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Why Does the World Fall for the ‘Cult of Cute’?

The Collins Dictionary defines the word “kawaii” as “ the quality of being lovable or cute,” and it is “denoting a Japanese artistic and cultural style that emphasizes the quality of cuteness, using bright colours and characters with a childlike appearance.”

What is Kawaii?

Kawaii (“lovable“, “cute“, or “adorable“) – is the Japanese cute culture. It refers to women. Items and nonhumans that are looking cute, shy, childlike and charming. As excellent examples of Kawaii culture may serve cute handwritings, well-known characters Pikachu and Hello Kitty.
Kawaii culture has become a prominent aspect of Japanese entertainment, clothing, toys, food, appearance, and behaviour.

History of Kawaii

The cute Kawaii culture has first appeared in Japan. It has arisen because of the students’ protest that took place in late 1960. Striking against the authority, Japanese students have refused to attend lectures, go to school. They started to read children’s comics (known as manga) in protest against the academic knowledge.

Consumer subcultures, both with the economy, were characterized by incredible progress and development. In 1970-1980s, Kawaii style began to be expressed not only through the childish wearing, but also through toys, food, speech, behaviour, cafes, accessories, and shops. Meanwhile, the Japanese woman became more visible at work. The childlike woman or “burikko” appeared. Her youthful appearance, portraying an innocence alleviated the threat of female emancipation. Moreover, it was giving the burikko woman an appealing and attractive look, making them a potential marriage partner.

The 1990s was the year of economic crisis. Many Japanese subcultures fled into the international market. Commercial airlines, as well as banks, began to explore cute as a powerful and efficient way to increase their appeal. Japanese anime, music and films carved a path to Nissan, Mitsubishi, Sony and Nintendo. 1990 was a year of the well-known Kawaii brand – Hello Kitty. This brand includes cute Kawaii products focused mostly on teens and adults, rather than on the pre-adolescent girls.

Forever Young

The Kawaii culture is becoming more and more popular not only in Japan but also all over the globe. Passion to all the pretty, lovely, glorious, cute, adorable, amiable and childish is a typical feature of the modern Japanese culture. Japan has a strong desire to make as many Kawaii-related things as possible. Therefore, the Kawaii cute culture is characterized by their style of clothes, hairstyles, interiors, toys, food, and even the way of behaving and communicating. The love for children and everything that looks childish is a characteristic feature of Japanese culture. It makes not only children and impressionable adolescents act within the aesthetics of “Kawai,” but also adults, regardless of their gender and age.

What is Kawaii Fashion?

Kawaii clothes are cute things that seem to sew for a child but are increased to adult sizes. For Kawaii clothes, accessories, toys, etc. are frequently used pastel and bright tones, lots of pink color for both men and women. Ruffles, folds, and bows are used as decoration, polka dot ornaments and accessories with infantile images are highly popular and appreciated in Japanese culture.

Bags in the form of toys, backpacks, made in children’s style are used as additional accessories to complete the style of Kawaii subculture.
Kawaii is the image of a carefree child, a kind of escape from adult problems. Usually, this image is complemented by a bright, often exaggerated display of emotions – both joy and serenity, fear, and sadness.

Is it Good to belong to the Kawaii Culture?

Looking at the problematic adult life, full of responsibilities, problems, debts and competitors, it is no wonder why people want to escape into the countless carefree time of happiness and promise of childhood. The cute look becomes a solution to resist the adult world and deep into the word of freedom, happiness and joy. It was the way to fight against the curtailment of possibility. Childhood means the opportunity to stop the time and stay a child as long as you want. It means the refusal of adulthood and responsibility. To be an adult and child means to be Kawaii.

So, is it cute to belong to this culture or not? Childhood means an opportunity not to stay a child. It means the refusal from responsibility, and it is a form of and a capitalist pacification and resistance. However, if talking about Kawaii as a style of clothing, it is a great way to show you are unique and special. Being simultaneously adult and a child means to live between the two worlds, where the one is the world of resistance and the other one the luxury of not growing up.