Sunday, February 14, 2010

Oh So Kawaiiiiiii

Kawaii is a vague word; it is the “most widely used, widely loved, habitual word in modern living Japanese” (Kinsella). Cuteness has been a prominent aspect of Japanese popular culture. The cuteness phenomenon has managed to spread with worldwide recognition and youth acceptance. The world has been captivated by the Japanese popular culture; starting from itty-bitty pencils to Pikachu and Hello Kitty overload, cute cuddly items have become the symbol of being kawaii.

I must admit that I once immersed myself in the whole kawaii craze. I own a lot of kawaii things, and I'm still collecting. The word “kawaii” brings back so many memories. Back when I use to do graphic design I would surf the web to find new inspirations for layouts. Often times, I would land on websites filled with pink, glittery, “awww” quality layouts. In addition, I took 3 years of Japanese language course in high school. In the beginning of each school year, the teacher would ask each student why they are taking the course. Majority of the class replied with them wanting to understand the anime they watch and the manga they read. I went to high school in Ohio, and majority of the students in the course were White. I remember thinking to myself… since when did White people read manga and watch anime? Apparently, they love it. This reminds of what Professor Hamamoto said in a course I took last quarter. During WWII, anything related to Japan were seen as subordinate and trash. Now, sushi restaurants and Benihana chains are popping up everywhere.

The cute style began as an underground literary trend into a worldwide sensation, with kawaiiness now emerging everywhere. The emergence of the modern term kawaii began in the early 70’s with cute handwriting and childish fashion. Mass media capitalized the cute handwriting fad in an attempt to boost domestic consumer boom (Lee). Today, the consumer culture has been brain washed to “awww” at everything small, loveable, and soft. Teachers in the West are infuriated by cocky students acting tough, whereas Japanese teachers are infuriated with uncooperative students writing cute and acting infantile.

Kawaii style has not just dominated Japanese popular culture, but other country’s popular culture. The styles of being sweet, adorable, pure, and genuine have made the celebration of childlike adults everywhere. However, many of these cuteness followers do not recognize its implications. Kinsella states that the modern sense of the word kawaii still has some nuances of being pathetic, poor, and pitiable. However, I don’t think that everyone dressing cute or obsessed with Hello Kitty have underpinning notions of reminiscing their childhood. Kinsella states that people consume in kawaiiness by idolizing their childhoods and “remnant childishness Japanese people implicitly damned their individual futures as adults in society.” On the other hand, I don’t think cute fashion is or was a kind of rebellion to cooperate with establishes social values and realities or an inability to carry out social responsibilities. I simply think it’s just a sense of style, a fad. According to Lee, Asian youths have identified with Japan’s values and lifestyles, and have spread the craze for Japanese cuteness as an emerging Asian identity. In accordance to Kinsella, Lee also asserts that “cuteness” is a way to rebel against responsibility. I find it bothersome that Lee states, “Eventually, the baby-boom generation will no longer be around or run out of money to support the cute culture youths. Then, the harsh reality of traditional values will hit home — life is not a bowl of cherries. The young generation will then have to follow the footsteps of their parents to bear the heavy burden of supporting society.” Can a choice in style really effect one’s way of life or predict their future? I will have to reply with a resounding NO!

Compact Challenge: It’s Valentine’s Day! I have to shop! Is that a good enough excuse? Gifts don’t count in the challenge… not even gifts to myself. Although I keep falling off the wagon, I must say that this challenge has REDUCED my spending. You can only hold your temptation for so long. And well, looking for visuals for this blog is not helping.

Well, I'm kawaiied out...

Maggie Chui

Blog # 7

Works cited


Lee, Diana. “Inside Look at Japanese Culture.” UNIORB. 1 Sep. 2005. 14 Feb. 2010.

Kinsella, Sharon. “Cuties in Japan.” Women Media and Consumption in Japan. 1995.

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