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Japan’s Obsession with All Things Kawaii

Ewa Nowogorski

Japan loves cute things. Everything is marketed with a cute design, and pretty much everything in this country can be called “kawaii” if you think about it from the right angle. The word is ingrained into every person’s memory, and is probably one of the most common adjectives used by the people here to describe things. Small pets are “kawaii”, stationery is “kawaii”, clothes and houses are “kawaii”,girls are “kawaii”, and heck, even boys can be called “kawaii”. And it is not offensive to call a boy cute. It can actually be a compliment here.

In the West, men may not enjoy being called cute because it hurts their masculine pride, but in Japan, where seemingly everything is feminized, it’s actually an honor, and it is more of an affectionate word rather than a diminutive. I find myself that I use this adjective a lot more now after living in the country for a few years. I find almost everything cute in a way, and it’s come to a point where I almost worship cute things.

Cute things here are good. Cute things here win the affections of the people. Cute things sell. We usually think of young children and baby animals as cute because of their size, and also because of their youthfulness. These are the kinds of things that are helpless and need protecting. And everyone wants a piece of that youth. Everyone wants to be looked after. So “cute” is definitely something to aspire to be and have.

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