The Japanese are, to put it mildly, madly obsessed with aesthetics. Personally, I love it. They have an exquisite sense of fashion that I have been trying to imitate for years, their streets are spotlessly clean, their gardens are world-class, and every piece of their food is a work of art in appearance and in taste. It is this compulsion that has helped fuel the infamous “Kawaii” culture.
Kawaii nowadays is a word used to describe anything cute or adorable. Walking down the crowded streets of Japan, you would probably hear the phrase 4-5 times in any given minute. However, the word and concept is entirely different from the Western sense of cuteness. Kawaii is actually rooted in the Japanese values of humility and innocence. It is the humbleness and helplessness of things or persons that the Japanese are intrinsically attracted too. The Japanese word for pitiful, for example, is “kawai-so.” If you take a hard look at Japanese animated characters that are considered adorable, or at the way young Japanese ladies dress, you will see those elements of vulnerability, submissiveness, and meekness.
Let’s play a little game of: Kawaii or Not. I show you pictures and you decide if they are Kawaii: