Kawaii Culture in the US
Kawaii(カワイイ) is more than consumer products. Many mascots represent police forces, train stations, tv stations, and districts in Japan. One of the more famous mascots of the Japanese public broadcast NHK with their mascot Domo. Even Godzilla is the mascot of Tokyo, with a new chibi design.
Not all kawaii items have to be from Japan, stores such as Justice or Claire’s have a kawaii aesthetic. With sparkles, bright colors, and cute animals in their themes, they are USA kawaii. Emojis are another example of kawaii in American culture, with round and expressive faces. Even things such as toasters or rice cookers can be kawaii with bright colors and/or a cute animal theme.
An example of modern-day kawaii is Hello Kitty, a mascot of the Sanrio company. Hello Kitty uses pastel colors, small features, and even a ribbon on her ear to further her look like a cute cat. She started her introduction in the USA in 1974 with a simple coin purse. With a slow rise to popularity, she soon expanded to plushies, cups, stationery, and more.
Kawaii culture is more than a mascot or plushie, with it even having subcultures in the culture of kawaii. Such subcultures are Fairy Kei, Lolita, Decora, and many more. Yami kawaii is a kawaii subculture that mixes dark themes with kawaii. It blends sickness with pastel colors and cute characters like general kawaii culture. Kawaii fashion can make a statement such as Lolita. Lolita fashion is a movement creating a space between childhood and womanhood.
While its culture is from Japan, it’s crossed into the USA in a big way. From plushies to fashion, young Americans are consuming this culture with gusto. Anime and manga fans take part in kawaii culture. Anime and manga often share the same kawaii look, making it an easy transition to kawaii culture. Anime and manga can often be kawaii entertainment with the ‘moe’ style both can show.
Kawaii culture has found its major footholds in the USA in places like LA or New York. Home to major kawaii brands like Angelic Pretty, Sanrio, and Pokemon. Now, these brands have physical stores in these cities to sell their kawaii goods. These places have even become hot spots for fashion groups under the kawaii culture to meet up. Pop-up cafes, tea parties, and the like, often pop up in these cities because of the intense kawaii culture.
While kawaii is a neutral or harmless culture, there has been plenty of controversies. Some kawaii fashion is fast fashion, created cheap and thrown away quickly for the next kawaii popular item. Thus, creating large amounts of waste and contributing to the world’s trash problem
Some kawaii companies focus on using products using eco-friendly materials. They also focus on making more long-lasting products. That has caused some kawaii items to increase the price, which is justified by their ethical production.
Kawaii culture has a large impact on both Japanese and American culture. Its themes are relatable to any culture and why it’s boomed in popularity. While it can have its pros and cons, it has a net positive effect. With its reach to both younger and older people, it can bring people together in the name of cuteness.