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Updated May 14, 2015 at 12:01AM EDT by Synge.

Added May 11, 2015 at 03:56PM EDT by Synge.

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Kawaii (カワイイ) is a Japanese label for "cute" which is a prominent aesthetic in Japanese pop culture. The term if often used by non-Japanese speaking anime fans and Otakus online.


"Kawaii" is derived from the Japanese term "kawahayushi" (顔映し) meaning "radiant face," which is commonly used to describe someone expressing embarrassment by blushing. In the 11th century, the term was introduced in the classic work of Japanese literature The Tale of Genji. During the Edo period from 1603 to 1868, Japanese women were associated with the term. In the 1970s, a style of handwriting used by Japanese teenage girls featuring big, round characters with pictures of hearts, stars and smiley faces was associated with kawaii.[7] In 1974, the cartoon character Hello Kitty was designed by artist Yiko Shimizu for a line of products by the company Sanrio. The character is often considered an early example of a kawaii fictional character in Japanese culture.



On June 4th, 2003, Urban Dictionary[2] user Lisa submitted an entry for "kawaii," defining the term as a Japanese adjective for "pretty, cute, lovely, charming, dear, darling" or "pet." On January 24th, 2006, YouTuber Alcaka uploaded a chibi video entitled The Omega Kawaii Cloud Song, dedicated to the Final Fantasy character Cloud (shown below left). On February 24th, 2007, YouTuber Himmel Meere uploaded an anime music video titled "Kawaii Anime AMV (Best Friend)," in which several anime clips were compiled with the song "Best Friend" by musical group Toybox playing in the background (shown below right).

On November 5th, 2008, YouTuber daijoubucall uploaded an compilation of clips from the anime series Ichigo Mashimaro, accompanied by a song described as "Kawaii hip-hop" (shown below left). On September 13th, 2009, the /r/kawaii[4] subreddit was launched for discussions about the pop culture aesthetic. On April 24th, 2012, YouTuber Hey! It's Mosogourmet uploaded a video titled "Kawaii boiled egg rabbit and bear," in which a man demonstrates how to used a Japanese mold to make a boiled egg into the shape of a cartoon bear and rabbit (shown below, right).

On February 22nd, 2014, YouTuber Alexa Poletti uploaded a video tutorial on how to do "kawaii" makeup (shown below, left). On October 29th, YouTuber PewDiePie posted an animated video titled "I'm So Kawaii," garnering upwards of 7.5 million views over the next year (shown below, right). On April 14th, The Atlantic[6] published an article about the rise of "kimo-kawaii" ("gross cute") in Japanese culture.

Various Examples


Various emoticons are associated with kawaii, including (◕‿◕✿), ◕3◕ , and (`・ω・´). The website Kawaiiface.net[5] was created as a database for kawaii emoticons.

Nigga That's Kawaii

“Nigga, That’s Kawaii” is an expression indicating that something is adorable or cute, which is often used to caption photographs of black men displaying merchandise or engaging in activities typically associated with the Otaku subculture.

N----, You Just Went Full Kawaii

Search Interest

External References

[1] Wikipedia – Kawaii

[2] Urban Dictionary – Kawaii

[3] Tumblr – Posts tagged kawaii

[4] Reddit – r/kawaii

[5] Kawaiiface – Home

[6] The Atlantic – Rise of Japan's Creepy Cute Craze

[7] Kinsella Research – Cuties in Japan

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