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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]

History

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]

Visuals

Kawaii visuals include:

  • Pastels
  • Small Animals:
    • bunnies
    • kittens
    • bears
    • unicorns
    • puppies
      • Golden Retriever
      • pomeranians
    • alpaca
    • cows
      • (especially if they are cows with pink spots that simulate giving strawberry milk)
    • tanuki
    • ponies
    • hedgehogs
    • pigs
    • squirrels
    • frogs
    • hamsters
  • Sweets:
    • macaroons
    • pocky
    • cup cakes
    • cotton candy
    • Strawberries
    • Ice Cream
    • Milk
    • Boba Tea
    • japanese sweets
    • cherries
    • flan
    • berries
    • marshmallows
    • tea cups
    • lollypops
  • flowers
    • Cherry Blossoms
    • roses
    • tulips
    • peonias
  • Clouds
  • Glitter
  • butterflies
  • lady bugs
  • Ribbons
  • Lace
  • Bows
  • stars
  • hearts
  • rainbows

Media

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
  • 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
  • Tamagotchi!
  • Pretty Cure
  • Pretty Rythm
  • PriPara
  • Gakuen Babysitters
  • Sanrio Boys
  • Nyanko Days
  • Is the Order a Rabbit?
  • Kamisama Minarai: Himitsu no Cocotama
  • Chibi Devi!
  • Pui Pui Molcar
  • Cookin' Idol Ai! Mai! Main!
  • Xiao Hua Xian
  • Sylvanian Families: Mini Story
  • Shokupan Mimi
  • Ice Kuritarou
  • Usaru-san
  • Kapibara-san
  • Little Charo
  • Suzy's Zoo Daisuki! Witzy
  • Mameshiba
  • Yukai na Animal Bus
  • Koshikko
  • Unikitty
  • BT21 Shorts
  • Usagi no Mofy
  • Yousei Chiitan
  • Nyanpire The Animation
  • Rilu Rilu Fairilu
  • Rirakkuma to Kaoru-san
  • Funassyi no Funafunafuna Biyori
  • Kirakira Happy★Hirake! Cocotama
  • Wagamama Fairy Mirmo de Pon!
  • PriPri Chii-chan!!
  • Kiratto Pri☆Chan
  • Bee and Puppycat
  • Aggretsuko
  • Doraemon
  • Beelzebub-jou no Okinimesu mama.
  • Urahara
  • Yume no Hoshi no Button Nose
  • Hello Kitty: Stump Village
  • Hello Kitty Super Cute Adventures (on Youtube)
  • Poyopoyo
  • Kupu~!! Mamegoma!
  • Tanuki to Kitsune
  • Kiniromozaic
  • Happy Kappy
  • Luminary Tears
  • Midori no Kuni no Otomodachi: Koeda-chan
  • Flower Witch Mary Bell
  • Sumikko Gurashi Movie: Tobidasu Ehon to Himitsu no Ko
  • Maple Town
  • Doubutsu no Mori
  • Shirotan: Shirotan ga Ippai!
  • Nanami-chan
  • Mochi Mochi Panda
  • Kyoufu! Zombie Neko
  • Pita Ten
  • Wagamama☆Fairy Mirumo de Pon!
  • Micchiri Neko
  • Unico
  • Ojamajo Doremi
  • Afro-Ken
  • Kingyo Chuuihou!
  • Fushigi Mahou Fun Fun Pharmacy
  • Cookin' Idol Ai! Mai! Main!
  • Happy Happy Clover
  • Flowering Heart
  • Wan Wan Celepoo Soreyuke! Tetsunoshin
  • Kasumin
  • Hiyoko Gumo
  • Pokonyan!
  • Hamster Club
  • Strawberry Shortcake


Music

Genres

  • J-Pop
  • Future Bass
  • Kawaii Metal
  • Idol Groups
  • Music Box
  • Vocaloid
  • some K-Pop

Artist

  • 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
  • Kirara Magic
  • Couple N
  • Cho Tokimeki♡Sendenbu
  • ClariS
  • NiziU
  • Yui Ogura
  • I☆Ris
  • Nanahira
  • yuayua

Playlists

Subgenres

  • 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

Resources

Vendors

Youtube Channels


tiktok acounts


Pinterest Boards

Gallery

References