Education About Asia: Online Archives

From Hello Kitty to Cod Roe Kewpie: A Postwar Cultural History of Cuteness in Japan

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The cute characters and commercial goods emerging from contemporary Japanese popular culture have quickly spread around the globe, capturing the attention of teenagers and adults, most of whom were not even considered as target consumers of these products. Their popularity is much more than a passing phenomenon of fashion-conscious people looking for the latest thing. In fact, the steady development of cute culture in Japan since the 1970s signals more than even the most avid consumer of “cute” may realize. Cute culture reflects the changing modes of social, economic, and political conditions, especially young women’s ideas about work and marriage and young male perceptions about their future. Learning about the history and contexts of cuteness in Japanese culture, from classical aesthetics to the economic growth that led to recession, will help readers understand the many meanings underlying the seemingly simple concept of “cute.”