The term kawaii means cute and I’m pretty sure you have heard it before. Since japanese popculture finally trespassed the japanese borders, especially in the 90s, the term kawaii has been used as the very personification of that culture in the west. Anime, Manga, or Characters like Hello Kitty or Rilakkuma – they all hold a certain cuteness that seems to be unique to Japan and that was simply a novelty to our culture and triggered quite the hype.
But even though Hello Kitty can now be bought all over the world, Japan is still special in that field in literally every way. My favourite example is stationary products that are usually just functual in Germany and don’t fulfill any other purpose than that. Well, not so in Japan. Stationary is just so cute here. You can buy stationary equipment featuring almost every character imaginable, decorated with ribbons and pendants in the cutest shapes and colours.
In fact I love this culture of cuteness. When I was in a japanese high school six years ago, I noticed how my female classmates acted, of course, in many ways very different from what I was used to, but the most striking to me was how they could love characters and wear ribbons or do their hair in braids without being made fun of as childish. No one ever told them to “mature up”, like I was told in Germany when I became interested in that very popculture.
And even when being older, when in university or even in the workplace, wearing cute clothes and liking cute things is absolutely accepted and never called immature here.
As a result though, cute is literally everywhere and most normal everyday products are heavily “gendered” to a just unnecessary extend. Some of my female housemates refuse to buy certain products because they are not cute enough and therefore don’t appeal to them much.
This development of course is a neverending vicious circle. As girls buy more and more cute products, more and more cute products will be produced – because it sells so well – which will result in more girls being encouraged to buy them, because it becomes so normal in their everyday life and unisex products become just unpopular, because they are so rarely seen.
And even other fields of production that are not even lifestyle hop onto that train: Recently construction works have started in Akasaka and now you probably think they will make this part of city, which features primarily office buildings, more cute… But far from that. They aim for cuteness themselves with brightly pink, cute patterned construction vehiles.
I really wonder what they planned on accomplishing with that decision…More popularity? More girls interested in becoming construction workers? Just being special? Do they simply like pink themselves? I’ll never know.
Well, at least they got me taking photographs and sharing them on the internet, though.