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att. Culture - It's a Kawaii World
att. Culture - It's a Kawaii World
att.JAPAN Issue 10, January 2002

It's a Kawaii World


Teppie and Christina ChartomatsidisTOKYO TWINS REPORT
From sushi to the Japanese Yen, att. Reporters Teppie and Christina Chartomatsidis take you on a journey to discover more on what Tokyo has to offer.


It comes to no surprise that the Japanese are a people entranced with the new, the cute and the animated. For over three decades now the world has seen the Japanese continue to turn dreams into mind-boggling realities with their technological and animated creations. Nintendo, Playstation, Pokemon, Astroboy and Hello Kitty are just some of Japan's leading exports that have earned skyrocket sales and captivated people the globe over.

Kawaii Japanese people of all ages are fascinated with all that is daintily attractive and habitually refer to such things as kawaii. Kawaii, which means cute is more than an adjective, it's a notion applying itself to almost every element of society whether it be people, animals or things.

Upon arrival in this land of the rising sun, it doesn't take long before a foreign guest is enraptured at the overwhelming chipper element of this society. Surely enough the Japanese have colored everyday humdrum life into a kawaii wonderland of delights and surprises. This does not only apply with the youth either, unlike other countries in the world, animated characters and cute products aren't reserved only for children. From business institutions to government, nation-wide corporations to the police, cute animated characters are plastered everywhere you look.

If you were asked to guess whom the mascot representing the Tokyo Police Department was, whom would you answer? Would you say it was Mr. Koizumi, Japan's Prime Minister or the chief of Tokyo Police? If you were to answer both, you couldn't be further from the truth. The Tokyo Police Department's mascot is Pi-Po chan - a giant animated mouse wearing a police uniform! If the NYPD were to use an animated character as their representative of law and order it would certainly arouse public curiosity! Using a mascot such as Pi-Po chan could somehow lead masses to question the NYPD's reputed macho disposition. For the Japanese though, Pi-Po chan gives the Tokyo Police a favorable image within the community, promoting peace, unity and harmony.

Opening a bank account? Join up with any major Japanese bank and take your pick at the variety of animated credit cards and passbooks available. Choose from Hello Kitty, Doraemon or Miffy cash-cards and bankbooks just to name a few! After signing up with these institutions you will probably also receive a welcome gift such as an animated towel or a cute bag sporting a popular character!

Traveling by air? Ready to board a plane at Tokyo's Narita International Airport? Well don't be alarmed if you witness a giant yellow creature taking flight! This is just Pikachu - Japan's global smashing success from the animated series Pokemon. For several years now, one of Japan's leading international airlines has smothered its Boeing 747's with the adorable yellow character!

Kawaii With all this in mind however, nowhere in Japanese society is the obsession with the kawaii ever more prevalent than in young Japanese women. These adolescent females endeavor to defy all the obstacles, whether they are financial or regarding reality in their quest to exemplify cute. The market catering to these voluptuaries is surging despite the current sluggish state of the Japanese economy. Youth shopping districts such as Shibuya and Harajuku in Tokyo offer a plethora of shops selling everything you could imagine - one condition though - it must be kawaii or it won't sell.

Indeed fads are no new thing in these youth trodden districts, but a recent craze that has turned heads is the quest to be Barbie. Most will agree that it would be out of the question for any girl in the world to look like Barbie, as she is a plastic toy. Be it impossible - some Japanese teenage girls have splurged in a multitude of products, spending thousands of dollars just to replicate the blond doll! Wigs, hair extensions, fake eyelashes, color contacts, endlessly high platform shoes, pretty accessories, beautifully tailored doll-like dresses and gorgeous handbags- the list is endless!

The already colossal fashion industry has cashed in on the trend and stores all over Tokyo have opened up to satisfy this Barbie loving market. A leading fashion chain named Pinky Girls has worked in co-operation with Mattel* to create a new line of Barbie clothes and merchandise young women can actually wear! You may believe this to be just a short- lived craze but for this group of girls such fads will continue to remain alive and kicking.

Upon leaving Japan, you may be boarding the giant Pickachu 747 and reflecting upon all the wonderful sights of this play-land. Perhaps you will conclude that the Japanese surpass all nations with their imposing achievements in anime or you could be marveling at a people so immersed with the fictitious. Nonetheless, we too could learn from this example and turn our drab worlds into living dreams of vivacity, animation and of course the kawaii!

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