The history of Kawaii, from Hello Kitty to Squishy

Kawaii, Squishies -

The history of Kawaii, from Hello Kitty to Squishy

Usually translated as "cute", kawaii is one of the most frequently used Japanese words in the West.
In a broader sense, he describes the culture of celebrating all the lovable things and embracing fictional characters like the embodiment of positivity. This concept, which is originally a typically Japanese cultural trend, quickly evolved into the global phenomenon it is today, spreading in many aspects of modern life, including art, fashion, technology, toys (Squishy) and even the food.


Culture is believed to be kawaii from Japan started in the 1970s, when teenagers developed their own children's writing. Under various names, such as marui ji (round writing), koneko ji (kitten writing) and burikko ji (fake child's writing), the stylized writing included curved lines, similar to noodles, next to hearts, cartoon stars and faces. Some believe that this trend was a response to the rigid culture of post-war Japan, and that this cute new style allowed young people of the time to express their individuality. While most schools banned marui ji, this playful style gained popularity with advertisers in the 80s, and led to the invention of one of the characters kawaii the most famous of today.
first writing kawaii

Characters kawaii famous

hello kitty, the origins of kawaii

In 1974, the Japanese stationery brand Sanrio launched its iconic character, Hello Kitty. Designed by Yuko Yamaguchi, the super cute white cat - without a mouth and with a pink bow - was first printed on a vinyl wallet. Almost fifty years later, Hello Kitty is recognized worldwide, has been placed on countless products and even has its own themed train.
hello kitty collection
Hello Kitty train in Japan
In 2008, Japan appointed Hello Kitty official tourism ambassador, inviting the rest of the world to celebrate the proud identity kawaii from the country.

Since Hello Kitty, Sanrio and many other manufacturers have developed cute characters who, although fictional, have also become pop icons. Think of Pokemon Pikachu, the Afro Ken dog, and even the emojis - they all have one thing in common: cute! Characters kawaii are generally designed to have a disproportionate body, a large head, wide eyes, a small nose and little or no facial expression. The absence of emotions is in fact what makes them so adorable, because it allows spectators to project themselves on the character, whether it is a small child or an adorable animal.

Cute art

Besides consumerism and cartoon characters, "cute" is also flourishing in the art world. The style has even evolved into different kinds of cuteness, such as Guro-kawaii (cute grotesque), ero-kawaii (cute erotic), kimo-kawaii (cute scary) and busu-kawaii (cute ugly).
pom pom pruin friends, cartoon kawaii

One of the contemporary artists who adopted this style is Takashi Murakami, who has developed his own series of cute - and often disturbing - characters. Murakami is one of the most famous artists in Japan and is the founder of the Superflat art movement.
The Superflat is based on Japan's craze for beauty, especially for anime and manga, and blurs the line between fine art and commercial culture. Among the artist's most recognizable characters are his smiling flowers and the iconic Mr. DOB.
Takashi Muramaki, m dob flowers
Yoshitomo Nara is another artist considered to be inspired by the kawaii. The Tokyo-based artist was first recognized during the Japanese Pop Art movement in the 1990s and has since had close to 40 solo exhibitions worldwide. Nara is best known for her ambivalent paintings of children and animals who appear both innocent and sinister.

Yoshito nara, Japanese artist

The Squishy Kawaii 

The squishies Kawaii were invented in Japan. It is their very spongy appearance that gave them their iconic name. Most of squishies are made of polyurethane, an organic plastic invented by Otto Bayer in 1937. Its use dates back to aircraft coatings from the Second World War. The Squishies have also become very fashionable thanks to the development of culture Kawaii. 
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