Following on from my previous post about the split between ‘old’ and ‘new’ Japan and declining tourism, Samuel and I were talking about the kawaii boom and how this has created a new market for Japan.

(image from Flickr)

This wiki page has a great, if somewhat short, explanation of kawaii and its history, and I really would suggest reading around on this subject; there are some great studies relating to infanilism, Japanese culture, and how this relates to post-war society. First emerging in the 1970s, the notion of kawaii (meaning cute/adorable/lovable etc) is now firmly entrenched in Japanese pop culture. Cries of KAWAIIIIIIII! can be heard when any young female comes within a hundred-foot radius of anything pink, preferably sparkly and with an animal face on it. Indeed, the term ‘kawaii’ itself is now transcending language barriers and has been adopted into the lexicon of Japanophiles worldwide.

Perhaps noting the voracious international appetite for all things cute, the Japanese Foreign Ministry took it upon themselves to appoint three ‘Kawaii Ambassadors’ to help spread the word that Japan, formerly a nation of reverence and tradition, is now filled to the brim with all things girly and tooth-achingly adorable. I like to think of these three girls travelling the world in 80 days, like Phileas Fogg minus the beard, leaving behind little pink arrows pointing to their Motherland. How successful these ambassadors will be depends on their appeal – in this case, they seem to be aiming at sub-culture fans who like anime, lolita fashion, and Japanese street styles. Not so mainstream, but harmlessly quirky? For Japan, technology and tradition have been swept aside in order to make way for the cute and quirky appetite of the new generation of tourists.

(image from Flickr)

Kawaii is cute. Kawaii is non-threatening. Kawaii has mass-appeal. Kawaii is the schism between old and new, and may just be Japan’s saviour.

For more kawaii recommendations, check out our kawaii tag.


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