Japanisms Pt 4: Kawaii! (cute/adorable/loveable)

I grew up with the notion that everyone wanted to be with someone sexy. I come to find out, that is not true.

So, lemme clarify. This post is about full grown adults who bring lunch bags to work adorned with snoopy, pink hearts, and bows. Whose bags, purses, phones, and anything with an apparatus to hang something off of, indeed have fluffy, glittery, cute things hanging from them. Whose hands, nails, and hair are the prettiest things I have ever seen. Not just women and girls, but men and boys too… To be cute is to be desirable in Japanland.

In America, people are looking for sexy people. No matter what it is that they find particularly ‘sexy’ about someone, they are still looking for it. Sometimes people find slightly overweight people sexy (guilty), or tall people sexy (not so guilty), or nerdy people sexy (totally guilty), but all-in-all most Americans dream of being with someone who is sexy, or being sexy themselves. We wouldn’t think, “I want the man/woman of my dreams to be really really adorable and non-threatening.” To us, adorable is almost a bit childlike. And really, it’s the same here… But that’s exactly what Japanese people love. It’s what they admire and what they want to be. (disclaimer: for all you haters who think I think I know everything, I am making a general comment here, if you have a problem with it, you may just want to skip this post)

Everything here has an element of cuteness to it. From the people, to toys, games, advertisements, behavior, music, movies, EVERYTHING. I learned that the word comes from the noun kawaisa which literally means lovability or adorableness. Sometimes it creeps me out when my grown friends are SO interested in the ‘cutest’ most ‘childlike’ girl they can find… It’s just… I dunno…

Cuteness is definitely expected of both men and women if they want to be desirable to other people. In fact, I asked some teachers how they would describe what a kawaii person would be like, and if it was a good thing. They told me OF COURSE! Everyone wants to be kawaii! @.@ Women with high pitched voices and childlike mannerisms are attractive here. Men whose bodies resemble that of  young teenage boys, slightly muscled, very thin, smooth skin and nice hands, they are attractive. What the ef… I would have to punch Kyle if he tried to be adorable.

Where the US finds bright orange construction cones, in Japan you find ducks… DUCKS!

This picture is an example of what you might see at a road construction site. It’s different everywhere you go! I have seen these in the form of bunnies, elephants, tanuki, giraffes, monkeys, tigers, and frogs. You watch these guys, constructing stuff, and as a caution, they put up these cute little construction “cones” totally weird.  This weekend I saw a young high school student wearing a shirt that had a picture of Mickey Mouse on it. On the back of the shirt it said, “Mickey knows that a smile can make even the worst day better.” A HIGH SCHOOL BOY…  That child would get beat up back in The States. I realize that the standard for boys and girls differ GREATLY in The States. But I rarely see it among the adult population. Like this…

A public bathroom stall…

Do we really need a cute lil Tanuki to tell us not to smoke? Really!?

A Pokemon plane at the Narita Airport.

There are like… real adults riding in this plane… It is not going to daycare people!

And let’s be real, it’s like all girls/women love miniature things, wherever you go in the world. When something is Honey I Shrunk The Kids! size, it makes everything cuter. I too, am guilty of loving cute things… I am slightly ashamed, but alas! It is true. KAWAII and I have a love hate relationship. Especially when you hear women in their highest pitch voice squeel “Kawaaaiiiiiiii!” at just about everything. Still,  I can’t help but find things to be adorable, but it’s just so strange for me to see grown men liking the same things I like, and saying it out loud, with absolutely no shame:) It’s something I actually really love about Japanese men and women. Everything is adorable, and they vocalize how adorable something is… That is definitely something I will miss when I’m outta this place. KawAAAIIIIiiiiiii!!

So, I will leave you with one last thing about the KAWAII things of Japan. There is a character, that I am extremely fond of here. His name is Gloomy Bear, “The Naughty Grizzly”. He’s a big pink grizzly bear who eats humans, and kinda represents the relationship between humans and animals. He was basically created as an antithesis to all things that are cute here in Japan.

Gloomy Bear was rescued by Pitty (the boy) when he was a cute little bear. But, as he grows up, he becomes what he naturally is, a bear. So, in the end of the mini episodes, he always ends up attacking Pitty, and Pitty always ends up loving him.

I think Gloomy Bear embodies my love/hate relationship with all things that are cute. So, I have jumped on the cute cell-phone band wagon and purchased myself one hella kawaii phone cover, complete with a “pluggy” in the form of Gloomy Bear.

Gloomy Bear pluggy with the chocolate Mickey Mouse phone case:)

What’s the function of the pluggy? Absolutely nothing.  To make your phone look cuter than it already is, I guess.

So, thank you Japan for being so darn cute. While I live here, I will continue purchasing sweatshirts with ears and bows attached to them, cute phone accessories, and clothes. But I promise you, sexy will always beat out cute in my book.



4 thoughts on “Japanisms Pt 4: Kawaii! (cute/adorable/loveable)

  1. It really is super cool to read about the differences between cultures. What different ways of life!!!! Loved it, lady. Thanks for posting. 🙂

  2. I have noticed the same “kawaii” attitude since I came to Japan. But you expressed it much better than I could. Great Jorb!

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