What is Kawaii Culture in Japan – an introduction

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PSD Detail | Cute | Official PSDs

PSD Detail | Kawaii | Official PSDsAn introduction to Kawaii

In short Kawaii is the Japanese term for cute. All Kawaii fashion is cute but not just any cute.

It's the highest conceivable level of cute and not everything we in the West may consider cute will pass the Japanese definition of Kawaii. Neotenic features are what define whether something is cute or not.

Consider every ‘cute' baby animal – large head, round forehead, big soulful eyes small nose and mouth. We are biologically driven (as are the parents of these babies) to ‘love' them so we care for them until they're old enough to care for themselves. Animals which don't require parenting for example (reptiles) generally do not look cute! So you see, you can't dislike ‘kawaii' even if you try!

PinkyP is very Kawaii πŸ™‚

Kawaii culture used to be for teenagers, between the ages of 15-18yrs but now it's for everyone and is widespread and a cultural norm in Japan. They are the industry leaders for exports of all things Kawaii and the West is catching on, modifying and blending Japanese Kawaii concepts with their own trends. TokiDoki is one such evolution. It's Kawaii meets Rock!
(more on that later)

A super cute form of Kawaii fashion clothing is Kawaii Harajuku. Harajuku is a fashion capital of sorts in Japan and inspired many of the Kawaii (if not all) sub sets and fashion types that embody the various types of ‘cute' that Japan love so much.

NOTE: Not all Harajuku is cute – there's a branch there is very goth, rock, punk inspired. Very cool, very grown-up and not at all child-like. Are you confused? Me too πŸ™‚ I'll go more into that in another post. For now we are looking at Kawaii Harajuku.

You can learn more about Harajuku fashion here.

Kawaii Harajuku girl PinkyP

Some  Harajuku  Kawaii fashionistas may save their passion for Harajuku fashion by attending conventions and special get togethers. They do so as dressing this way at home may be discouraged.

Other subsets of Kawaii fashion such as Lolita fashion (primarily for girls) are now  worn by boys (known as Brolitas) and girls alike. Lolita Fashion will be covered in a separate post but you can get the essence of Sweet Lolita below.

*Kawaii Lolita group

This isn't ‘official' Sweet Lolita style but it is close enough. The main features for a ‘sweet lolita' would be arms covered, demure, cute with a nod to Victorian child type dresses. Cherry patterns feature a lot as do strawberries. The skirts are a particular style and length and worn with a petticoat showing below the hem.

Long sock with low heeled shoes which may have bow detailing are the norm as are lacy collars, sleeves and bows. Hair is elaborate with ringlets, perhaps cosplay wigs in pink and pale purple etc. Bags are similarly accessorised with bows and may be cute shapes.

Learn more about Lolita fashion and the many subsets here.


A super cute cartoon style in Japan is ‘Chibi' and these can be seen below. They are children and characterized by large heads, short bodies, not too much detail re limbs and of course ..very kawaii! They are adorable.

chibii fantasy

Food features a lot in kawaii culture. you may have noticed cupcakes with faces, squishy food type toys and collectibles. Kawaii Donut shaped items from fans to handbags are very popular. 
Hello kitty can be seen featured with cupcake type accessories, charms etc. Even Sushi can be found ‘kawaii' style.

If you are a fan of Kawaii culture, please do stop by and say hello and share your passion.