Libmonster ID: JP-1298
Author(s) of the publication: E. L. KATASONOVA

Doctor of Historical Sciences

Hello Kitty is probably one of the most recognizable and dearly loved toy characters not only in Japan, but also far beyond its borders. Kitty is a small white cat created by the designers of the company "Sanrio" in 1974 and first seen on postcards and purses of this company. This image was so much to the taste of customers and brought such popularity to both Kitty herself and her manufacturers that they immediately decided to mass-produce a wide variety and even unexpected products with a pretty face of this pet: towels, T-shirts, socks, mugs, boxes for sweets, costume jewelry and much more.


In those years, English literature was very popular among Japanese schoolgirls, and the image of one of Alice's kitties from L. Carroll's book "Kitty White" to some extent inspired the designer Yuko Yamaguchi with the main idea of creating a Japanese Kitty, but she cannot be accused of directly borrowing the drawing or name.

The reason for Kitty's popularity lies in her non-standard appearance: a small torso, a large head, ears sticking up, beady eyes and a button nose, but the most important feature of Kitty's image is that she is traditionally depicted without a mouth. Perhaps it was this important detail that allowed the little white cat to capture people's hearts forever. According to the artist herself, thanks to this incompleteness, " her "face" expresses what the viewer wants to see. If you are sad, you will think that she is trying to cheer you up. If you are happy, she will be happy with you. " 1

Another secret of Kitty's attractiveness is that at the behest of artists and to please customers, somewhere once a year this cute kitty updates her image, changing small but important visual details of her appearance or their color scheme. Thanks to such pleasant and unexpected reincarnations, Kitty is like a living being, never ceases to pleasantly surprise and delight its real and potential owners. And Kitty likes not only little girls, but also girls, and adult women, and even men who have already stopped being shy to wear a tie with her cute cat head.

And, finally, another important circumstance is the powerful "promotion" of this extremely successful commercial project. Kitty not only became a cult character; thanks to the active participation of Sanrio employees in "her fate", she literally turned into a living being and lived her own life: she goes to school, goes shopping, bakes pies, is fond of collecting various small pleasant things and is friends with her friends-a teddy bear, a cat named Po named Dear Daniel, takes care of her own pets-Charmmy Kitty, Sugar hamster. The range of products has now reached about 15 thousand items.

Kitty today finally penetrated all spheres of life in Japan. It has come to the point that a huge sculpture of this cute kitty was recently created, which is displayed in the central store of the Sanrio company in the lively Shinjuku district of Tokyo.


Today we can talk about a whole huge empire of pretty Kitty, which continues to successfully conquer the whole world. Kitty became an honorary ambassador of the United Nations Children's Fund - UNICEF, not to mention her high representative functions in Hong Kong, China, and other countries where she speaks on behalf of Japan.

Among the true fans of this cute toy are many world celebrities and Hollywood stars: Ricky Martin, Mariah Carey, Heidi Klum, Steven Tyler, Christina Aguilera, Mandy Moore and many others. It is thanks to their passion for this " cat " assortment-jewelry, toys, clothes with their favorite logo, etc. - that the popular "Hello Kitty" brand has become world-famous, and the kawaii style has received worldwide recognition.

Today, not only the East, but also the West has taken up this new Japanese style on a wave of literally

Ending. For the beginning, see: "Asia and Africa Today", 2009, N 6.

page 55

the unprecedented fashion for Japanese comics-manga, animated films-anime, pop and rock music, fashion, cuisine, which has spread to many countries in Europe, America, but especially Asia.

The word katai is already firmly established in the everyday vocabulary of all fans of Japanese pop culture, and it is in its Japanese sound. Moreover, today it is becoming an integral part of English-language pop culture, including, for example, in the famous video clip of popular singer and designer Gwen Stefani "Harajuku Girls" (Harajuku Girls) or in the list of neologisms compiled by students and graduates of Rice University in Houston (USA)2.

The world-famous artist Takashi Murakami, one of the brightest representatives of Japanese neo-pop art of the 1990s, who has worked extensively and successfully in the field of Japanese comic culture, defines the reason for the popularity of kawaii aesthetics not only in Japan, but also far beyond its borders: "Western consciousness tends to absolutize the sphere of economy, and people fall under the influence of Japanese comics. influenced by this stereotype. Being drawn into the system of economic relations, some gain a lot, others lose a lot, and the latter are much more. And such people need hope for the future, the hope that cute funny things give them. " 3

It is these economic phenomena that Murakami explains the ever-increasing natural need of people for warmth and kindness, which are inherent in the aesthetics of kawaii. At the same time, he does not exclude the second, and, I think, the main side of this problem: "If you turned to the study of the human brain, I am sure that you would find some biological mechanism that makes people feel warm at the sight of a child, kitten or puppy. The artist's job is to try to uncover this mechanism in a logical way, " he concludes.4

The trademark "Hello Kitty" has become one of the symbols of modern pop culture. This image is widely used in cartoons, as an element of design and accessories, replicated in countless souvenirs, etc.

Last spring, it was announced that Kitty will become the "face" of the legendary fashion house Christian Dior and will present its models for the autumn and winter seasons. In these toilets, a funny white cat with a red bow on her ear appeared on the pages of the June issue of the Japanese version of Vogue magazine. In the photos, Kitty poses with the famous John Galliano-the main couturier of the house "Christian Dior", a model in a cat costume makes purchases in the best boutiques in Paris.


The aesthetic category of kawaii as a cultural phenomenon is increasingly recognized by many Japanese researchers as an integral part of modern Japanese culture and, moreover, the Japanese national identity. Thus, Tomoeki Sugiyama, a well-known researcher of this problem and author of the book "Cool Japan", believes that the origins of the concept and aesthetics of kawaii lie in the Japanese culture that honors harmony.5

If we turn to the principles of Japanese traditional aesthetics, then the first reaction to this judgment causes a feeling of seeming disagreement with this position of the scientist, since completely different classical ideas about beauty involuntarily pop up in our memory. First of all, we are talking about the mono - no avare category, which was cultivated during the Heian period (794-1185) of the court aristocracy, based on a sharpened perception of beauty and the desire to comprehend the sad charm of things, especially vividly depicted in Japanese literature of this era.

Over time, aesthetic priorities have changed, or rather, transformed into other forms that are more relevant for the new historical period. Thus, the subsequent eras of Kamakura (1185-1333) and Muromachi (1336-1573), associated with the entry into the historical arena of the military class-samu-

page 56

new forms of strict mysterious beauty, inspired by the religious and philosophical worldview of Zen Buddhism, were finally established. They found their expression both in Noh theater and haiku poetry, both in monochrome painting, and in the aesthetics of the tea ceremony, which became a kind of synthesis of all types of arts of that time. We are talking, first of all, about such categories as yugen - the hidden unknowable essence of things, or wabi-sabi - the discreet beauty of an object covered with traces of time and patina, etc.

The spirit of the next historical Tokugawa era (1603-1868) was embodied in philosophical and artistic - aesthetic concepts based on the Buddhist concept of ukiyo-"the mortal world", which, however, was not always interpreted in its original causal context. In the urban culture, especially in the years of the Japanese Renaissance-Genroku (1688-1704), sad thoughts about the impermanence of existence and about divine karma turned into hedonistic attitudes, the desire for the joy of being and sensual pleasures. A new link in the chain of categories of beauty became the concepts of sui-original, real, good taste, elegant, refined, and iki-authentic, simple, pristine, without impurities.

In short, at first glance, in none of these aesthetic categories, imbued with the spirit of rigor, emotional restraint and a rather pronounced spirit of sadness and passive worldview, we find direct parallels with the rather modern, according to current ideas, "glamorous" concept of kawaii, which gives us reason to classify this fashionable hobby in the category of kava. passing and rather short-term phenomena. However, if you look at the problem from a slightly different angle, you will immediately find recognizable features in the aesthetics and worldview of almost all historical eras.

"A bird feeding its nestling, a child picking up an object to show it to an adult - all these simple gestures and actions are truly fascinating, "wrote the famous Japanese writer Sei Senagon, who lived in Heian times, in her" Notes at the bedside " (X century) .6

Another equally famous court lady of that era, Murasaki Shikibu, creates the first Japanese novel, The Tale of Genji (XI century) and its famous hero, the brilliant Prince Genji, who became the epitome of beauty and grace, and his adventures - the" encyclopedia of life "of an entire era. It is generally believed that it was at this time in Japan that the idea of beauty in general was formed and standards of male and female beauty were born, in particular, which entered the "blood and flesh" of Japanese culture and remain relevant today.

At the same time, it is characteristic that, for example, in contrast to Russia, in whose culture the masculine features of the hero have always been poetized - whether it is excellent health, a heroic physique, a blush on the face, etc., in Japan, the requirements for male and female appearance almost coincide. Here they always appreciated fine facial features, long hair, a thin, fragile figure, large expressive eyes. Isn't this where the idea of androgynous human nature comes from - images of pretty boys who look like bisenen girls, or girls endowed with masculinity and enviable willpower, who have become popular manga and anime characters, and, of course, the embodiment of the new kawaii aesthetic.

For centuries, the ancestors of modern Japanese have created magnificent works in various genres of art - not only strict and concise in form, but also captivating with their refinement and smoothness of outline, small things that store human warmth.7 Today, all these items seem extremely relevant not only because of their artistic value, but also, mainly, because of the pronounced spirit of kawaii that is embedded in them and is in tune with the aesthetic ideas of beauty that exist in modern Japanese society.

This does not mean that all Japanese people, without exception, fully accept such assessments. A number of researchers, analyzing the craving of Japanese people for everything pretty, childish and attractive, explain this by the desire to stand out from the crowd, to arouse sincere sympathy for others and thus establish friendly human contacts in this divided world. Modern Japanese youth truly live in a closed, isolated world, spending most of their time in front of a computer, completely immersed in this virtual life. And the problem of lack of live human communication and disruption of traditional social contacts with peers has become one of the most painful social realities of modern Japanese society. That is why choosing a fashionable style of kawaii helps teenagers to join a fairly large community of their peers - representatives of this subculture and feel themselves in the circle of friends or, at least, like-minded people.8

Some analysts believe that the modern mass culture of Japan has a predominantly female face, i.e. the main consumers and buyers of services of the modern cultural industry are young women, which is associated with the changing role and position of women in modern Japanese society. A number of scholars, especially those on the left, interpret this issue as a kind of women's challenge to the centuries-old social and political disenfranchisement and oppression in Japanese society.

Others attribute these protest moods mainly to young people, who allegedly express their disagreement with the traditional material and spiritual values that their fathers and grandfathers lived by, but at the same time preferring to stay as long as possible at their expense in the world of childhood, free from any material worries and social responsibility. The children of the children of the so-called "baby boom" turned out to be too spoiled literally overnight by the material prosperity of their parents during the years of economic prosperity of the country, and therefore not prepared for work and social responsibility to society.9

That is why many of the experts are skeptical about the concept of kawaii, considering it, first of all, a sign of an infantile mindset. In particular, cultural critic Hiroto Murasawa, a professor at Sein University in Osaka, argues that kawaii is "a way of thinking that generates reluctance."

page 57

defend your point of view ... The individual who chooses to stand out is defeated. " 10

Approximately the same point of view is expressed by the scholar Diana Lee, who sees certain traces of the influence of Buddhist philosophy in youth infantilism. First of all, we are talking about such character traits as absolute dependence on others, lack of will, etc., which are preached as the absolute virtues of a person and are opposed to the character traits that are not acceptable in these ancient postulates, such as the demonstration of willpower and pronounced individuality. 11

In Japanese philosophical thought, it is difficult to find ideas or arguments that somehow connect the problem of growing up with the issues of acquiring individual freedom and civil rights, as is customary, for example, in England or the United States. In Japan, Confucian norms of social behavior, such as the ability to cooperate with other members of society, the tendency to seek compromise, and the unwavering fulfillment of one's obligations and social responsibility, are still very influential. And only the period of childhood to some extent symbolizes the still remaining space for the expression of individual freedom.

In this regard, according to researcher Sharon Kinsella, the challenge to society in Japanese post-war youth culture has now developed into a protest mood against the entire adult world.12 Just as Disney celebrated nature by opposing the emergence and dominance of industrial society, the concept of kawaii romanticizes the world of childhood, contrasting it with the world of adults. Idealizing their childhood moods and tastes, young Japanese people, as if unnoticed by others, try to win a place for themselves to express their inner freedom, which they are inevitably doomed to lose as they enter adulthood.

In the 1990s, the ideas of deliberate infantilism and a return to the world of childhood-what, in fact, is the concept of kawaii-became widespread in Western youth culture. Young women of radical moods began to wear clothes in the doll style or in imitation of old clothes with an unimaginable abundance of ruffles, frills and lace, quite amusingly combining it with rough shoes without heels and other accessories clearly taken from the men's wardrobe.

This style was called Riot Grrls (the aggressive-sounding word "girls", first used by vocalist Kathleen Hanna from the American band "Bikini Kill"). This is how the representatives of the new youth subculture, which combined feminist consciousness and punk aesthetics, called themselves. Soon this new style was adopted by female rock and punk bands such as "Hole and Babes in Toyland".

At the same time, the Japanese rock band "Shonen Knife", consisting exclusively of young girls who have chosen the role of infantile teenage girls, is gaining great popularity in the West. Their appearance, costumes, not to mention the repertoire devoted to Barbie dolls and other toys and amusements of children, clearly bore the imprint of imitation of everything children's. However, paradoxically, it was their style that creatively inspired many representatives of Anglo-American pop culture to new artistic searches and contributed, for example, to the emergence of such a legendary group as Nirvana.

The same Japanese roots can be traced in the history of the appearance of the famous character of the British comics "Tank Girl", published in 1988. This is a half-punk, half-childish image that was adopted in Hollywood in 1996, symbolizing the transformation of this style from the underground to the mainstream of commercial youth culture.

This style was followed, by the way, by the famous Icelandic pop star Bjork, and members of the legendary Spice Girls group, etc. By the way, the slogan of this group was the words "girl power", which carried a slightly feminist connotation, but had a great attraction for female and adolescent audiences. Their stage image was a strange but well-thought-out combination of external infantilism and powerful internal explosive energy.

The direct or indirect influence of the style of kawaii on Western youth and Western youth culture is also evidenced by many foreign publications of that time. In particular, we are talking about the popular English magazine "Face", whose pages in the 1990s were literally full of headlines and photos taken from the realities of Japanese youth life. And on the streets of London, young men and women began to appear more and more often in the then-fashionable colorful T-shirts borrowed from Japan, and doll-like cute dresses in the manner of Japanese schoolgirls. The famous English fashion designer Miss Selfridge immediately adopted these Japanese models and created a new line of semi-childish, semi-circular youth clothing, which sold out almost instantly. In short, there is a lot of evidence to show how Japanese youth culture in the 1980s received favorable conditions for its development in the Western youth environment of the 1990s.

A legitimate question arises about the reasons for the relevance of a rather specific, at first glance, direction of Japanese youth culture in the West. This is probably due to the significant political and social changes that have taken place in Europe and America, and have caused local youth to question the expediency of upholding the ideals of individualism and the traditional ways of self-affirmation in Western societies. And then, at least at this stage, young boys and girls chose the path of their Japanese peers, preferring an entertaining game of childhood to youth rebellion.

1 Nishtonia, 2007, N 40, p. 18.


3 Nipponia.., p. 19.

4 Ibid.


6 Nipponia.., p. 14.

7 Ibid.


9 Ibid.





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