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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