In recent times, the Japanese word `kawaii’ has been appearing in mainstream pop culture, all the way from mangas to fashion trends. The term `kawaii’ refers to something that is cute, cool, adorable etc.
What comes to mind when you hear the word `kawaii’? Usually, people would answer ‘babies’ or ‘small animals’. However, the word ‘kawaii’ has been evolving in recent times. Anything that looks good or nice could be considered ‘kawaii’ or things that naturally don’t fit could also be thought of as `kawaii’, like a muscular man eating a small parfait. Even regular things that aren’t so unique, for example a perfect person that makes a mistake or an adult who acts as a child, could be considered `kawaii’ by today’s standards.
There are some funny coined words which are ‘kimo-kawa”, ‘busa-kawa’, and ‘kowa-kawa’.
Kimo-kawa is cute but kind of creepy, like Tim Burton’s characters. Busa-kawa is ugly but in a cute way like a bulldog. Kowa-kawa are cute characters that are dressed up as zombies.
Although this word has significant differences between generations, even the Japanese language is slowly changing. We may see another word used to express a certain emotion or feeling, possibly again in the near future.
〜 Hello Kitty〜
Everyone is familiar with the Hello kitty character, right?
She is often seen to represent the meaning of `kawaii’. However, people may wonder why she doesn’t have a mouth. The answer is simple. Hello Kitty has a featureless expression on her face to adjust to everyone’s emotions. For example, to people who are sad, Hello Kitty appears to be sad as well. Conversely, happy people can see a happy Hello Kitty. Instead of being just a simple character, Hello kitty serves as a reminder that you are not alone and there will always be someone who understands how you feel.
The interesting thing about Hello Kitty is the fanbase. We can assume that the character’s fanbase mainly consists of young adolescent girls. However, she is also featured in many accessories for adult women such as bags and shoes. She also serves as a model for some industries such as the travel industry and home appliance industry. This goes to show that Hello kitty’s popularity extends from young children all the way to adults. Also, regardless of social status, from regular people to celebrities, there is a bit of Hello kitty for everyone to enjoy.
You might see some girls wearing fancy dresses similar to a princess somewhere downtown in Japan. This is a fairly new subculture in Japan known as ‘Lolita Fashion’, which started in the 90’s.
The term `Lolita` originally comes from the name of the character from the novel that shares the same name ‘Lolita’ written by Vladimir Nabokov. However, Japanese people use this name loosely to describe girls and their fashion.
The main feature of `Lolita fashion’ is based on the idea of cuteness that came from Victorian style dresses often worn by upper class women during the Rococo period. Lolita fashion is categorized into three main groups: sweet, gothic and classic. All three styles share a common motif which is a bell shaped or A-line shaped jumper skirt with frills lining the bottom, a puffy blouse also with frills lining the cuffs, a hair bow with lace, a teddy bear or rabbit bag, some platform shoes etc.
Sweet Lolita refers to pink and white, gothic Lolita consists of black and darker shades, and classic Lolita usually wears elegant long length skirts. They each have different tastes but the end goal is the same cuteness.
Recently, Lolita fashion has made its way to other countries as well. This goes to show that cute clothes will always have a place in women’s attire.
〜Kawaii Taste Artists〜
I’d like to introduce some artists who are called ‘kawaii’. First of all is a Japanese singer and model `Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’ whose image is kawaii and decorated. She has been recognized as the J-Pop Princess or Harajyuku Princess. After she found big success in Japan, she aimed at expansion overseas. She established a firm position as an icon of `kawaii’ culture.
Second, can you imagine a collaboration between girls and heavy metal sound? The band is known to those in the know, ‘Baby Metal: their vocals are backed by heavy metal instrumentation.
They started their career as an idol heavy metal fusion group but their perfect voices and sharp dance moves have been improving. Finally they achieved recognition at a music festival in London. Their attire is categorized as a `punk-Lolita’ which is similar to gothic Lolita. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, they are world famous ‘kawaii’ artists.
How did you like learning about cute culture in Japan? Everyone will become an adult one day but I don’t want you to mature too fast. Wouldn’t it be nice if you keep having a pure heart? Cute things have more power than you think. Let’s go find your own ‘kawaii’!
Brand Ambassador of kyoto Denim company, Kimono dresser, Japanese flower arrangement instructor I was born and raised in Osaka, I know this area like my backyard. I’d like to introduce Japanese culture and good points to someone from overseas. That’why I study English every day. Please feel free to ask me if you need anything.