Why Do The Japanese Love Kawaii Culture?
By Yumi Nakata
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.
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!