In Japan, there is a culture of cute known as “kawaii” (critical note: the “i” is pronounced like “Hawaii” not “Kauai”–which means the opposite of cute– dreadful. Trust me once you make this mistake once your Japanese friends will never let you live it down).
Symbols of kawaii are absolutely everywhere in Japan. While you would expect kawaii in things like Japanese children’s toys, kawaii also winds its way well into the adult world. You’ll find adorable little cartoons adorning the most unlikely places– police stations, airport terminals, even road barriers.
At first, I’ll admit I didn’t “get” the whole kawaii thing– why were grown adults so enamored of grinning cartoon characters with big round heads? But it didn’t take long for the Japanese culture of kawaii to grow on me, and now I am officially cute-obsessed. As we toured the Kanto region of Japan, it became common for us to nudge each other and point, “oh kawaii” whenever we spotted the latest bit of cuteness.
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Examples of Kawaii in Japan
Sometimes I couldn’t tell if something was supposed to be kawaii or slightly creepy– or maybe a combination of the two.
After my overexposure to all things cute in Japan, it only made sense to bring home some kawaii souvenirs. I found all these kawaii souvenirs on my latest trip in the Kanto region of Japan, but you can find kawaii items pretty much anywhere in Japan.
Kitty Land, Tokyo
One of the best places to get plush kawaii souvenirs is at Kitty Land in Tokyo. Although the name suggests it’s a temple to all things Hello Kitty, Kitty Land has a wide selection of kawaii.
The Harajuku area of Tokyo (check out my fun post here) is chock full of kawaii souvenirs.
Just some random kawaii I snapped along my travels in the Kanto region:
My own kawaii souvenirs from Japan
Do you also love kawaii in Japan? Tell us about your favorites!
Disclosure: my visit to Japan was hosted by JTB, however, all shopping picks are my own.