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Why Do The Japanese Love Kawaii Culture?

Why do Japanese people love the kawaii so much?

By 3 min read

Japan is heaven if you are into all things cute. It is the Mecca of kawaii culture! I am one of those typical Japanese girls who has a cute iPhone case, cute handbag, Hello Kitty accessories etc. Since I hardly see cute stuff in America, I get overly excited whenever I go to a local Japanese supermarket.

Cuteness is everywhere in Japan. When I visited my friends and sisters apartments, they decorated their rooms with all sorts of cute items. Their toothbrush holder had a cute mascot attached to it, my sister had different kinds of cute stuffed animal displayed on her piano. I love it but I must admit that it was a bit overwhelming after living in America for over ten years.

Cuteness doesn’t stop with just teenage girls in Japan. Almost all major companies in Japan have a cute mascot that represents the company. Even the Japanese police force has a mascot. One of the most successful global Japanese mascot character is one and only HELLO KITTY! It’s known as Kitty-Chan among Japanese people and is the symbol of modern Japanese popular culture.

Before moving to America, I didn’t even realize this aspect of Japan and it was definitely a culture shock for me, there are not many stores that sell cute products in America. But why are Japanese people so obsessed with everything cute?

Reason 1: Kawaii usually refers to small children, babies and small animals. They are helpless and need to be cared for. In a culture that values youth, both men and woman are attracted to anything youthful. Women want to appear youthful and Japanese men are attracted to young girls, just look at the popularity of bands like AKB48.

Reason 2: Japanese people work very long hours and they are under enormous social pressure. Cuteness is the total opposite of Japan’s harsh reality. My sister who works in IT says she enjoys going to stores full of cute products especially after working long overtime hours. Cuteness is cool and soothing for Japanese people and allows them an escape from the realities of their life.

Reason 3: Japan is collectively a society with a 12 year old’s mentality and for many there is a strong resistance to grow out of this prepubescent stage. As adults Japanese people are expected to conform to strict social norms and expectations. However as I mentioned above, children are always taken care of in Japanese society. Therefore to cope with the harsh realities of adulthood, many Japanese people seek the comfort of cuteness.

Conclusion

Japan’s fascination with kawaii is bringing some type of peace and calm in the people’s minds and it has definitely boosted the local economy by producing endless kawaii products to purchase.

This trend is now such a significant part of Japanese culture that the government is looking to export it overseas. Just like cars and electronics helped grow the Japanese economy in the 1970’s and 1980’s, perhaps the next wave of Japanese consumer products to hit American stores will be fluffy and cute!

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  • Rell says:

    I had a girlfriend who was really into all that cute stuff had to break up with her she would even talk like a baby in a cutesy wootsie voice I absolutely hated it… that little girl stuff kills intimacy for me

  • JapanGrowTheFuckUp says:

    It’s because of all the beta males in Japan.

  • Kwmdoosjwniqqj says:

    Hate to break it to you, but the harsh truth is, that’s life. Suck it up, or too bad…

  • Obakechan says:

    I love kawaii food. Theres a japanese word for kawaii food???

  • I live in Finland and you definitely can’t find much kawaiiness here…. We used to have some Japan stores but they didn’t go so well, so as a kawaii lover basically the best change is Ebay and other online stores. By the way in Finland kawaii stuff is very popular among girls and young women, so it’s a shame we don’t have much changes to express ourselves.

  • Sakata Gintoki says:

    Those pencilcases looks awesome, I want one right now >-<

  • jthebear says:

    Can I say something about kawaii? Here it is: Babymetal! Babymetal is a Japanese band that is awesome. The three singer/dancers are kawaii and heavy metal. Watch YouTube “Gimme Chocolate” and you will love them.

  • Grampynumbskull says:

    When did Kawaii first start to become popular? Is it a reaction of the generation that grew up in pre-war and post-surrender times? It is curious to think what the ideal similar to kawaii was before this current trend. Any thoughts?

  • Anna Edvardsen says:

    does this need for cuteness have something to do with the genderly difference? Girls in Japan r all very womanly and girly

  • Vanessa Kettering says:

    We have a kawaii store in Pittsburgh. In fact, it is called… Kawaii! NYC also has a few stores that sells lots of cute Japanese products.

  • Tania Gomez says:

    Do you know where could a foreign ask (Japanese Government office) if they want to import Kawaii products from Japan to their countries?

  • Whoamorgan says:

    Please bring the kawaii to America!! Only specialty stores carry the best goods here, and because they are imported, the cost a bit more than I imagine they would in japan. I’m happy to pay it (worth it!!) but to have it easier to find would be wonderful!!

  • Yumitolesson says:

    Interesting point! Not everybody but I did notice that Japanese men tend to naturally become more attracted to “kawaii” girls who are full of youth, gentleness and pure. But there are other Japanese men who like independent strong women. But yes AKB48 is very interesting. I am not very familiar with AKB48 but when I lived in Japan, it was the Morning Musume that was popular..and it was close to breaking the minor’s obscenity law. 🙁 Now Japanese government is much more strict about children under 18 to be wearing sexy costumes and dancing in seductive manner but back then it was ok. 🙂

    • Teresa Rincon says:

      There’s a line of dolls in the US called Bratz. I don’t know if they’re available in Japan, but they are the opposite of Kawaii – very sexualized in their appearance. And that’s not to mention all of the little girls’ clothing styles obviously patterned after women’s lingerie. It’s strange how society tells grown women to act like little girls and vice versa.

    • Jamming James says:

      Thanks for the reply. I agree, if look back at humanity you’ll find a lot of people who have spent their lives trying to hold onto their youth, and people will always look for ways to look younger for longer. And it’s not something that’s only found it Japan, but I think Japan definitely has a much stronger focus on ‘kawaii’ than youth though.

      I am also not very knowledgeable about AKB48, or Morning Musume, but from what I have read about them it seems that they both have quite a few middle-aged fans out there. But if what we see today is a tamed down version of what people used to get away with showing, I can’t image what it used to be like.

  • Ina says:

    Well….. Looking at cute things releases endorphins so I can agree with your point about it being a way of relieving stress.

    • Yumitolesson says:

      Yes I love cute things and when I worked in Tokyo, I felt relieved and even calm whenever I saw all these cute products at the station after a long day at work..it’s healing. 🙂

  • Jamming James says:

    Personally, I think it really is each to their own. If adults want to spend their time in cutesy stores or taking all-day adult only trips to Disneyland then who am I to say that is immature and childless. If it isn’t negatively affecting anyone else then do whatever makes you happy.

    However, one the part of the cutesy culture that really creeps me out is mentioned in the
    article, which is “Kawaii usually refers to small children, babies and small animals. They are helpless and need to be cared for.In a culture that values youth, both men and woman are attracted to anything youthful. Women want to appear youthful and Japanese men are
    attracted to young girls, just look at the popularity of bands like AKB48.”

    This is basically saying that Japanese men are attracted to dangerously young girls, or at least girls who act young, which is not OK. I find it incredibly creepy when I see AKB shown on TV and groups of middle-aged men are salivating over girls whose ages start from their early-teens. It’s depressing that some men are attracted to girls who are “helpless and need to be cared for”. In connection with this, there are way too many cases of Japanese teachers marrying former students who haven’t long left the school system.

    Whatever happened to finding a partner who is an intelligent and caring person? I guess
    it’s acceptable as long as they dress and an act like a teenager.

    • Vanessa Kettering says:

      Yes, I caught that too. On the flip side, this mean they do not value women who are not young. As a woman who is quickly approaching “not young” I know I will be seen as having little value to the Japanese. This is something that makes me sad. As a foreigner I will still be interesting, but often women disappear from society when they hit 30 or 35.

  • 42kkai says:

    So basically, it’s because Japan is a country full of man-children with peter-pan syndrome.

    • Yumitolesson says:

      Yes but I love shopping in Japan..to me, it is like a never land..I love teddy bear stuffed animal, all these cute ornaments, cute mirror, cute stationary, cute everything. LOL But it is a full of peter-pan syndrome.

  • Nando says:

    Great intro to Kawaii culture. Thank you for posting it.

    A couple of questions, how is Japan youth obsessed when compared to the US? What are its roots? and why do you think, culturally, they are stuck in a 12 yr old point of view?

    This part more than makes sense of course: “Cuteness is cool and soothing for Japanese people and allows them an escape from the realities of their life.”

    • Yumitolesson says:

      Yes it is true. Especially for working Japanese people, they are often exhausted from long hours of work and just seeing all these cute products has some healing power and men often go to places like Maid cafe to get some personal healing…but yes America is also obsessed with youth. especially in Southern California, there are so many unrealistic people who want to look 35 when they are 65 and all these botox, facial lift , laser treatment..crazy

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