Kawaii is more than just a word meaning “cute” to be thrown around by 14-year-old manga fans on deviantArt. In Japan, it’s an entire culture, one that has captured the hearts of many and slowly rolled its way westwards to claim others as well. Good thing, too: I’m weak to adorable and tiny things. Very weak.
Japan has pretty much cornered the market on cute. And since Japan appointed a cartoon ambassador of anime last year, it stands to reason that the next step would be appointing (non-cartoon) ambassadors of cuteness.
It’s no surprise they’re already popular in Harajuku. They look like they stepped right out of anime. They might start glittering and undergo a magical transformation at any moment…and then giggle innocently, completely unaware of why you gape and stare.
Foreign Ministry head of cultural affairs Tsutomu Nakagawa said this:
“We want people abroad to know these kind of people exist in Japan and to feel close to them.”
(2018 edit note: I didn’t cite sources for a lot of these old articles, whoops.)
I think what would surprise us more is letting us know that people other than this exist in Japan. Because, let’s face it — all these foreign otaku and other sorts obsessed with Japan abroad would like to think one out of every two Japanese people they would encounter would appear to be this way.
Anyway, I like it. I’m all about style, and “kawaii” never dies. Japan already has huge cultural appeal, but still seems aloof to many. This will help.