What Is Kawaii?
Originally a national trend from Japan, the concept of “Kawaii” has become a globally recognised movement. It spans many different areas and styles of the Western world, for example, the popularisation of big round letters illustrated with “cute” symbols such as hearts and stars, which makes it more popular than we first thought.
Famous Manga comics, such as Death Note, Vampire Knight and Attack on Titan, can be found easily in bookshops everywhere. Japanese fashion looks inspire Western fashion; with the bright colours and bold patterns from Harajuku fashions and pastel colours and childlike-innocence from Lolita fashion. Video and trading card games are also affected with the kawaii craze - hardly surprising as Nintendo is a Japanese company. Pokémon Go!, the augmented reality smartphone app which has world wide success, is obviously included in the Kawaii hype.
So, the Kawaii trend has, in one sense, taken over the West, but what exactly does it mean?
WHAT DOES “KAWAII” MEAN?
“Kawaii” is best translated into “cuteness” and is a type of Japanese culture from the late 20th Century. In the 1970s, teenage girls started to create thinner and rounder handwriting, often embellished with cartoons, in order to make it more “childlike”. Many school banned this type of writing, but it was soon picked up by advertisers who used that style in their campaigns to attract a younger audience. Now, it is recognised everywhere thanks to the export of Japanese literature and media. The most famous example of this is Hello Kitty, who is the official tourism ambassador for Japan. Other examples include Pikachu, from Pokémon and Kirby, a Nintendo video game character. Many “kawaii characters” follow the same design model; they are small and fluffy cartoons with heads bigger than their bodies, minimal facial features and big round eyes - suggesting a quality of shyness and lovability.
Government offices in Japan, such as their police force, and also prefectures employ a Kawaii character as their mascot. They reflect both the local and national culture, and help increase tourism to the area. The emojis that we often use on our social media accounts can also be viewed as an upswing of the Kawaii culture rendering itself in different cultures globally. While many Western emojis don’t always flaunt big round eyes and minimal features, the idea of communicating with “cute”, bright and childlike cartoons can be rooted to the Kawaii culture, which has taken over the world!
The Journal Shop have introduced their own range of Kawaii Stationery, which include paper clips, magnets and flash cards all in a kawaii style that promise to make learning more creative and fun! Kawaii iterations of both real and fictional animals and other character designs in bright colours and simple outlines for an adorable desk set. Cute as they are, these products boast of being practical! The need for cute cartoons doesn’t just stop at the aesthetic sense. The products by The Journal Shop make doing homework or paperwork a lot more visibly appealing; as according to research conducted at the University of Hiroshima, candidates that were exposed to cute images of animals increased their productivity in certain fields.
In their new range, The Journal Shop have incorporated many other popular designs from Japan as well, such as cats, dogs and alpacas. Cats are considered lucky in Japan, and many businesses have a “beckoning cat” - also known as a Maneki Neko - to bring in money to their store. With a range of cat (neko) products, it will likely prove true for The Journal Shop, too!
Despite cats being the number one pet in Japan, dogs are still loved by many. Due to the limited amount of space, Japan’s dog owners tend to go for smaller breeds to love. Shiba Inus originated from Japan and still remains one of the more popular breeds. Other famous breeds are the toy poodle and the dachshund, both originating from Germany, mainly because of their small size. The Journal Shop has all three breeds as dog-style paper clips in their Kawaii Collection, and they’re just as adorable as the real things!
Shop: Kawaii Stationery
Using these stationery items may be more beneficial than you first thought. Studies and scholars have suggested that the images and silhouettes of fluffy cartoons might root from a desire to use colour and ‘cuteness’ as a neutraliser against the stress of the world and everyday life. The bright colours of Kawaii are also an ideal counterweight to the dull and monotonous neutrals of the corporate realm - like an office. The innocent, cute and lovable emotions evoked by Kawaii perfectly cancel out the negative emotions induced through personal and profession distress many face in the real world. In a volatile society, where technology is forever changing and developing, the innocence of Kawaii characters also reminds people of a simpler and more organic time.
Indeed, kawaii culture has become a global sensation very quickly since its inception. It is a culture that takes people away from their everyday burdens and pressures, almost like a rebellion against the “Adult” world we must inevitably become part of. However, the Kawaii range from The Journal Shop, with its cute memo pads and magnets, means we don’t have to look at boring old stationery again! Long live the Kawaii Culture!