Have you heard that Japan loves everything kawaii? But wait… what does this term actually means? and why it is so popular? The word kawaii comes from the Japanese phrase “kao hayushi” which means blushing. But over the time, the word meaning has changed to “cute” i.e. kawaii refers to all cute and lovable things. But kawaii is actually more than just being cute and adorable. It forms the large part of Japanese culture and is so popular that it can be found in their anime, art, fashion , lifestyle and more!
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Based on historical documents, the initial definition of kawaii is originated from the 11th century novel “The tale of Genji” by Lady Murasak. But it was in Taisho Era (1912-1926) the term kawaii as a culture first came into existence.
If you look deep into Japanese artwork from this time, you will find that inanimate objects were added a face to make these feel a lot more alive and real. Exactly same thing goes for animals, they were also given human body or face so as to make people feel more affection towards them which you can see nowadays in lot of anime, cat girls characters. The first such kawaii character was by Yumeji Takeshisa in 1914.
After world war … during 1970s this began as a youth movement by teenage girls, which included child like writing, round characters and decorating their writings with symbols like hearts, stars, cartoon faces and more known as burikko ji (fake-child writing).
Even though many schools in the beginning even banned this style of writing, the marketers quickly caught the trend and started using this new aesthetic to market their products to younger generation , example Hello Kitty.
Why kawaii is so popular?
The japan is a nation with numerous contradictions. One of these being the strict workaholic culture vs the pink and frilly kawaii culture. In this contradictory society kawaii is a way for people to express their individuality in art and fashion. It gives them a escape from their over-stressed lifestyle. Apart from that, cuteness usually relates to babies, infants and small animals so by being kawaii, people evokes that same child like affectionate feelings towards them.
Another major impact of kawaii is the emergence of mascot. Mascots are very popular in Japan. These mascots are cute characters that represents cities, regions, businesses, events etc. The kawaii mascots have cute features, enlarged eyes, simley faces and chubby cheeks.
The best thing about this is it’s simplicity and cuteness of characters. Most of them are designed with big eyes, tiny nose and with barely any facial expressions. Some examples of these are Rilakkuma and Hello Kitty. In 1974, Sanrio (the stationery company) launched the iconic character of hello kitty which in turn has promoted the Japan’s cute culture worldwide.
Types of kawaii
You may have seen some people considering paste colors, girly things as kawaii, whereas other considers kawaii as sexually cute and women only things. So here we will simply explain about different types of kawaii.
1. Yume-Kawaii : Dreamy kawaii. This has a magical dreamy feel to it. This type is obsessed with pastel colors, fluffy, fairy-tale looks and off course unicorns.
2. Shibu-Kawaii : Simply cute. This refers to looking cute without going too extreme. This is a style, that is easy to wear casually everyday. It’s the simplest of all.
3. Ero-Kawaii : Sexy cute. Ero is a combination of words erotic and kawaii. So basically this means it’s erotic kawaii. Looks are very sexy yet cute, this is more a adult form.
4. Kimo-Kawaii : Creepy cute. Kimo-kawaii is combination of 2 Japanese words, kimochi warui (i.e. uncomfortable, bad feeling) and kawaii (cute). This style is basically about being creepy cute.
5. Busu-Kawaii : Ugly cute. The word busu-kawaii is made of 2 different words, busaiku (meanings ugly) and kawaii (cute). So this kawaii is ugly but cute. It associates with the pity feelings.
Famous kawaii characters
So now that you have learned that what actually it is, it’s time to know about some of the famous kawaii characters.
1. Hello Kitty : Hello Kitty is cute female cat character with a red bow and no mouth , created by Tumko Shimizu of Sanrio (the stationery company), she lives with her twin sister Mimi.
2. Rilakkuma : Rilakkuma literally means “Bear in relaxed mood”. This San-x’s kawaii character is totally stress-free and is lazy.
3. My Melody : My melody is another character by Sanrio, debuted as hello Kitty’s best friend she is cute little rabbit character who loves pound cakes.
4. Pikachu : With it’s yellow furr, pikachu is small, chubby and mouse like pokemon.
5. Totoro : Totoro is a character from japense animated film my neighbour totoro.
6. Pompompurin : Pompompurin is a good-natured dog character by Sanrio. He’s a laidback dog who loves soft stuff and easily makes friends.
7. Cinnamoroll : This is a white puppy with long ears, blue eyes, pink cheeks, and a plump and curly tail that resembles a cinnamon roll and long ears that enable him to fly.
8. Gudetama : This is a character who is an egg. The name “Gudetama” translates from Japanese to English as “lazy egg.”
Though list is very long, we have just discussed about few of them. There are many more kawaii characters such as Pusheen, Kuromi, Little Twin Stars , Badtz-Maru etc.
So what’s your thought on kawaii? Comment your favorite character.