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America loves Japan

December 8, 2010

From Hello Kitty to Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Girls, Japanese culture will never cease to entertain and win the attention of the world because of their obsession with cuteness.

The long standing term of cute in Japanese culture is Kawii, which has come to popularity in America with Hello Kitty and Pikachu.  These best-selling cartoon characters can be seen plastered on most anything that young girls or, surprisingly, adult men own. This includes clothing, wallets, and credit cards.  Japanese popular culture  has come to an embrace a nostalgia for childhood and an escape from the rigidity of its social hierarchy.  Designers, advertisers, and other creators inspire vibrant cartoons and images that sell cuteness, stemming from a desire to express themselves as harmonious and desirable.  Japanese culture also wishes for the days of youth, when there were no restrictions and discipline.  By having displays of child-like figures, Japan seeks to sooth the rigidity of a country  that is highly stratified and competitive.

While this may seem harmless, these images of innocence and happiness translates as impracticality and idolization to other countries.  Take the Harajuku girls for instance.  Gwen Stefani uses these girls like puppets, as they wear heavy makeup and odd outfits that make them look like dolls, perpetuating a negative stereotype of Japanese women.  J-Pop (Japanese Pop Music) is the sound of Japanese youth as it captures everything they love; technology, fantasy, and cuteness.  One singer, Hamasuki Avumi, goes so far as to emulate a kawaii character.

Japan has built an empire and a permanent brand for themselves when it comes to anime, fantasy, video games, kawaii, technology, and innovation.  We love them for everything they give us, because our nerds and geeks would otherwise be unoccupied and would consider taking over the world.

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