Kawaii (かわいい) is a Japanese term and aesthetic referring to the unique concept affirming childish and pretty things that make your heart flutter. However, different from the English word "cute", it is peculiar in that it's so diversified that it spawned many subgenres which often are far removed from the original concept. For example, Gurokawa refers to grotesque cute things and Erokawa to everything cute erotic that appeals to male sexual desire.

The concept of kawaii is often misunderstood in foreign countries and often wrongly applied to anything "chibi". [1]


In ancient Japanese, the words “kawayushi” (かはゆし) and “kaohayushi” (かほはゆし) were used. Different to the nowadays kawaii, they were associated with a negative image, referring to something "so pitiable one can't stand it". During the Heian Period (794 – 1185), they evolved into “utsukushi” (うつくし), which already had a meaning similar to nowadays kawaii, being used to describe anything "adorable". This usage first appeared in Japan's oldest tale "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter" (Taketori Monogatari), and was referring to Princess Kaguya. It could be said that she was the very first character representing kawaii culture. Later on, the word further evolved into utsukushii (美しい), which means "beautiful" in English, and it had become a word that was mainly used to praise objects in the real world instead of referring to something "cute". At the same time, that now abadoned meaning of "cute" attached itself to “kaohayushi” and “kawayushi”, removing the negative image and slowly turning positive. This change became noticable in writtings of the Muromachi Period (1336 – 1573) were a paradigm shift occurred where things previously viewed in a negative light was seen in reverse. From there on, those words shortened to "kawaii" and started to take on a positive strength, instead of being seen as a weakness. [2]

In 1973, a company called the Yamanashi Silk Center renamed itself to Sanrio, and its characters "Hello Kitty" and "My Melody" exploded in popularity, causing the "Sanrio Miracle" (サンリオの奇跡). Around the same time, Sony Creative Products and Gakken began expanding their business with "kawaii" character goods. The Rika-chan doll began to exceed the sales of the more well-known Barbie line around 1970, and it became a time in which products sold more based on the symbolic value of cuteness, rather than their usefulness. Beyond that, "non-standard girlish script" (変体少女文字) was introduced as the typeface in 1974, and this overly cute writing style became so popular among high school girls, teachers started to have issues reading their homework. Another change of that time was among girl's manga magazines. Previously, they mostly came with posters and stickers of popular boy groups, similar to western girl's magazines, but in 1975 this changed to "kawaii" stationary goods with characters from the mangas printed on them.[3]

In 1982, the magazine "Olive" (オリーブ) was launched by Heibon Publishing (now Magazine House) and gave birth to the first wave of "kawaii revolution" (かわいい革命) as well as "otome" culture. It originally was launched as a special edition of the boy's fashion magazine "Popeye" (ポパイ) with the tagline “Magazine for City Girls”, and it mainly featured casual street fashion. One year later, it relaunched with a complete overhaul, started to focus on girly romanticism, and changed its tagline to “Magazine for Romantic Girls”. The fans of the magazine dolled themself up in ribbons and frills, lace, floral prints, and other girlish styles. Popular with those girls that idolized its style were brands that gave off a fairytale-like feel, such as Pink House by designer Isao Kaneko. They would collect things that appealed to their sense of cuteness and mix them, expressing their individuality, and this is would evolve into what is referred to as Harajuku or kawaii fashion nowadays. [4]


Kawaii visuals include:

  • Pastels
  • Small Animals:
    • bunnys
    • kittens
    • bears
    • unicorns
    • puppies
  • sweets:
    • macaroons
    • pocky
    • cup cakes
    • cotton candy
    • Strawberries
    • Ice Cream
    • Milk
  • Cherry Blossoms
  • Clouds
  • Glitter
  • Ribbons
  • Lace


TV Shows and movies

  • Sugar Bunnies
  • Jewelpet
  • Onegai My Melody
  • Tottoko Hamtaro
  • Studio Ghibli films
  • Mewkledreamy
  • Hello Kitty and Friends
  • Kitty's Paradise
  • Dinosaur Biyori
  • Picchipichi Shizuku-chan
  • Mofu☆Mofu
  • Iii Icecrin
  • Bananya
  • MitchiriNeko
  • Chi's Sweet Home
  • Pururun! Shizuku-chan
  • Panda no Taputapu
  • Ganbare! Lulu Lolo
  • Happy Happy Clover
  • Ice Kuritarou
  • Lalala Lala-chan
  • Lalalacoco
  • Micchiri Wanko! Animation
  • Ocha-ken
  • Paboo & Mojies
  • PePePePengiin
  • Tamagotchi!
  • Pretty Cure
  • Pretty Rythm
  • PriPara
  • Gakuen Babysitters
  • Sanrio Boys
  • Nyanko Days
  • sailor moon
  • Is the Order a Rabbit?
  • Kamisama Minarai: Himitsu no Cocotama
  • Chibi Devi!
  • Cookin' Idol Ai! Mai! Main!
  • disney vintage movies
  • xiao hua xian
  • Sylvanian Families: Mini Story
  • rainbow brite
  • Shokupan Mimi
  • Ice Kuritarou
  • Usaru-san
  • Little Charo
  • Suzy's Zoo Daisuki! Witzy
  • mameshiba
  • Funny Animal Bus
  • Koshikko
  • Usagi no Mofy
  • Yousei Chiitan
  • Nyanpire The Animation
  • Cardcaptor Sakura
  • care bears
  • rilu rilu fairiru
  • rilakkuma to kaoru
  • Funassyi no Funafunafuna Biyori
  • Kirakira Happy★Hirake! Cocotama
  • Wagamama Fairy Mirmo de Pon!
  • PriPri Chii-chan!!
  • kiratto pri-chan
  • Bee and Puppycat
  • my little pony
  • powerpuff girls
  • molang
  • aggretsuko
  • doraemon
  • Beelzebub-jou no Okinimesu mama.
  • Urahara
  • shugo chara
  • ojamajo doremi
  • tokyo mew mew
  • Yume no Hoshi no Button Nose
  • Hello Kitty: Stump Village
  • hello kitty super cute adventures (on youtube)
  • poyopoyo
  • Kupu~!! Mamegoma!
  • moomin
  • Anne of Green Gables
  • tanuki to kitsune
  • disney tsum tsum
  • san-x's shorts on youtube
  • Kiniromozaic
  • Love live! school idol project
  • himouto umaru-chan
  • Yeastken
  • happy kappy
  • mahou no LumiTear
  • Midori no Kuni no Otomodachi: Koeda-chan
  • sanro movies and shorts
  • Flower Witch Mary Bell
  • BT21 shorts
  • Sumikko Gurashi Movie: Tobidasu Ehon to Himitsu no Ko
  • maple town
  • Animal Crossing movie
  • Shirotan: Shirotan ga Ippai!
  • nanami-chan
  • mochi mochi panda
  • winnie the pooh
  • Kyoufu! Zombie Neko
  • k-on!



  • j-pop
  • j-rock
  • future bass
  • music box
  • kawaii anime OST
  • some K-pop songs


  • Morning Musume
  • Babymetal
  • Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
  • Momoiro Clover Z
  • Moon Kana
  • Wasuta
  • kamiyado
  • Ladybaby
  • Dempagumi Inc
  • Vocaloid
  • Snail's house
  • Chevy
  • Tomggg
  • dark cat
  • Yunomi
  • Perfume
  • CY8ER



  • Yumekawaii - dreamy cute
  • Yamikawaii - dark and sickly cute
  • Gurokawaii - creepy cute
  • Erokawaii - erotic cute
  • Busukawaii - ugly cute
  • Dokukawaii - toxic/radioactive cute
  • Neokawaii - trendy cute
  • Kakkokawaii - cool and boyish cute
  • Fuwakawaii - fluffy cute

related aesthetics

  • Sanriocore - Sanriocore is an aesthetic centered around Sanrio Co., Ltd.(株式会社サンリオ) a Japanese company created by Shintaro Tsuji that sells cute (or Kawaii) Japanese merchandise.
  • Sweet Lolita - Sweet Lolita is a substyle of Lolita fashion which is characterized as the most child-like of all the styles, and including cute, girlish motifs such as bows, ruffles and light colors.
  • Babycore - Babycore involves pastel or cute childlike innocence. This aesthetic leans toward softer, more Kawaii elements, and is differentiated from Kidcore through its usage of lighter colors and visuals typically reserved for babies and toddlers.
  • Fairy Kei - Fairy Kei (フェアリー系 or フェアリーファッション) is a japanese pastel fashion that is based on a YumeKawaii aesthetic with a focus on 80s children's popculture
  • Candycore - Candycore is a food-based aesthetic focused on candies and other confections, including desserts, sugar, chocolate, chewing gum, and sugar candies. The candycore color scheme ranges from highly saturated to pastel.
  • Pastel Academia:Less mature than the other forms of academia, pastel academia showcases much more color and a childlike "Kawaii" aesthetic. It is less Eurocentric and more based around Japanese styles of study and clothing.
  • Pastel Goth - Pastel Goth (not to be confused with Gurokawa or Nu-Goth) is a fashion and aesthetic that originated on Tumblr in late 2010. The fashion entails taking the basic elements of dark goth style and mixing it with pastel colors. Influence can be taken from various Japanese styles like Harajuku and Lolita.
  • Dual Kawaii - Dual Kawaii (formerly Karasu No Bara) mainly revolves around the feeling of being lost or trapped in the world, feeling tired and dull constantly, a general sense of hopelessness, being dissatisfied with how the world works, and wanting to feel apathy because too many thoughts and feelings have occurred. There is, however, a more optimistic side. It combines self-care, sensitivity, and charm into one aesthetic. It is both pessimistic and optimistic. This aesthetic is a form of healing, trying to find one's self, accept both sides of themselves and come to terms with who they really are.
  • Softie - Softie is a group of aesthetics dedicated to going for as cutesy of a look as possible, putting it in a trifecta of aesthetics, alongside VSCO and E-People. It draws a lot of parallels with some of the Kawaii-centric aesthetics in Japan, but with a more subdued look compared to how over-the-top some of the looks in Japan tend to get.
  • Happycore - Happycore is an aesthetic that's based around positivity. Its sole purpose is to help others cope with stressful or sensitive topics. Some ways Happycore is shown is through small quotes, drawings, photos of cute animals, and bright stickers.
  • Milk - The Milk aesthetic is largely revolved round the look of everyday milk cartons and bottles, mainly focusing on color and minimalistic styling of containers.
  • Unicorncore - Unicorncore is an aesthetic based on unicorns. This aesthetic gives off colorful and playful vibes, similar to Kidcore and have elements of kawaii



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