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Shopping for Kawaii Souvenirs, the Japanese Culture of Cute

Shopping for Kawaii Souvenirs, the Japanese Culture of Cute

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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.

Examples of Kawaii in Japan

pink cute construction barrier bunnies japan

Cute kawaii road barriers at construction sites are certainly more cheerful than Western versions.

A Japanese food stall vendor in Kawasaki uses kawaii to help sell his products (Kawasaki, Japan).

Dressing up in costumes “cosplay” is also part of the kawaii culture (Tokyo, Japan).

wasabi ice cream store japan

Why wouldn’t you use a giant cartoon wasabi sign to sell wasabi flavored ice cream?

Sometimes I couldn’t tell if something was supposed to be kawaii or slightly creepy– or maybe a combination of the two.

Kawaii Souvenirs

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.

kitty land tokyo toy store plush hello kitty

Kitty Land in Tokyo is exactly what it sounds like– a store dedicated to all things cute and 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:

Cats are very popular sources of kawaii culture.

My own kawaii souvenirs from Japan

I could not resist these kawaii bears on a towel.

Japan Kyoto silk pouch lucky cat from craft shop in Arashiyama souvenir shopping

Kawaii lucky cat on silk pouch– perfect to carry makeup and hairbands.

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.


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diana @ veggienextdoor

Sunday 29th of January 2017

Have you seen the John Olover show's segment on Japanese mascots? If not, YouTube it! I am pretty sure the bear on your towel is a mascot.

Kristin Francis

Thursday 16th of February 2017

Diana no I haven't but will google it!! haha I am obsesssed with that bear a friend made me a t-shirt from a photo I took!!