Jeremy Leung — Reading Journal 2

The reading titled “Kitty Litter: Japanese Cute at Home and Abroad” has assisted me in understanding the widespread impacts of the character Hello Kitty in addition with the concept of kawaii both in Japan and around the world.

Previously my interpretation of the Japanese word kawaii was simply its English translation into “cute”. The readings have greatly broadened my knowledge of this concept and has lead to the discovery that my previous interpretation was extremely inadequate. Different dimensions encompass the concept of kawaii including the physical and emotional dimensions (McVeigh 2000) Physically any item which is small in size is considered kawaii or if the object is originally large in size it can also be classified as kawaii if it is shrunken down to a small miniature size. In addition to this is the emotional dimension whereby any character who evokes vulnerability and a need to be cared for is also considered to be kawaii. The idea that miniature is cute is certainly relatable in our everyday lives. When shopping at stores such as Ikea which have children sections containing miniature versions of the adult furniture these miniaturized pieces are frequently labelled as “cute” due to their size.

Secondly the reading highlights the vast impact of Hello Kitty on the everyday life of people around the world. Hello Kitty for some is essentially a way of life as they have many different aspects which revolve around this one single fictional character. Within an office environment Hello Kitty has the ability to increase office morale even during economic downturn. In an family environment the consumption of Hello Kitty merchandise makes an individual a better mother to her children. It is considered the mothers obligation to teach her children how to be consumers as they grow up. Hello Kitty helps in defining an individual and provides one with a sense of belonging within themselves and towards others. Generation gaps as bridged as mothers and daughters come together as well as friends. In interviews with consumers it was discovered that they each had their own memories of Hello Kitty from when they were children. These memories of special occasions has the ability to bring peace to one of the respondents. Personally I can also relate to this idea as I myself have memories of Hello Kitty when I was a child. Many years ago there was a Hello Kitty partnership with McDonalds where they released a new toy each day over a period of time. There was this one particular toy which I really wanted and on the day I went with my family down to McDonalds to line up for over an hour to get this one toy. This memory reminds me of relationship I have with my family and the sacrifices which they have made for me over the years. Such events certainly have the ability to bring people together and develop relationships.

Both the concept of kawaii and the character Hello Kitty undoubtedly have played and will continue to play a major role in the lives of those in Japan and around the world. The popularity of this cartoon cat shall continue to expand as it is passed on to each subsequent generation.

McVeigh, B. 2000, ‘How hello kitty commodifies the cute, cool and camp: “Consumutopia” versus “control” in Japan’, Journal of Material Culture, no. 5, pp. 225-245.

 

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