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Hello Kitty - The Perfect Japanese Citizen

Page history last edited by Jake Kalman 12 years, 2 months ago

Showing Emotion in Different Ways

 

In Japan, people tend to look to the eyes for emotional cues, whereas Americans tend to look to the mouth, says researcher Masaki Yuki, a behavioral scientist.

The smile is in his eyes. His mouth is emotionless.

 

 

The smile is in the mouth.

 

"This could be because the Japanese, when in the presence of others, try to suppress their emotions more than Americans do, he said. Japanese people tend to shy away from overt displays of emotion, and rarely smile or frown with their mouths, Yuki explained, because the Japanese culture tends to emphasize conformity, humbleness and emotional suppression, traits that are thought to promote better relationships." 

 

Understanding Hello Kitty

 

Don’t be fooled. This is not a page on why Hello Kitty is cute and why Japan likes Hello Kitty. This is a page on why Japan needs Hello Kitty. The cuteness page can be found at http://outsiderjapan.pbworks.com/Cuteness+In-depth.

No matter what is going on in Hello Kitty’s head, she always displays the same emotion. What do you think is in her mind? This is in direct correlation with Japanese culture – no matter what is going on in a Japanese person’s life or mind, they tend to withhold emotion from those around them. 

 

 

What emotions do you see in Hello Kitty?

 

The suppression of emotion in Japanese culture is not only evident in the persona of Hello Kitty, but also in the ability of Hello Kitty to identify with any and all Japanese as an outlet for expressing emotions that would otherwise be expressed through methods that may cause the Japanese to lose face. This face is not only that which is presented to the outsider, but also that presented to his or her family and community.

 

““What makes Kitty so intriguing is that she projects entirely different meanings depending on the consumer,” they write. The cat is “an icon that allows viewers to assign whatever meaning to her that they want.” . . . not only can Logos have meaning, and not only can that meeting be manufactured– it can be manufactured by consumers. Ultimately, a cultural symbol that catches on is almost never simply imposed, but rather is created and then tacitly agreed upon by those who choose to accept its meaning, wherever that meaning may have originated. That’s what Hello Kitty is: a cultural symbol. And a successful brand.” (Belson and Bremner)1

 

“Hello Kitty’s blank cryptic simplicity, he argues, is among her great strengths; standing for nothing, she is “waiting to be interpreted,” and this is precisely how an “ambiguous”– and let’s be frank: meaningless– symbol comes to stand for nostalgia to one person, fashion ability to another, camp to a third, vague subversiveness to a fourth.”1

 

““Without the mouth, it is easier for the person looking at Hello Kitty to project their feelings onto the character, explains a Sanrio spokesman quoted by McVeigh: “A person can be happy or sad together with Hello Kitty.” Hello Kitty, McVeigh argues, is a mirror that reflects whatever image, desire or fantasy in individual brings to it.”1

 

Suppressing Emotion

 

The suppression of emotion in Japanese culture is not only evident in the persona of Hello Kitty, but also in the ability of Hello Kitty to identify with any and all Japanese as an outlet for expressing emotions that would otherwise be expressed through methods that may cause the Japanese to lose face. This face is not only that which is presented to the outsider, but also that presented to his or her family and community. Maybe Hello Kitty is a tool with which to identify, allowing the Japanese to withhold all emotion not socially acceptable.

 

Emoticons showing this phenomenon

 

These traits are even obvious when looking at the emoticons in text and online instant messaging. Japanese people use emoticons that show emotion in the eyes while the mouth remains static. Americans keep the eyes static while making the mouth change. 

 

 

1 (^_^) or (^_^)v, etc Laughing :-D or x-D
2 (>_<)> Troubled :/
3 (^_^) Happy :-)
4 (ToT) Crying :`(
5 mm(__ __)mm Apologizing ..|.. (-_-) (okay, I made this one up. But it fits american culture, doesn't it?)
6 (^^ゞ or (^^;) Shy  
7 ( ̄ー ̄) Grinning :] or :-D

Can you figure out which emoticons are American and which are Japanese? 

 

Now that it is understood that Japanese use the eyes to express emotion, Hello Kitty has a lot more meaning than what first meets the eye (no pun intended. Okay, it was intended, and I'm proud of it).

 

Hello Kitty for Kids

 

Hello Kitty teaches the Japanese values to kids, especially the value of saving face that pervades all of Japanese culture. Japanese parents would be wise to give their kids Hello Kitty from an early age. Even if the children do not understand Hello Kitty and only like it for kawaii (cuteness), it still subliminally trains them to act like Hello Kitty. Regardless of culture, children tend to mimic those around them. If you give a child a Hello Kitty doll, would it not mimic the doll? Mimicking the doll, which is the ideal Japanese citizen, helps children to become ideal Japanese citizens, as well. In addition, Hello Kitty teaches children that emotion should come from the eyes, not from the mouth.

 

 

 

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All of the emotion is in the eyes.

 

Hello Kitty for Teenagers

 

This doesn't exactly say angry to me. Maybe it does to the japanese, though.

 

Really? That’s your angry face?

 


Nerds can get into it, too!

 

And emos. The emotion is in the running mascara.

 

 

Hello Kitty for Adults

 

Drink your problems away, Japan. Hello Kitty is there for you.

 

 

Hello Kitty House (complete with flower boxes)

Hello Kitty for Couples

 

When Hello Kitty sports her default elliptical eye shape, her emotion is ambiguous. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a guest at your wedding that felt exactly the same way you did? You and your fiancé/fiancée are most likely extremely happy. Hello Kitty would seem extremely happy due to its lack of explicit emotion. If your mother-in-law was sad that her daughter/son was getting married, she may see sadness in Hello Kitty.

 

http://www.lovelyish.com/707811254/how-to-have-your-own-hello-kitty-wedding/

 

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Japanese Society

 

Simply put, Japanese society needs Hello Kitty. Without it, they would have one less tool for expressing their emotions. Is Hello Kitty a tool for Japan to control its citizens? Maybe not. But Hello Kitty offers ambiguity, and also offers a look into how Japanese culture expresses emotion.

 

 

More Weird Examples of Hello Kitty

 

AR-15 HK Custom

 

AEG Custom 

 

 

Hello Kitty Toilet

 

 

 

Sources

http://dangerousintersection.org/2008/10/09/hello-sarah-hello-kitty/

http://thesituationist.wordpress.com/2007/06/11/a-look-into-the-way-culture-affects-facial-expression/

http://whatjapanthinks.com/2006/08/14/japans-top-thirty-emoticons/

http://www.chatropolis.com/emoticons.html

http://www.langues.ru/beta/wp-content/uploads/images/j0401054.jpg

 

 

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