Why Japanese People Love Kawaii Culture | Kawaii Plush Toys
Cute things are everywhere in Japan, from super-soft plushies to t-shirts adorned with colorful characters. The word ‘kawaii’ translates to “tiny,” “cute,” or “lovable” and refers to products, fashion, or any aesthetic with bold, almost cartoon-like lines and rounded edges.
Kawaii is more than just a word in Japanese culture. This celebration of cuteness has taken on many different forms. Japanese products, clothing, art, toys, food, mannerisms, and even people can possess elements of ‘cuteness’ influenced by Kawaii culture.
If you’ve ever seen a vanilla narwhal plush topped with strawberry ice cream, you probably understand the appeal. The brain releases a rush of dopamine when we see cute and tiny things, making us feel happy. The power of cuteness is real, giving people a fun way to de-stress and bring joy to themselves and others.
Behind the Cultural Phenomenon
To really understand Japan’s obsession with Kawaii culture, you must first learn the history of cute culture. The word kawaii was originally derived from the term “kawayushi,” which translates to “one’s face is radiant and aglow.” Mentions of this word first appeared in dictionaries in the 19th century Taisho era when kawayunshi was associated with shyness or embarrassment.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that the kawaii concept that we know and love today was developed. It all started with a rebellion against traditional Japanese culture by teen girls. Japanese girls developed such cute handwriting styles that it was ultimately banned in schools due to illegibility. The childlike doodles opened the door for a wide range of products, foods, and fashions that encouraged youth to be creative and unique.
The iconic face of kawaii was born in 1974 with the epic creation of Hello Kitty. Not only is she one of the most famous cats in the world, but the fictional character also produced by the Japanese company Sanrio has more than 50,000 product lines available throughout 130 countries. With her simple, mouthless design, people were able to give Hello Kitty any type of expression, which appealed to all genders and ages.
Popular Elements of Kawaii Design
Kawaii is a broad category that includes nearly anything considered small or adorable. Things that are kawaii should create a feeling of tenderness simply by seeing or experiencing them. Illustrations in kawaii style refer to characters that generate joy or sympathy. Simply by looking at kawaii products like plush toys, enamel pins, keychains, and charms, you’ll find several familiar elements.
Humans, animals, and other characters depicted in kawaii style often feature oversized heads, chubby bodies, and round eyes. Noses are small or nonexistent and mouths are often open to show the character smiling or laughing. The alignment of the eyes, nose, and mouth must also meet certain standards. The closer that these features are to creating a horizontal line, the sweeter the character appears.
Kawaii characters also tend to appear simplistic without the use of excessive details. Most feature a limited color palette that doesn’t overwhelm the senses. Sometimes kawaii characters do not have fingers or other defining features that you would see in a real person or animal. However, their gaze allows the viewer to gain an understanding of what they want to express.
Japanese Kawaii Culture: The Science
In modern Japanese culture, kawaii is expressed in many ways. Many women are drawn to “cute” or “childish” fashions with large eyes that signify innocence and the sporting of doll-like clothing with ruffles, ribbons, and petticoats. It’s common to find the bedrooms of teen girls decorated with all sorts of cute items, from bold gaming chairs to heart-shaped pillows.
However, this cuteness isn’t just limited to teenage girls. Children, teens, and adults of all ages enjoy kawaii culture in Japan. There are several reasons why the Japanese find all things kawaii to be so incredible, starting with Japan’s love for babies, small children, and animals. They are considered small, helpless, and need to be cared for.
Another reason why kawaii culture has maintained success relates to the emotions that kawaii evokes. People in Japan are known for working very hard and for long hours. Going home to snuggle a velvety soft calico cat plushie brings many people comfort. The cuteness of kawaii soothes and de-stresses Japanese people, helping them escape the monotonous realities of real life.
The Japanese also know the impact that kawaii culture has on their performance and productivity. A study performed by researchers from the University of Hiroshima revealed that students who viewed cute images of puppies and kittens had increased performance in several tasks, such as non-visual searches and fine motor dexterity. For this reason, it’s common to find cute images in Japanese workspaces.
The Evolution of Kawaii Culture in Japan
While trends come and go, Japanese kawaii culture isn’t going anywhere fast. Kawaii has grown from a small subculture in Japan to a paramount element of modern Japanese culture known worldwide. Today, cute, kawaii products can be purchased across the globe, including in the United States.
You’d be hard-pressed to walk down any street in Japan without seeing some aspect of Kawaii culture, whether it’s a teen girl dressed in doll-like Lolita fashion inspired by Victorian-Era dress or a massive city billboard with cutesy characters. Japanese people also host regular events that showcase all aspects of Japanese gaming, anime, manga, and fashion, which all heavily feature kawaii elements.
Want to see what all the fuss is about? Indulge in Japanese kawaii culture by bringing home something small and completely adorable. At Tasty Peach Studios, you’ll find a wide selection of kawaii plushies, accessories, home goods, and much more. Shop collectibles or your favorite characters to find a piece of kawaii culture that brings you joy.