Cute in Japanese Culture
The rise of cuteness in Japanese culture emerged in the 1970s as part of a new style of writing. Many teenage girls began to write laterally using mechanical pencils. These pencils produced very fine lines, as opposed to traditional Japanese writing that varied in thickness and was vertical. Also, the girls would write in big, round characters and they added little pictures to their writing, such as hearts, stars, smiley faces, and letters of the Latin alphabet. These pictures would be inserted randomly and made the writing very hard to read.
As a result, this writing style caused a lot of controversy and was banned in many schools. During the 1980s, however, this new “cute” writing was adopted by magazines and comics and was put onto packaging and advertising. From 1984–1986, Yamane Kazuma studied the development of cute handwriting, which he called Anomalous Female Teenage Handwriting, in depth. Although it was commonly thought that the writing style was something that teenagers had picked up from comics, he found that teenagers had come up with the style themselves, as part of an underground movement.
Later, cute handwriting became associated with acting childishly and using infantile slang words. Because of this growing trend, companies such as Sanrio came out with merchandise like Hello Kitty. Hello Kitty was an immediate success and the obsession with cute continued to progress in other areas as well. The 1980s also saw the rise of cute idols, such as Seiko Matsuda, who is largely credited with popularizing the trend. Women began to emulate Seiko Matsuda and her cute fashion style and mannerisms, which emphasized the helplessness and innocence of young girls. 4] No longer limited to teenagers, however, the spread of making things as cute as possible, even common household items, was embraced by people of all ages. Now there are airplanes painted with Pikachu on the side, and each of Japan’s 47 prefectures, the Tokyo police, and even the public broadcaster NHK all have their own cute mascots. Currently, Sanrio’s line of more than 50 characters takes in more than $1 billion a year and it remains the most successful company to capitalize on the cute trend