Kawaii: History and Culture in Japan and beyond

Kawaii means cute in English. So, in spirit, Kawaii is about cute fashion. However, there is a lot more than just looking cute and lovable. If you want to know about Kawaii, its history and culture in Japanese society and around the world, continue reading our article.

What is Kawaii?

If you know about Japanese culture, then it is obvious that you are familiar with the term Kawaii. This word makes people usually think of Hello Kitty, anime, pastel colors, frilly outfits, and certainly Japan. The term Kawaii is created from a slogan that belongs to blushing but over time the word’s meaning has transformed and now it is interpreted as “cute.” Kawai is not just about cute but it is a big component of Japanese culture and can be seen in fashion, anime, lifestyle, music, art, and many more.

Kawaii Fashion: A treat for the Eyes

There is no doubt that the Kawaii style is a feast for the eyes, draping the wearer in a colorful world of beauty, cuteness, and hue. However, owing to its extreme fame that spread out in the Western realm, Kawaii fashion is becoming a fast global movement.

As we mentioned, the word Kawaii has a solid connection with the word cuteness but its actual roots are a bit more expressive than just cuteness. The effects of the kawaii subculture move farther than colorful Lolita-style outfits and cute cartoon accessories.

The founder of Tokyo Fashion Diaries, Misha Janette explains the meaning of Kawaii and says that “Kawaii means a subtle cuteness like a small, weak sort of thing. It is also a manifestation and expression of all that is positive and happy.”

The words positive and happiness sound out loud from this statement and that is the reason behind the spread of Kawaii fashion beyond Japan and today this style is celebrated across the globe.

The history of kawaii culture

It is believed that Kawaii culture originated in the 70s and if we look at Japanese fashion and art at that time, we can see many prints with animals or inanimate objects with human characteristics.

The addition of a simple face to any everyday object makes it appear more thriving and people feel more love and fondness towards it. Similarly, providing a face or human body to animals makes them look cute like you see today in anime that are super popular.

Partially the Kawaii fashion initiated with a movement in writing where young girls started using mechanical pencils and adorn their handwriting with various symbols such as stars, hearts, and more called Marui-Ji.

At that time, this caused much controversy and was forbidden in many institutes. This handwriting help promote today’s famous emoji and kaomoji. Hello Kitty is another Japanese fashion that was born in 1974. It is the most popular character of Sanrio that supported Kawaii culture in Japan as well as through the world for several decades and eventually become the symbol of Kawaii culture in Japan. Kawaii has been seen printed on T-shirts, bags, and household things like spoons, toasters, toilet seats.

But why only in Japan?

If you have a question in mind that other nations too have some mascots and characters that could be termed Kawaii like power-puff girls cartoon, sports mascots, and Disney but the Kawaii is a lot bigger in Japan. In western countries, cuteness is typically linked with childishness. Although this thinking has changed to some extent with the popularity of Hello Kitty still it is believed to be offensive to like cuteness in the western world. This trend is more adopted in Japan and if people don’t accept it, still, they only judge silently and do not call out loud. Kawaii is a technique for people in Japan to escape the extreme stress and pressure from school and work as well as to express their unique personality in lifestyle, fashion, and art.

Kawaii culture keeps evolving

Nowadays, in addition to the classical pastel color Hello Kitty, there are lots of other types of Kawaii in Japan and beyond. Gothic and dark are also believed to be Kawaii. Kuromi, the character of Sanrio is punky but very cute.

Yami-kawaii integrates depressive, sick, and desperate components for persons who deal with such kind of things to show themselves. Kimo Kawaii is another character that is either gross cut rot creepy cute.

Kawaii in Japanese Society Today

Currently, Kawaii fashion has completely occupied the Japanese fashion and culture. Once the idea of Kawaii was restricted to stationary and students, but today it has a significant place in all kinds of industries. Today, Japanese companies frequently add cuteness and colors to items with the help of symbols like rainbows, flowers, and stars. You can find Kawaii elements all over Japan, ranging from local shops to big companies as well as in the national offices. You will be surprised to know that even train stations and police departments in Japan use lovable symbols.

Kawaii in the World

Gradually the Kawaii fashion has moved from a trivial Japanese subculture to a significant component of modern Japanese culture as a whole. Currently, there are too many things inspired by Kawaii themes, not just in Japan but throughout the world. Japanese mascots such as Hello Kitty, Doraemon, Sailor Moon, and Pikachu has received popularity across the borders and become a common name in several nations other than Japan.

Kawaii-inspired items are not only gaining fame in the West but also in other countries in Asia particularly among manga and anime fans and those who are affected by Japanese culture. Cute products are mainly well-known in some parts of East Asia including South Korea, Hong Kong, and China.

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