Home Anime What does kawaii mean and how to use it correctly

What does kawaii mean and how to use it correctly


Whether you’re immersed in the otaku world or have ever been involved with someone like that, you’ve surely heard the cry of “¡kawaii!«. And it is that in this culture many words and phrases are used in Japanese without us fully knowing their meaning. That is why we are going to talk about this very popular term that is used to name something very beautiful or very tender.

¿Did you know that there is more than one type of kawaii? And what is the origin of this word? Well in this article we are going to teach you everything about kawaii. Get ready for an overdose of sweetness and tenderness… and here we go!

Meaning and origin of kawaii

The literal translation of kawaii into Spanish is “cute” or “cute” and it is used as an adjective referring to various things ranging from objects and clothing to food or personality types.

Although in the West we use this word for the world of anime and otaku-related merchandising, in Japan, on the other hand, the term is used on a large scale and in any field: from advertising to government campaigns or means of transport.

history of kawaii

In the historical context, the term kawaii is quite recent, since became popular in the 1980s when the country accepted its use and began to be used by companies that knew how to exploit it to obtain enormous economic benefits by creating a new industry around tenderness.

However, in the 60s it was already normal to hear this word related to animals and babies and then apply it to stuffed animals with those shapes and especially to the Rika-chan dollwhich emerged in 1967, which was responsible for the term kawaii beginning to be associated with more varied elements.

Rika-chan doll

As we have already said, the 80s saw the explosion of this word in adult circles, putting an end to the myth that there is an age to mature and stop using certain words. In addition, in that decade the Purpose: a series of adorable kittens dressed as true rebels that were all the rage among the girls, which ended up popularizing the expression.

Another milestone in kawaii history was the renewal of the design of Hello Kitty in those years, since before it had not had a great impact on the public. But once she was given one kawaii aesthetics, making the kitten look softer and more fluffy, its popularity grew exponentially, leading more and more companies to adopt the kawaii concept for their products. This boom occurred between 1983 and 1984 when kawaii was even used in men’s magazines and reached such a point of overexploitation that it was Banned at a Tokyo Women’s College.

Evolution of Hello Kitty.

The appropriation of the term kawaii by anime followers occurred during the 90s, when the companies exhausted the resource and passed to the otaku culture. At that time, kawaii characters and a new perspective for this word emerged, since the concept was associated not only with the physical characteristics of the character, but also his personality which gave it a deeper meaning.

In 2006 there was another turn when kawaii came to the government. We refer specifically to Primer Ministro Shinzo Abe, who described Japan as “a beautiful country (kawaii)”, due to its principles, culture and leadership capacity. Later, in 2009, Takashi Matsumoto, foreign minister, took a big leap when he appointed three fashion representatives as “kawaii ambassadors”who had to show the world the japanese kawaii culture through clothing related to this.

Kawaii outfits.

types of kawaii

We believe that it is clear that kawaii is a global concept that is applied in different fields and to different things, for which it is evident that there are several types of kawaii. So let’s see some of them.

Babies and animals: were the first to receive this denomination before 1960 and are considered the authentic kawaii, that transmits the original affinity and relaxation values.Cosplay café: It is a fairly recent fashion that arises from various concepts of the otaku culture merged. These are cafes or restaurants where the girls are usually young, characterized as maids (hence they are also called “maid cafe”), with outfits similar to those of certain anime. His dealings with customers must be very sweet or kawaii, as is the case with the protagonists of these series.Chemistry: it is about combining the rarity or extravagance with the kawaii to generate affinity. It is usual to see it in cosplay, when a character that is quite rare and tender at the same time is shown.Maid Café.Erokawaii: In this case, kawaii takes on a certain attraction, because the consumer feels adoration for a kawaii person or object.Change Mode: It is a fashion in which gothic and fantasy elements are fused for clothing that end up generating a certain tenderness in those who look at the young women who wear it.musical idols: the “idols” in Japan are a phenomenon that creates strong bonds of adoration with the followers, who see the musicians as kawaii, both for their clothes and for their way of being or acting at concerts.Creatures: anime and manga are full of imaginary creatures that we find cute or kawaii. The most famous is undoubtedly Pikachu.

Animes kawaii

As we have said, anime uses this word a lot, both as a concept to create characters, stories or beings and to include it in the dialogues of the characters. In fact, it often happens that when these characters indicate that something seems kawaii to them, they usually refer to girls or girls who scream with emotion.

Let’s see some examples of anime for otaku lovers of the kawaii world:

New Game!

Issued in 2016 with 24 episodes, this anime came to break stereotypes and inserts the young Aoba Suzukaze in the world of video game companies: an environment where effort and hard work prevail, but also adorable and tender girls who bring their childish side, resulting extremely kawaii.

Gakkou Gurashi!

had only 12 episodes in 2015, but it has made us die of tenderness… and of fear, since combine kawaii with zombie horror that our protagonists must face.

Yuki Takeya is a euphoric and full of life schoolgirl who doesn’t seem to notice the chaos that forces her to take refuge in the classroom of the School Life Club with three other classmates, while the world falls apart.


This 2014 series had 12 episodesbeautiful effects and a great rhythm. Naru Sekiya she is very passionate about fairy tales and is captivated by the beautiful Hana, whom he meets in the middle of a dance that makes Naru believe that he is living one of his favorite tales.

The friendship between the two is so tender that it will cause more than a sigh. In addition, it is an opportunity to learn about the yosakoi, a beautiful dance and of which Hana is the maximum exponent.

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