Why is the Japanese community in love with Kawaii?
Japanese community is the one who made the world see “kawaii”. The word “kawaii” essentially stemmed from the word kao hayushi, which literally means "blushing”’ but is broadly translated as “cute”.
Every mall and every store in Japan are decorated with cute stuff. It is safe to say that Japan is the Mecca of cuteness. And let’s be honest, who isn’t fond of cute things. I bet we all have some particular things that we bought because we found them cute. I am even guilty of walking into Daiso (100-yen shop) and splurging on any and everything that has Hello Kitty, Sailor Moon, Rilakkuma, Doraemon, or Anpanman on it.
In Japan, you will find that every company and prefecture has its own kawaii mascot. Hello Kitty is the goddess of everything Kawai. Hello Kitty was commissioned by an organization referred to as Sanrio, established by Shintaro Tsuji, in 1974, with a plastic coin handbag as the first-ever product having that image printed on. Now Hello Kitty is located on the entire lot, from backpacks to meal transportations to duct tape to kitchen and home equipment to grownup toys. Even though the character was designed to target the children in their preteen age, its countless branding has driven it into basically each demographic and enterprise sector that don't have anything to do with childhood. It is the most successful and worldwide known Japanese mascot. Kawaii kitty-chan is loved by many and is a part of Japanese popular modern culture. But where did it all start, the kawaii culture?
It basically all started in the early ’70s after World War Ⅱ. The teenage girls, at that time, started writing in particular handwriting called marui-ji (round writing), which had symbols like hearts, and cute characters with faces that have now become quite popular, and we all kind of use it in the form of emoticons. They used to rebel against the strict rules of society. They wanted to separate themselves from others. This movement was reprimanded back then but no doubt, the Hello Kitty era exploded the kawaii culture and gave birth to more kawaii products.
Other than that, the center of kawaii coming to life is in the heart of Tokyo, the Harajuku district. It is most apparent to see the beauty of Japanese people under Tokyo Station on Tokyo Character Street, which is one of the many walking paths leading to the main walking path. There are more than 20 shops on the street, each of which specializes in a Kawaii character or group.
Some kawaii characters are Western and some are Japanese. Tokyo Character Street boutique specializes in kawaii gifts and kawaii products. Here Finnish illustrator and writer Tove Jansson's Snoopy, Pokemon, and Moomin are all also well represented.
This part of Tokyo is well-known for women who dress in luxury and parade in groups. It is essentially a kind of intricately put-together exhibition of costumes and carefully tailored dresses worn by young women with heavy makeup in their teens and twenties. While their boyfriends stay in the background letting their significant others enjoy the limelight.
They are called Harajuku girls, and their clothing varies from group to group. Gothic Lolita girls choose elegant Victorian-style children's clothes with heavy makeup, while the sweet Lolita group wears soft-toned children's clothes. Then there are subgroups of Japanese punk and "cosplay", who are dressed up as characters in cartoons, anime, or computer games. Harajuku is also famous for its neighborhood with affordable fashion shops. A group of shops only sell unisex red clothing, which is thought to be cute.
But why is Japan so big on kawaii culture?
Look at it this way, there are characters, pets, and other things that might be considered "kawaii" in other countries too, like cartoons like The Powerpuff Girls, sports mascots, Barney, Teletubbies, and the most popular Disney but the clear thing is that kawaii culture is so much well-known and spread in Japan. In many Western countries, cuteness is often associated with childishness and is not really appreciated. Even if that has changed for some people, especially men, it is still taken as a sort of taboo to like cute stuff. Although it is much more tolerated now and even if it is not, people will only quietly judge you instead of calling you for it.
The first reason is simple, cute things are the sign of youth. Women want to remain youthful and maintain their innocent young look while men in Japan are into those sorts of girls. It is completely normal in Japan for a middle-aged man, for example, to be interested in anime or idols who (in the eyes of Westerners) sing and act childishly.
Secondly, the Japanese work long hours and are under enormous social pressure. Cuteness is the complete opposite of the harsh reality of Japan. Many Japanese housewives tend to make cute bento (lunch boxes) for their husbands which definitely bring smiles to their faces after such hard work. Cuteness is a burst of joy and relaxation for the Japanese and allows them to escape the reality of their life. It is like coming back home to your toddler. Wouldn’t it make anyone happy?
If you think about it, Japan is a society that has a quite youthful mindset and they defy the usual mindset of getting a mature taste as they age. It is usually because as adults, the Japanese are expected to adhere to strict social norms and expectations. Therefore, in order to escape the harsh realities of adulthood, many Japanese indulge in their kawaii obsession.
All in all, whether Japan is just purely obsessed with cuteness or their passion for kawaii stems from a much more deep-rooted means, one thing is for sure, that kawaii culture isn’t going anywhere. It is going to keep getting bigger as the current way of living is becoming less judgmental and easy going. Even the Japanese government is interested in the spread of it so as to further their economy because cuteness sells!