We bet you have wondered more than once.
The fact is…
A lot of things can be and are Kawaii.
But what is Kawaii per se? Well, today we’ll try to talk a little about how it was born.
Also we’ll walk through it’s meaning, a bit of it’s history and types.
So first of all, what does Kawaii means?
is the quality of cuteness in the context of Japanese culture…
The word kawaii originally derives from the phrase kao hayushi, which literally means “(one’s) face (is) aglow,” commonly used to refer to flushing or blushing of the face. The second morpheme is cognate with -bayu in mabayui “dazzling; glaring, blinding, too bright” … Over time, the meaning changed into the modern meaning of “cute”.
The Urban Dictionary says:
“Kawaii is An adjective in Japanese meaning ” pretty; cute; lovely; charming; dear; darling; pet” It’s stem is two kanji meaning “can love”. It is commonly used by anime and manga fans.
Ex: Chibiusa-chan’s new outfit is so kawaii!”
And this page about japanese culture says:
“Kawaii is anything that stirs feelings of love, care, and protectiveness. It is based on the adorable physical features of children and baby animals, but it also has a strong Western influence (Manami, 2013). The large, round eyes that are considered cute are an import from the West (Kinsella, 1996)… So what does kawaii mean? Childish, innocent, round, rebellious, loveable, pathetic, western, and acknowledged.”
So we think is safe to say that Kawaii means something that is cute, lovely. Now if we understand it this way, we can see that many things can be Kawaii nowadays.
But… How did all of it started?
Some say that this trend started when girls adopted cute handwriting in the 70’s.
They would use fine lines, opposed to Japan traditional writing style. Also they would draw inside the letters, giving them hearts, animal faces, emoji faces. They even included letters from the latin alphabet.
Suddenly everyone adopted this writing style. From magazines to food packaging.
Others say it all started with manga done for girls, and a combination of Eastern and Western art styles, during the World War II.
The fact is that during its creation it intended to be a way of creating cute stuff, for women by women. Pulling away all negativity and creating strong free spirited female characters.
Who knew Kawaii had kind of a feminist background!
What was first intended to be read by childs, rapidly became something even adult public could identify with.
For example one of the most iconic characters of Kawaii is the internationally famous Sailor Moon, who had to save the earth with her superpowers.
What is Kawaii exactly today is hard to delimit. Keep in mind that Kawaii is now a broader concept and it can extend to several characters and drawings of the occidental culture too.
As a result cute faces, animals, food purses and anything you can think of that resemblances can be called Kawaii.
There are several Kawaii types you’ll encounter*:
- guro-kawaii –grotesque cute. This is cute done in a disturbing, grotesque way. Think heavy, contrasted makeup.
- kimo-kawaii – creepy cute. Think cuteness to the point of being creepy.
- busu-kawaii – ugly cute. Can ugly be cute? This style plays up the feelings of pity associated with kawaii.
- ero-kawaii – sexy cute. Best example: the French Maid
- shibu-kawaii – subdued cute. Everyday cute. This is being kawaii without being overt. Wearing a single cute item.
The most important thing is that everyone has it own style and you can own Kawaii however you want. There is no ideal look, no perfection canones. This is just an other way of expressing yourself.
We hope this works for you as a small summary about what is Kawaii.
But really is much more than this, and we encourage you to look deeper into this awesome culture.
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