaii is cute, but what is the real meaning of kawaii, and what is behind the kawaii phenomenon.
What comes to mind when we hear the Japanese term “kawaii”?
Ruffled dresses, porcelain doll-looking ladies, disproportionately colored figures. Both are an integral part of Kawaii culture. It appears in all areas of life, in dress, art, food, behavior, Japanese national identity.
The modern meaning of ‘kawaii’ is cute, lovely, charming, but originally expressed the blush of a confused person.
The “kawaii boom” dates back to the 1970s when young girls invented particular writing.
It was banned in schools…
They used large, round characters, and supplemented them with small, cute pictures, like emojis. It was banned in schools because of its difficulty in reading, but this did not prevent it from making its debut in the world of marketing, and the cover of magazines and comics also included the unusual font.
The real explosion was caused by none other than Hello Kitty, in 1974, about the big-headed, mouthless, white, pink bow kitten who instantly became an ambassador for sweetness in Japan and later worldwide.
Following Hello Kitty, many such characters were dreamed up and created (e.g., Pikachu). What they have in common is that they have a disproportionate body, large heads, and eyes, usually with an expressionless face.
But sweetness doesn’t just rule the world of games and anime. In the field of fashion, the sweet, helpless look has been given an important role. Lolita fashion is extremely popular in this genre. It was formed by mixing Victorian, Rococo, and Gothic style features.
The cute and innocent look is mixed with forbidden sexuality. The big-eyed characters of the anime are imitated with large contact lenses, strong make-up, large false eyelashes, and the more dedicated ones even without any mimic.
Sweetness appears not only in women but also in the opposite sex. It happens among men that they depilate their legs, grow their hair long, and they don’t refrain from makeup either, aiming for a less masculine look.
Of course, there is no need to think about exaggerations when it comes to kawaii. In particular, Japanese marketing trends reinforce and produce products and advertising channels for the sale of products (be it newspaper, TV or radio advertising, website, etc.) that move people’s childish selves.
Women and men, young and old, are also fans of it, so we don’t just talk about it as a social phenomenon affecting an age group. I was absolutely surprised that one of Japan’s largest Hello Kitty collections is owned by a senior man (60+) who adorned his entire house with Hello Kitty design elements. There is a statue of Hello Kitty made of stone in front of a senior man’s house that was worth about 1 million yen.
But you can see also bus stops decorated with Hello Kitty motifs, a pink-painted tank, or fruit-forming bus stops. In the field of dressing, if we don’t see the usual pairing of a costume-suit, we can observe the look of the dresses with meticulous, cute elements, and youthful trends and cute outfits are also very likely to explode into the public consciousness.
Check out our other article about:
Why doesn’t that cat have a mouth? – Hello Kitty, the kawaii and children’s culture of Japan
For me, perhaps one of the most surprising yet was the childish nature of commercials and television shows. Perhaps this was one of the strangest things I still don’t really know what my opinion is about them.
In Japanese technological developments, not only is efficiency and modernization given prominent attention, but even cute design is given great emphasis. Robots and everyday household appliances ensure a comfortable and aesthetic life. (Such as the Hello Kitty – style high – tech, intelligent toilet seat.)
It may be questionable why sweetness is so huge in Japan when the people who live there are primarily known for their strict, punctual behavior.
It means escaping from stressful life…
According to some narratives, for many, this means escaping from this constantly serious, sometimes stressful life. Considering that the Japanese often wear uniforms, it’s no wonder they want something completely different in terms of wear and accessories in their spare time.
In the world of sweets, anyone can find their own interest, be it dressing, makeup, art, or animated films. The kawaii culture is constantly evolving, adapting to today’s day, making it indefatigable.
This would be the meaning of ‘kawaii’ globally. We hope you enjoyed our story about the meaning of kawaii, this unique and cute phenomenon.
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 Cukimuki apróságok, avagy a KAWAII! és ami mögötte van