You’ve come across the term “Kawaii” and don’t know what it means? We’ll tell you what it means and how to use it.
What Kawaii Mean: cute, childlike, adorable
The Japanese term “Kawaii” means something like “cute”, “childlike” or “sweet”. The term is understood to mean an aesthetic concept that focuses on innocence and childishness. “Kawaii” is applied to fashion and pop culture such as manga and anime.
Origin of Kawaii
“Kawaii” derives from the phrase “顔映し” or “kao hayushi”, which literally means “(the) face (is) glowing”. This often refers to blushing. Over time, the pronunciation changed as well as the meaning to “cute” or “shining”.
In the seventies, the term “kawaii” was coined to refer to cute design elements associated primarily with young girls. This was expressed, for example, in “Kawaii” handwriting, which was also adapted by magazines and advertising in the eighties. Likewise, a growing market of “Kawaii” merchandise was formed.
By the turn of the millennium, the “Kawaii” craze had spread beyond Southeast Asia. In the western world, “Kawaii” also became as popular as tokusatsu movies or doujinshi.
Types of Kawaii
The style and aesthetic of “Kawaii” can be found in Japan from stylized mascots like Pikachu or Hello Kitty, mangas and stuffed animals to the car industry and government publications. “Kawaii” has spread to all areas of Japanese society. As a “cute” or “childlike” persona, “Kawaii” is also represented as a fashion style.