Giant eyes, rounded shapes and simplistic features dominate the “cute” Kawaii aesthetic. Kawaii is anything that stirs feelings of love, care, and protectiveness. Like a baby, a kitten, a puppy…
Kawaii is more than just a multi-billion dollar marketing phenomenon that has gone global (e.g., Hello Kitty, Pikachu, emoji, manga comics… you have seen them – even if you don’t know what they are called).
Kawaii culture is to Japan what the western peace and love culture of the 1960s and 70s was to the West. It is quite simply a cultural game changer. While it has historic roots, it’s current usage started as a form of social rebellion in the guise of cutesy school girl handwriting and female individuality. Since then the concept of Kawaii has permeated all aspects of Japanese society from fashion and technological design to it’s use as a performance and emotional enhancing tool. It has become a defining cultural narrative.
There is great nuance in Kawaii’s culture of cute (e.g., grotesque cute, creepy cute, ugly cute, sexy cute, subdued cute).
After a few days walking the streets of Japan you start to get it.
Why do the Japanese Love Cute Things
30 Kawaii Things You Must Know in Japan
The Power of Kawaii: Viewing Cute Images Promotes a Careful Behaviour and Narrows Attentional Focus
Why is it Important to be Cute: Depicting the Notion of Kawaii
Kawaii as Represented in Scientific Research: The Possibilities of Kawaii Cultural Studies
The two-layer model of “kawaii”: a behavioural science framework for understanding kawaii and cuteness