Ikigai and how you can find happiness in life

Ikigai and how you can find happiness in life

Many people in the world work their job, and they work hard. They do their best to keep their job, provide for their family and themselves. They don’t really think about the work they do, and they just get things done. These are people who just want a stable income to be able to live comfortably. And that’s OK. But that’s not Gladys P.Nut, founder and creative director of CutieSquad. 

Let me tell you a little story…

For as long as she can remember, Gladys P.Nut was drawing – on everything and all kinds of cute things. However, as expected from any intelligent person, she went to get her degree and found a ‘proper’ job in IT consultancy. But her love for kawaii never left her. In business meetings, she felt out of place. Not only, because she was the only one in a hoody and with a fluffy, feathered pen, but she felt unattached. Like, life was happening, and she was doing everything that was expected of her, but it wasn’t her life.

After Gladys experienced some dark times, she decided to shake things up. Quitting her job was the best first step she took. Step two was closing herself off for a full month, just to think, draw and create without any plans, deadlines or outside influences. Her family was quite shocked by her choices and were surprised that she quit the stability of her job. Not everyone was supportive at first, but Gladys P.Nut decided to use that energy and turn it into something positive; this was how her CutieSquad was born. Every single family member became a kawaii character she turned their “negative” traits into a fun part of their characters. It made Gladys P.Nut stronger, and she was able to create something light and bright in a sea of negativity. 

Match your life and purpose

This is a red line within Gladys P. Nut finding her purpose in life and finding true happiness, as the Japanese call: Ikigai. Ikigai is “iki” (life) and “gai” (value or worth), and about finding joy in life through purpose. In other words, your ikigai is what gets you up every morning, keeps you going and makes you happy. Gladys P.Nut noticed that she could get out of bed again because she didn’t have to go to an office and ‘role-play a corporate exec’ but could just spend her days drawing, creating and seeking inspiration. Her love for kawaii and her creativity is the perfect match for her to live her life with real purpose. 

Finding your ikigai

Finding your ikigai is not easy; it’s about thinking and reassessing what you do and what you love. It’s about discovering your passion, your personal drive and incorporating this in your everyday life. You don’t have to quit your job if you value financial stability, you can also find a hobby that fulfils you. Ikigai is not about finding your dream job, though it can be if you want, it’s just about doing what you love and doing it as often as you can. Whether that’s running through the forest early in the morning before you start your day, to purposefully raising your family, to quitting your job to become an artist or from cooking a new recipe every week. But how do you know what you love, how do you know what truly makes you happy? By trying out and doing new things, being more in the moment and aware of your place and surroundings. Try to get rid of elements that block you in finding your ikigai. Make sure that you create the time to seek your purpose, mentally and physically. Again, you don’t have to quit your job and close yourself off for a month as Gladys P.Nut did but make an effort. Try something new, change your daily routine and make more conscious choices. Only then you open yourself up to ikigai.

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Ikigai and how you can find happiness in life

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Shopping kawaii in the Netherlands & Germany

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A big fan of all things kawaii, but can’t afford a ticket to Tokyo? We get it. But there’s no need to travel far to get items that are cute. Outside of Japan and South-Korea, where are the sports where you can discover kawaii in the Netherlands and Germany? Did you...

Shopping kawaii in the Netherlands & Germany

Shopping kawaii in the Netherlands & Germany

A big fan of all things kawaii, but can’t afford a ticket to Tokyo? We get it. But there’s no need to travel far to get items that are cute. Outside of Japan and South-Korea, where are the sports where you can discover kawaii in the Netherlands and Germany?

Did you know that Amstelveen is the city with the biggest Japanese community in the Netherlands, no surprise that there are many shops catered to this community. As Amstelveen is part of greater Amsterdam, you’ll also find lots of shops selling Japanese goods in Amsterdam. We focus now purely on where you can discover kawaii things because there are many stores that sell Japanese food, design, furniture and clothes.

In Germany, Düsseldorf is home to the largest Japanese community in Europe. Nowhere else in Europe is Japanese life so concentrated in one neighbourhood; nearly 10,000 Japanese people live in here and define the vibrant Little Tokyo. Anyone who longs for the dynamic nature of big city Tokyo will find it here. 

We listed Dutch and German spots that for sure tick the kawaii box in these two countries that are home to many expat-Japanese.

Shop kawaii in the Netherlands and Germany

Pika Pika Japan, Amstelveen, the Netherlands

In Amstelveen city-centre, you can find Pika Pika Japan, a Japanese-led shop that is filled with everything from green tea to Japanese plasters, from toys to blankets, from ramen bowls to skin products. All straight from Japan, all very kawaii. It’s like a smaller sized Daiso, where you can find everything you need and didn’t even know you needed. 

Shilla, Japanese – Korean Delicatessen, Amsterdam

The best place if you’re looking for real Japanese or Korean food in Amsterdam-South. They even import candy and ice-cream from both countries, so finding something kawaii to eat is easy. You can find snacks with Doraemon, ice-cream featuring other famous manga figures and the cutest kitty-cat bowls to eat your ramen from. 

Takagi bookshop, Düsseldorf

Manga is, of course, one of the leading export products from Japan, and the spot to go to in Düsseldorf is Takagi. Stocked with manga in all categories and staff that can tell you all about it, if you’re not familiar with manga yet or are looking for special editions. 

Bubble tea spots, in any big city in the Netherlands and Germany

Though bubble tea is originally from China, the way it’s presented and served is very kawaii. Sip on some colourful tapioca balls with milk and fruit juices, close your eyes, and you’ll find yourself walking down Takeshita Street. 

Nishi Market, Rotterdam 

A concept store Japanese style which has everything you need: clothes, a hairdresser and food: Nishi Market is the place to be.

Flying Tiger, in any big city in the Netherlands and Germany

Though this shop is from Danish origin, they’ve indeed hopped on the kawaii-train. It’s easy to find cute and fun items here, from birthday cards to squishies to accessories to use if you want to dress in Kawaii-style (like floral headbands).

Shop Cutiesquad online at Cutestuff, of course. Like, duh. 

Their webshop is filled with our stationery items like washi tape, stickers, prints and planner kits. All designed by us featuring our cute and cuddly friends. Soon, we’ll be adding bags, pencil cases, plushies, mugs, toys and more. We can’t wait! Get a sneak peek on our Instagram.

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Ikigai and how you can find happiness in life

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Shopping kawaii in the Netherlands & Germany

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The A-Z to Cutiesquad

You might want to know more about Japanese kawaii culture, and that’s why we’ve created something fun for you: it’s the A to Z to Cutiesquad. We’re taking you through a few typical kawaii phenomena that are linked to us. Ain’t that clever? Here we go.

C is for Crunchyroll

This website started as a non-profit website that showed anime and manga, and creators and fans could upload their own episodes. Now, it’s the most prominent platform worldwide to watch anime and manga, for free or with a subscription and is a sponsor of many anime-based YouTube channels. As you can imagine, we spend way too many hours on Crunchyroll and are a huge fan.

U is for Uniforms

Probably the most known fashion-style by Japanese girls is their love for wearing uniforms and look like they’re in boarding school. Think: Big collars, Betty Boop inspired kitten heels, stockings and a big bow in their hair. But even in this style, there are sub-styles like the Bad Gals who wear micro skirts, loose socks and have a rock star attitude. Nonetheless, the kawaii uniform is so much part of the Japanese culture, that even the Japanese army has made attempts to make their uniform cuter. 

T is for Takashi Murakami

Probably the most famous contemporary Japanese artist. He not only creates fine art but also commercial work for media, anime and fashion. Known for his smiling painted flowers, his 13-year collaboration with Louis Vuitton, and working together with Kanye West. He is well known for his Superflat theory, in which he blurs the line between “high” and “low” culture.

I is for I, or me! 

I’m Gladys P. Nut, founder and creator of CutieSquad. My love for drawing and all things Japanese are combined in my company of all things cute. CutieSquad is based on my gang of crazy, loveable characters whom I’ve brought to life and who have all kinds of wild adventures, funny sayings and kissable cheeks. 

E is for Emoji

Emojis are known all over the world and used by people of all ages. They even made a film about emojis! There are some emojis that don’t exactly mean what non-Japanese people think they mean (🙏🏼 🙌🏼). Just like popular culture has also given new meaning to perfectly innocent fruit- and vegetable emojis (hi there, 🍑🍆). Emojis have enriched language, and are here to stay. You will never get an email or text message from CutieSquad without an emoji 😽. The first set of emojis was launched in 1997, and do you know which famous one was part of that OG set? You might have guessed it: this one 💩.

S is for Shibuya

Which neighbours the famous Harajuku district, home to everything kawaii. Harajuku is the place to be, especially Takeshita-dori street which is filled with shops bursting with kawaii-items. Here you’ll also find the famous purikura, where you can step into a photo booth and get your picture taken in total kawaii-style✌️.

Q is for qute 😉

Because yes, that is what you first think about when you hear kawaii. And we know, you don’t spell cute with the letter Q, but we couldn’t think of anything else. Kawaii is of course, not just about being cute, it’s about being loveable. 

U is for universal.

Kawaii is not just a culture but also a lifestyle; it’s the universal language of cuteness and loveable; it’s an eternal and all-encompassing love that brightens everything up and makes you embrace your inner child and see the light in the dark. 

A is for Anime

Which is derived from animation. All illustrations and animations from Japan are considered anime, regardless of the style. Outside of Japan, many do find only a specific style typical of anime. Anime films are recognisable by using camera effects, like zooming, motion and certain angles. Famous anime studios are Studio Ghibli (My neighbour Totoro, Spirited Away), Toei Animation (Dragonball, The Transformers) and Gainax (Neon Genesis Evangelion, Royal Space Force). 

D is for Dressing up

Not just dressing up in uniform (see U) but also dressing things up by embellishing daily products and making sure that they tick the kawaii box. At CutieSquad HQ you’ll never find a blue pen, they’re all pink, our post-it notes are pink, even our toilet paper is..you guessed it: pink! We even like to draw cute little friends on the bathroom mirror.

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The dark side of kawaii

In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present – Francis Bacon.

Many people think that kawaii is all about being cute, but it’s about being loveable. Being loveable is the ability to be loved. In kawaii, you make yourself loveable by making yourself cute; by dressing in cute clothes, talking in a cute voice, even using cute products.

However, in this light and bubbly culture, there’s also something more. Wanting to be loveable, comes from a need and it really shows your vulnerability and feelings. Herein lies the crux, as this is very uncommon in Japanese culture; emotions are mostly kept inside, are not discussed and are not to be shown publicly. Moreover, mental health is another seemingly difficult topic within Japanese society. Especially teenagers who have a strong need to express themselves through verbal communication, can’t find an outlet within Japanese society. That’s why they choose to express themselves in a non-verbal way, by dressing in a way that fits how they feel. We discuss two sub-cultures of kawaii that, for the untrained eye, may seem as ‘standard’ kawaii but are really the darks sides of kawaii. 

Yamikawaii

Within kawaii, there’s a subculture that’s called Yamikawaii (yami stands for sick or dark) that refers to the ‘sick culture’ by using props to show pain, like plasters, syringes, fake guns, specs of fake blood, to show the mental pain someone is suffering from. Depression or anxiety are not mental conditions that are openly discussed in Japan, and the people who dress according to Yamikawaii want to express their pain. Sometimes they suffer from mental problems, but it can also be that they want to raise awareness and get rid of the stigma around these topics. As the word yami means both “sick” and “dark”, it revolves around, not only medical but also dark themes related to mental health. However, it’s not based on horror or gore; it’s all still very girly with pink, bows and ribbons, but with the medical props to show the yami in the kawaii.

Kowai-kawaii

Kowai-kawaii is a tricky one because it almost sounds like you’re saying the same thing. But there’s a big difference in the meaning because kowai (pronounced koy-why-ee) means scary whereas kawaii (pronounced ka-why-ee) means cute. In the sub-culture, these two are put together, and it’s all about blood, eyes popped out of their sockets, and other grotesque imagery. It’s a far more “Halloween”-version of kawaii, and more distinctive. Clothes are covered with fake blood, scars and wounds are drawn on the face and, a lot of gore is used to represent themselves.

Express yourself

These two above described darker sides of kawaii exist from the need to tell a story. Teenagers all over the world need an outlet for their thoughts, feelings and emotions. They’re searching for themselves and their place in society, it’s a shame that the only way they feel that they can be seen and give their emotional state a platform, is by showing it through scary props. On the other hand, we should also embrace that there is a platform for them albeit a bit odd from a Western perspective. Without the dark, we cannot see the light, and the light can’t feel as bright when we’ve never experienced the dark.

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Ikigai and how you can find happiness in life

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Shopping kawaii in the Netherlands & Germany

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Kawaii is more than just cute

There seems to be a global fascination with Japan. Even though the island is no longer closed off to foreigners, it is still a country that has a mysterious appeal and many don’t know a lot about. When thinking about Japan, many people will think of food, like sushi or ramen, or ninjas or sumo. Maybe they know a thing or two about Japanese gardens, about Zen or geisha. But a thing that remains a mystery to many gajin is the love for kawaii.

 

The origin of kawaii

Kawaii (pronounced ka-wa-ee) is the love for things that are cute and loveable. The culture of cuteness doesn’t limit itself to Japan, in South-Korea it’s huge too. The term kawaii is actually derived from the expression of someone who gets flustered or blushes. In the 1970s the kawaii style started by teenage girls who learned to write in the Latin alphabet with a fine liner pen instead of using kanji (Japanese alphabet) with its thicker strokes. Because of the fine lines, it allowed them to draw too, and they began to add hearts, flowers and more cute symbols to their writing. It made it hard to read their writing and schools were not happy about it and in the end banned it altogether. In the 1980s this type of writing came back when it was adopted by both the advertising and the comic (anime) industry. It instantly became popular again and more widespread. 

Beautiful or loveable

From then on, the cuteness culture became more ingrained in youngsters everywhere. It became part of fashion, products and even mainstream. Not only by, especially young women, wearing cutesy clothes, but also using everyday products that are made to look cute. From phones to bags, to skin products to shoes to umbrellas and more; all products are adorable. Whether that is because of the colour (pink!), pattern (polka dots!) or print (rainbows!), it should all be kawaii. What makes kawaii so mysterious to those looking at it from an outside perspective, is that in many cultures, beauty is the standard of aesthetics. But in Japan, it’s widely accepted that cuteness is part of the national culture. Trains fully decorated with Hello Kitty, to Pokémon aeroplanes but even in smaller objects, cute features are added to anything, even to public spaces and government buildings. Because doesn’t everything look better with rainbows, stars, smiles and hearts on it? 

It’s all in the eyes

In Japan, there’s a fascination with big eyes, which is also part of kawaii. You probably recognize it from, let’s say Ash in Pokémon, who also has big eyes. Girls who dress kawaii always try to make their eyes look as big as possible, with fake eyelashes and make-up. Big eyes make things look cute, anything with a smile, a little button-nose, flushed cheeks and big round eyes is instantly kawaii. The CutieSquad style is chibi which is where all the proportions of the human body are exaggerated, or somewhat disproportionate but in a cute way, making it very kawaii. With a small body, big head, big teeth, big pupils and childlike expressions; that’s all very CutieSquad.

Always look at the bright side of life

Everyone should allow a bit more kawaii in their life. Why should a product be just average looking when it can also be cute? Why should things you use daily just look like any other thing? By incorporating a bit more kawaii in your day to day, you find yourself opening up to a brighter side of yourself. Why would you use any blue pen, if you can also write your notes with a pen with a little fluffy hamster on it? That mug you drink your coffee from could bring a smile to your face every morning if it has a little cuddly panda on it, wouldn’t it? Allowing yourself to be open to light, loveable cuteness around you, will allow you to look at the bright side of life. And that’s what kawaii is all about. 

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Ikigai and how you can find happiness in life

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Shopping kawaii in the Netherlands & Germany

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A big fan of all things kawaii, but can’t afford a ticket to Tokyo? We get it. But there’s no need to travel far to get items that are cute. Outside of Japan and South-Korea, where are the sports where you can discover kawaii in the Netherlands and Germany? Did you...