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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 secondsThe term "Kawaii" is often used for describing Japanese subculture. It is, however, not easy to define for it conveys multi-layered meanings. We will see the way "Kawaii" represents a certain type of relationality. Kawaii, or Cuteness, is a term that is tightly associated with Japanese girls' culture and this ephemeral cultural phenomenon arising around the 1960s now attracts worldwide academic attention. Kazuma YAMANE's research on the peculiar handwriting style of Japanese young girls in mid-1980s suggests that an unconscious inclination to immaturity prevailed in girls' culture and that kawaii is a key term to describe girls' preference.

Skip to 0 minutes and 58 secondsDr.Sharon Kinsella, who teaches Japanese culture and society at the University of Manchester, published one of the earliest articles on kawaii in English, entitled "Cuties in Japan" published in 1995. These early academic contributions on Kawaii eventually led to the launch of a journal, The East Asian Journal of Popular Culture, with the first special issue focusing on "Cute Studies." Now, let us research the cultural significance of "Kawaii" in Japan.

What is "Kawaii"?

Have you ever heard of “Kawaii”? What does it mean in your definition? In this activity, we will try to re-define “Kawaii” through readings and discussion. First, watch Prof. Ogushi explain a brief history of “Kawaii” in Japanese subculture.

Books introduced in the video

  • “Cuties in Japan” by Dr. Sharon Kinsella, who teaches Japanese culture and society at the University of Manchester
  • “Hentai Shojo Moji (the peculiar handwriting style of Japanese young girls)” by Kazuma Yamane, Japanese scholar
  • “Cute Studies” in East Asian Journal of Popular Culture

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This video is from the free online course:

An Introduction to Japanese Subcultures

Keio University

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