SAt the baggage carousel after landing in Tokyo, one is wondering: one Hello Kitty suitcase after the other is doing its laps. And it is seasoned men and grown women who pull the supposed children’s suitcase off the conveyor belt. This is the first contact with the phenomenon Kawaii – and on the way in Japan guaranteed not the last, because this is not only the land of temples and shrines, but above all the ubiquitous cuteness.
Literally translated means kawaii “Cute” or “you can love” – and it’s much more than just cute. It is a real concept of life that ranges from advertisements to official posters to postage stamps and that travelers encounter at every turn. And that says a lot about Japanese society.
So right kawaii Japan did not come into being until the 1970s: 50 years ago Snoopy became popular here, the golden pooch paved the way for the Japanese creation Hello Kitty. The white cat with an oversized head, pink bow and no mouth was born in 1974, after which nothing was the same as before.
Soon not only young girls (the original target group) were crazy about her, but also more and more adults, so-called “kidults”. In Japan there are now tens of thousands of products in Hello Kitty decor: dolls, toasters, pens, perfume, canes, backpacks, smartphones, even cars.
The cat caused a gigantic wave. Every region now has its cuddly mascot, as does every decent product. Kan-chan, the fluffy laxative figure in the form of an enema, is particularly bizarre.
Cute characters even warn of deadly dangers
The mascots are not only ubiquitous in advertising, they also appear as human-sized plush figures and are real stars that are cheered by the Japanese. For example when they inaugurate shopping centers, clean the windows of office towers or perform dance moves at parties.
Serious messages are also in the kawaii-Style brought to the people: So the police admonished with big-eyed police officers in the childish scheme to comply with the law. Colorful signs with golden figures warn of deadly dangers. Roadblocks are held by pink bunnies. What often causes tourists to shake their heads is quite normal in Japan.
But why is it? Japanese psychologists refer to the ideal of “amae”, the bond between mother and child, which is seen as a role model in the form of caring and care in everyday life. Childlike behavior, i.e. begging rather than demanding, is becoming the social norm.
Japan connoisseur Andreas Neuenkirchen, who has written an entire book about the phenomenon (“Kawaiimania, Japan’s cutest abysses”, Conbook Verlag) refers to the Japanese people’s addiction to harmony: “Cuteness is a facade, a facade is important. People shouldn’t be hurt, and cuteness has never hurt anyone. “
Mascots in Japan are taking over social media
However, it is interesting: Kawaii changes. Lately there have also been more complex characters who seem almost rebellious. The “rotten egg yolk” Gudetama, for example. The depressed, rather worn-out figure prefers to sleep under a slice of bacon, is known for her “no matter what” slogans and speaks to many overworked employees from the soul.
Just like the panda girl Aggretsuko, who – naturally equipped with all of them Kawaii-Properties – fights annoying colleagues in the office and crashes in death metal karaoke bars in the evening.
Both are not only available in the form of diverse everyday objects, they are also at home in the digital world, as is the case with the new ones Kawaii-Stars of the 21st century heard: You can follow them on Twitter (@gudetama_sanrio has over a million followers), on Facebook, Instagram and, in the case of Gudetama, even on the business platform LinkedIn.
But maybe the Japanese are with their weakness for Kawaii And not so wrong at all – where the West still suspects a serious aberration of taste, Japanese science has long known: Kawaii is good for you!
Not just because it makes you feel positive. According to a study by the University of Hiroshima, increase after viewing Kawaii-Motives for a certain time Ability to concentrate and dexterity. If that’s not a reason to get a Hello Kitty suitcase for your next vacation!
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