What Culture Does Kawaii Come From?

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Japan loves all things kawaii, it is deeply ingrained in all elements of modern day living. But what's kawaii? And where did it come from? Continue reading to learn why kawaii is a lot more than simply a word.

what culture does kawaii come from


Word Origin and Meaning 

The modern day word is actually derived from the Taisho Era (1912 1926) "kawayushi", meaning small, lovable, vulnerable, shy, pathetic, and embarrassed . Kawaii retains a great deal of this particular significance. It is a multi faceted word, and though we typically take it to mean "cute", to just express this as its single connotation would be incorrect. Kawaii refers to a sensation of love, attention, and protectiveness. Based on the sweet physical characteristics of kids that are little and baby animals, it's a surprisingly Western influence: the huge, round eyes are actually an import from probably the West, with the kawaii common today a consequence of the American and japanese interaction during World War II.

Kawaii itself can suggest the following: acknowledged, western, pathetic, lovable, rebellious, round, innocent, and Childish . Additionally, it denotes a person that bears no undesirable traits.

what culture does kawaii come from

Integration Into Society

The initial traces of sweet can easily be seen in Edo period art (1603 1868), with woodblock prints known as "dijinga", literally: "beautiful person picture".

Kawaii became mainstream with 3 leading developments: Girl's Illustrations, Shojo, and Fancy Goods Marketing. Girls Illustrations go back to the same era as woodblock prints. The very first shojo illustrator was Yumeji Takehisa in 1914. During this particular time, kawaii referred to folk of a lower standing in society, a stigma which did not dissipate until the 1980's. It is believed that kawaii culture was created with Takehisa's work. His designs merged East with West, he used round eyes in the illustrations of his (a method considered vulgar at the time), and was the first person to make use of kawaii to refer to his "chiyogami" work. "Chiyogami" refers to flat woodblock print on paper, it was used for other crafts and origami.

what culture does kawaii come from

The dawn and culmination of the 1970's saw even more female illustrators enter the fray, depicting kawaii female characters with lots of the same capabilities as the male artists did, but with hidden depths. The characters frequently had strength and an adventurous spirit, and the shift saw what was identified as cute change. Kawaii is definitely the absence of bad traits, meaning something kawaii is actually held in high regard, a transient trend that sees change with time. Confidence and strength soon became good characteristics in females that are adorable . Prior to the 70's, most of the target market were elementary age females. The addition of young females and teenagers changed its definition. 

Shojo was also used as a means to promote and then produce fashion post World War II. During this time, fashion publications never targeted teens, that's until body drawings that are full of shojo characters in chic trends were introduced. Shojo, and by extension, kawaii, culture encouraged females to determine with a team. It is carried out in ways that are several, such as wearing objects or accessories certain, or maybe a certain clothing type. What cute things a female loves forms part of the identity of her, with just liking and/or using a character making the part of her a part of a bigger team.

what culture does kawaii come from


Kawaii's Modern Icon

Hello Kitty is probably the best known kawaii icon. The creator of its, Sanrio, has maintained her alive and kicking by altering the layout annually, playing into the love of teens to continue seems new and fresh. Commodification of kawaii is not a brand new idea. Takehisa had a stationary shop back at the dawn of kawaii culture, selling kawaii products to females that are younger . Hello Kitty is actually the contemporary embodiment, selling cute to generation after generation.

what culture does kawaii come from



Kawaii handwriting is actually among the couple of non commercial examples of kawaii culture. In 1974, girls started to write in a horizontal (instead of the usual vertical; Japanese script is often written vertically, read from right to left, up to down) fashion, with rounded, soft characters, with English as well as little sketches forming part of the script. This was just a little head nod to the West, seen as cool and free, a rest from strict tradition. It was a means to enable teens to express themselves through writing, something previously unheard of.

what culture does kawaii come from


Types of Kawaii 

As I said earlier, it is multi faceted. There are lots of sub cultures of kawaii, several of which I am going to cover here.

Guro-Kawaii: Grotesque-cute. It is cute with a dark twist, usually achieved with sharply contrasting make up.

Kimo-Kawaii: Creepy-cute. It is cute with over a hint of creepy. Think Kewpie dolls.

Busu-Kawaii: Ugly-cute. Kind of a contradiction, it plays much more on the pity feelings typically connected with kawaii.

Ero-Kawaii: Sexy-cute. Think risque dress up; French maid, saucy cat female, which sort of issue.

Shibu-Kawaii: Subdued-cute. This refers to daily trends. Being adorable without being over the top about it. Think a cute hairlip, or maybe telephone charm, as opposed to full on Gothic Lolita.

what culture does kawaii come from


Fashion On The Front Line

Harajuku became a hub for teens to find out and be seen. Post World War II, it was an American housing quarter called Washington Heights (this is actually after it was eliminated during the firebombing of Tokyo). It was connected with different and foreign. In 1977 it grew to become a pedestrian district recognized as a "hokoten", launching it as an epicentre for street style, an eclectic mix of gothic, cosplay & street, kawaii interlaced between all of it. Harajuku was also a bit of a drug haven, regrettably, and after a big crackdown in 1996 by police, Harajuku was closed down. The heyday was over. Harajuku was also a cosplay hub between 1980 2000.

what culture does kawaii come from


Permeations In Every Day Life

It is no longer just females and young females, kawaii penetrates every element of Japanese life. Businesses use cute mascots (everywhere from hair salons to automobile sales employ that tactic), recognized signs and utilities have a hint of kawaii (on Okinawa, the barriers used to segregate traffic during road works have adorable shisa dog faces on them, and you will find characters that are cute on manhole covers), cross walks often have chirpy alarms, social media unique to Japan is actually heavy with kawaii (download LINE, you will see what I mean). Female, both male, or pop stars, use kawaii clothes, act in a very cute way, as well as write in a solid kawaii script (May'n is actually a great example, her signature has a small cute design of herself), snacks and foods are often sold in bright, adorable wrapping, or perhaps are actually cute themselves (you'll see a great deal of treats endorsed by popular characters), games of all genres often encompass a bit of element of kawaii, and naturally you've games which are all about it, such as the hit neko atsume (kitty collector), a game whose aim is perfect for you to obtain adorable cartoon kitties. The list is actually endless. When you first visit, it feels a little bit like you are drowning in a sea of adorable, but after some time, it is really central you barely notice it. It gives a gentle component to the harshness of daily life

what culture does kawaii come from


The Future of Kawaii Honestly? 

It is perpetual. Ever changing and deep rooted, it is a sign of individuality not simply for Japanese teens, but teens the world over, and since its filtering into the majority of other elements of society, it's no retirement plans just yet. So sit back and embrace it, kawaii is here to stay!

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