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Cuteness In-depth

Page history last edited by Courtney 14 years, 10 months ago

Why is Japan so "Cute"?


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      In Japan, Cute is everything from a hobby to a lifestyle. Cute pops up in many popular things in Japan such as plushies, artwork, Maid Cafes, cosplay, and the Lolita fashion and lifestyle. When people from other countries think of Japan, these things usually come to mind. So, why does Japan project such a cute image? There are two reasons why Cute is flourishing in Japan.

     The first reason is because of the image that Japan had during and directly after WWII. Because of events during the Sino-Japanese war and WWII such as the Rape of Nanking and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, many people saw Japan as a cruel, militaristic nation.



After such atrocities and desctruction, Japan began working hard to rebuild not only its cities and economy, but also its image and gain more favor with the rest of the world in hopes of reopening trade routes and improving foreign relations. It wasn't long until Japan started adopting the persona of "cute" which would celebrate all things pure, innocent and child-like. Incorporating these traits into a persona comes from striving to be liked by others, and is connected to Sigmund Freud's idea of Regression in which a person acts or associates themselves with things that are more child-like in order to mentally go back to a happier time to cope with current stress or trauma. For Japan, this type of mental defense was used as a nation after the devastation of WWII and the social and political troubles that followed.


More recently, the culture of cute has become an even bigger part of Japanese society and can sometimes become a way of life. This could be the people of Japan's way of coping with the sometimes overwhelming stresses of their everyday lives. This stress comes from intense pressure to get high exam scores in school, then the stress of Japan's competitive job market and long working hours. For many Japanese teenagers and young adults the cute lifestyle can be seen not just as a way to cope with social pressures, but also as rebellion against their stressful, rigid society.


What Does Cute Look Like in Japan?

Today Cute manifests itself in many different ways. The easiest to recognize are the cute characters that show up almost everywhere such as Sanrio characters like Hello Kitty, Keroppi, and Chococat, San-X characters like Nyan Nyan Nyanko, Kerori, and Wanroom, and other cute, child-like anime and manga characters. A lot of them have very large eyes, or heads that are too large for their bodies.


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Lolita. With pretty prints, lace and bows, Lolita fashion is perfect for looking cute. Popular brands include Baby the Stars Shine Bright, Millefleurs, Putumayo, and Angelic Pretty (English Site). A common misconception is that lolita is just for girls. Not so. There are lolita clothes specifically for men (often referred to as Oji-sama or Kodona) which look very victorian, though they are not as common. Many males who dress the part of a lolita just wear the girls' clothes. Famous examples of this are Mana from the band Malice Mizer and Bou from the band Antic Cafe. Another misconception about lolita is that the skirts are short are meant to be sexy. Also not so. Some are, but "real lolita" has rules about the lengths of skirts, sleeves, necklines, etc. Skirts and dresses cannot come any farther up than just above the knee, sleeveless dresses must have a blouse worn under them, and low necklines are not allowed. The goal is to be cute, and sexy is not cute. Lolita is coming to the US! Some brands now have english online stores. Baby the Stars Shine Bright recently opened a store in San Francisco, and has plans to open another in New York.


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Another place that cute is found is in food. In Japan the presentation of food is very important, and Japanese Bento boxes are no exception. Bento boxes are small, portable containers for taking lunch on the go. Not all bento have to be cute, but some people put a lot of effort into making their lunch super cute. Onigiri, egg, and hotdog shapers are used to make food look like animals or cute anime characters. Expressive, cartoonish looking faces are also often applied to onigiri and other foods. The containers and chopsticks are also cute. They can have patterns of flowers or strawberries or be shaped like animals.


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Does Everyone in Japan Love Cute?

No. Some in Japan worry that cute is quickly replacing and destroying Japan's more traditional culture and image which focuses on understatment and simplicity.


Interesting Articles

Japan Struggles with Cute Image

A Cult of Cute

Japanese Office Stress


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