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Japan’s Obsession With Kawaii

by Bianca Bache

One of the biggest followings to come out of Japan is the kawaii culture, kawaii (かわいい) put simply is the cute, sweet and absolutely adorableness of anything and everything. In Japan you'll hear it absolutely everywhere, often in high pitched excited tones, like - at coffee foam art - KAWaii, small plants - KaWaii, dogs in socks - KAWAiiiiiii. Beyond the deafening kawaii, you will be bombarded with the visuals of it everywhere too. At restaurants, in the supermarket, on trains, almost with every blink something kawaii will catch your eye. Japan is truly obsessed with kawaii and all of the cute characters that come with it. 

Kawaii Form art

Photo: Adobe stock 

It’s easy to be caught up in the craze of cute, cute, cuteness but why exactly is Japan so consumed with all things kawaii? Often you hear about Japan’s exhausting work culture, it’s common to work very long strenous hours only leaving after the boss leaves. And as they saying goes - you work hard you… find adorable things and make your life fulfilled with soft fluffiness, hard. I guess you could say that kawaii culture is used as an escape, from not only work but also the strict social norms and general high social expectation that are in Japan. And best way to let off steam and forget about everyday life is to dissolve yourself in the kawaii world, it’s really no wonder that it has stuck around for so many years. 

Japan Rail Train Hello Kitty

Photo: Japan Rail Pass

Kawaii culture started in the 1970’s when Sanrio launched the iconic character Hello Kitty, the oh-so-cute white cat with big eyes, a pink bow and no mouth. Hello Kitty took the world by storm and became one of the most recognized characters in the world, even becoming the official tourism ambassador for Japan in 2008. Hello Kitty is an absolute icon, you can find her face plastered on Hello Kitty pasta, Hello Kitty floor mats, Hello Kitty keychain plush and even a Hello Kitty themed bullet train. With Sanrio’s success in Hello Kitty they went on to create many more adorable and lovable characters, like Gudetama, Sanrio Pompompurin and Sanrio Cinnamoroll.

Hello Kitty Sanrio Sugoi Mart Instagram

Sanrio has made a cult-like following with its character, the main export for that cult - Plushies. Stuffed animals known as plushies have become widely popular to show love and appreciation for your favorite characters, and we are incredibly grateful for these soft cuddly friends. Sanrio plush have become a way of life, with bedroom walls adorned with shrines of plushies like Cinnamoroll plush, Hello Kitty plush, and Pompompurin plush, and holiday plushies like the Christmas Cinnamoroll Plush. Plushies are not just for adding cuteness to your home, but have also become a part of fashion. Sundays in Japan are seen as the character and cosplay day, a day where friends meet up dressed as their favorite character, they walk the kawaii capital streets of Harajuku, Shibuya or Ikebukuro often holding a plushie close to heart, and statement kawaii accessories like this Sanrio Cinnamoroll purse. Sundays are really the highest point of kawaii culture, whether you choose to join or spectate - just make sure you bring your little plushie mascot!  

Now, Sanrio isn't the only kawaii creator, San-X is a major leader in the cute character market. With characters like Rilakkuma, the lazy relaxing bear, who has its own stop-motion anime series, and Sumikko Gurashi, meaning “life in the corner”. With characters that live a quiet and solitary life in the corner. Sumikko Gurashi is a group named for the humanized animals and food characters. The eccentric characters such as Shirokuma a white bear who hates the cold, Penguin? a penguin who has no self confidence, Tonkatsu a pork cutlet, and Ebifurai no Shippo a deep-fried shrimp, both of who are friends because they are left uneaten for being too hard and too oily. Just like Sanrio characters you can find these little nervous guys in so many different forms like backpacks, inflatable pools,  crane game machines, and of course Sumikko Gurashi plush. Sumikko Gurashi plushies come in a variety of shapes and sizes, like the deliciously cute food plate plushie with all of your favorite non-edible characters, a sweet strawberry cafe and the friendliest repeating mascots that will repeat everything you say in the cutest voice! If you ever feel like you don't want to be in the center of the room, run to the corner, pull out these Sumikko Gurashi plush and you will always have a friend by your side.

Kawaii Amigurumi Pig

Photo: Adobe Stock 

Within the plushie universe Japanese stuffed animals are also called Amigurumi, - a crochet or knitted stuffed toy. In the 1980’s this crafting technique became increasingly popular in the kawaii movement, allowing people to create their own kawaii characters and kawaii aesthetic. It gave Japanese people the perfect outlet to appease their love of kawaii and allows full creative freedom, especially as there really isn’t a wrong way of designing them. Amigurumi vary in size, shape and color with no restrictions on the look of them! The popularity of these cuddly creatures extended to the West in 2003 and was quickly picked up and enjoyed by many. Even becoming one of the most popular purchased items on a global marketplace that sells unique and creative goods. Amigurumi has a huge community following, just like plushies, it just shows that wherever your interests lie in the kawaii culture, you will always have a friend whether it’s an inanimate object or not.

Japan’s fascination with kawaii culture has evolved over the years, but the core values and feelings have not disappeared. I can honestly say that the culture of kawaii brings people together and brings nothing but fluffiness, brightness and cuteness into life, both within Japan and in Western countries. The best way to invite the kawaii culture into your life with forever happiness and wholesomeness is in one simple word…plushies, plushies, plushies.  So, why not search up your favorite character on Sugio Mart and find your perfect match!

Japan Kawaii Plush

Japan Crate Photography

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Japan’s Obsession With Kawaii


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