Kawaii in Japanese means ‘the ability to be loved’ or just ‘a cute face’. A number of things are referred to as ‘cute’. The aesthetic of ‘cuteness’ has been an element of art for long. Today’s interactive world is playing with the digital aesthetics and has dove deep into this trend. Kawaii is a Japanese pop culture that has influenced the entertainment, food, clothing, arts, toys, and digital industries globally. It has also made its way into lifestyles, mannerism and physical appearances.


Harajuku’s Kawaii Fashion
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The History of Kawaii

Kawaii has a history which most people find odd and unusual – the concept came up in early 1970s when little Japanese girls started to get obsessed with the mechanical pencils. These pencils were introduced and quickly adapted by schools for kids. These pencils had a finely tipped lead, which made it easier to write with and caused Japanese students to modify their handwriting accordingly. Their writing became rounder and bubblier, giving it a childish look. This handwriting style took the shape of a movement which spread like bushfire in the entire Japanese youth. The funky handwriting also incorporated cute little baby and animal characters and faces – somewhat similar to today’s emojis.

This style of handwriting got banned in most of the schools due to its challenging readability. However, in the late 1980s, it became widely adopted in advertisements, comic books, cartoons and entertainment magazines. The high popularity of manga and anime among the Japanese girls kept the bubbly handwriting alive and eventually gave birth to the character of Hello Kitty, with her cuddly body, pink bow and a large cute face. There has been no going back since. Hello Kitty has gone from being a symbol of Japanese Kawaii fashion to an ambassador of  global peace and harmony.

peace and harmony.
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The town of Harajuku and Kawaii

There is a reason why Japanese got most influenced by the Kawaii culture and embraced it like no other country. It is due to the fact that their interpretation of Kawaii (cuteness) has been different from others. This is why we don’t see the incorporation of Kawaii in Disney, Nickelodeon and other Western animations. In Japan, the neighborhood of Harajuku has been the epicenter of Kawaii culture because of the way Japanese girls (or self-titled Lolitas) have embraced the true epitome of Kawaii fashion. The colorful, zesty and bright neighborhood of Harajuku is filled with faces of cute anime and manga characters. It also contains densely packed shops filled with Kawaii clothes and merchandise. You can also find Japanese girls wearing shockingly bright pink and blue attires with short hemlines, making this neighborhood good for not only shopping but also for people-watching too.

Kawaii doesn’t only mean putting on a Kawaii dress. A person wanting to fully embody kawaii will have to adopt kawaii in the way he or she speaks, i.e. mannerisms and use a lot of makeup to standout. Harajuku, for this reason, has been a standout place in the whole of Japan. People here not only wear Kawaii dresses but have also embodied the whole abstract of cuteness. The neighborhood also has some of the world’s best Kawaii stores including Takeshita-dori, pop etc. which are the true traders of modern Kawaii fashion.

Japanese people are extremely workaholic professionals. Kawaii is their escape from that. They love to express their cute aesthetics through Kawaii lifestyle, art, and clothing.

Kawaii lifestyle
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Famous Kawaii Brands

Believe it or not, these simple items of Uniqlo and Muji has also led Kawaii to transform itself into a decent culture. Kawaii is not limited to short tees with bright makeover and curvy bottoms. Modern Kawaii also incorporates high collar tops, layered dresses, and colorful boots reflecting some of the famous trends of the 90s; creating the modern Kawaiia aesthetics. There is no better place than the shops in the neighborhood of Harajuku to create an authentic Kawaii look of yours.

Some famous authentic Kawaii brands are discussed below:

6 Percent Doki Doki

If you want to create a Kawaii look full of bright colors and vibrant girly emotions, then 6 Percent Doki Doki is the brand to check out. The outlet located in the Harajuku neighborhood is full of trendy outfits with bright colors. This fashion brand is the true heart of Kawaii essence; its crazy designs and shocking colors make the creative hearts pound!

crazy designs
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This brand is important for the the ladies who admire Kawaii and love the fashion of 50s. Milk trades the iconic polka dots and floral dresses of 50’s and embodies them with the elegance of Kawaii. The style has elements of both retro fashions and sweet Lolita.

Honey and Cinnamon

Another 90’s inspired Kawaii fashion brand that has made retro style elegant. Modern meets bubble-gum merchandise in products from glamorous dresses to funky glasses and boots emblazoned with teddy bears. Almost every item in their shop can be considered a true impression of Kawaii.


As the name depicts, Pink-Latte gives off the true taste of Kawaii essence. It is located in Harajuku’s SoLaDo building. This super cute shop serves items like cupcake infant dresses, chocolate bar socks, candy bar purses, and popsicle crested tees.

Baby the Stars Shine Bright

If you are looking to embody yourself in true feminine Kawaii colors, then ‘Baby the Stars Shine Bright’ is the right brand for you. It is one of the most popular and up-to-date stores for Lolita fashion not only in Japan but also worldwide. A collection of hoop skirt dresses and antique looking lace, Lolita dresses are nothing but the true embodiment of Kawaii.

embodiment of Kawaii
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Kawaii inspired Street Fashion

Kawaii street fashion is not limited to the neighborhood of Harajuku anymore. Lolita is a dressing style and it contains a number of variations of urban, gothic and cute outfits. What once could only be seen in the colorful streets of Harajuku has now escalated its presence and popularity in the West as well.

The Japanese Pop Culture

Kawaii fashion has even spread to Japan’s entertainment industry. Believe it or not, even popstars of Japan have been pioneers in the Kawaii-inspired entertainment industry. Musical idols now come with a gimmick totally inspired by the Kawaii essence.

Let’s get Kawaii

The contemporary culture of Kawaii is an essential part of Japan’s rich tradition and cultural values. It is a significant part of everything from food to music, fashion, lifestyle and much more. Many people now believe that Tokyo has overtaken Harajuku as the capital of Kawaii culture. The city is now crowded with cute street arts, characters of anime and manga, and popular shops. Kawaii in Japan is unstoppable and has already influenced a large number of men and women. People show a deep attachment to Kawaii because they find it youthful with an evolutionary and rebellious impulse that also allows them to escape the harsh realities of life.

So, when in Japan, do not be afraid to get Kawaii. All you need is a fancy Hello Kitty shaped purse, or a colorful trendy tee with a cute anime or manga face printed on it. Or if you are too shy for such things, a Disney phone case can also do the job for you.

face printed
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