It may come as a surprise to those obsessed with the historical romantic view of Japan as a great warrior culture that nothing dominates the Japanese cultural mindset more than the concept of Kawaii. Kawaii simply means cute, helpless, innocent, or lovable. In Japan no matter where a person travels they will be inundated with cute things whether it be advertising, city mascots, fashion, or the Japanese mindset of what is desirable. While in America we tend to be drawn to that which is 'cool' or 'sexy', the Japanese are certainly drawn to that which is Kawaii. This concept is so deeply held that even the most manly Yakuza gangsters can be melted by that which is Kawaii.
Upon first arrival in Japan I thought nothing of it, but now after having been here awhile I admit that I now am impacted by that which is cute. Being the father of two young daughters I cannot but help to be constantly reminded, whenever we go out, of cuteness from the average Japanese person. Many Japanese people are so saturated with the concept of Kawaii that when we do go out they will stop what they are doing and go into a kind of frenzy exclaiming how cute our children are. Sometimes we will even get a “Mecha Kawaii”, which means super cute. Why is this the case?
It seems to be the case that after seeing something cute and innocent we are instantly triggered with warm feelings. These sentiments have gradually been included into Japanese culture over time to where it is now a major force. The Japanese seem to have tapped into cuteness and turned it into a powerful force of marketing that can potentially change our perception about just about anything. Almost every city has a Kawaii-type mascot to draw attention to otherwise boring governmental business as well as tourism. Even the police have a Kawaii mascot intended to promote a safe or fun type image that inspires trust of authorities. This feel-good sense has been exploited to the max here in Japan to promote just about anything under the sun that can generate cash. It would seem that this love of all things Kawaii has generated a greater love for the things of this present world in the Japanese people's hearts. Cuteness has become something that Japanese people literally idolize. It seems to energize them as sort of an escape from a seemingly mundane, mechanical life of strict schedules and repetition.
God has certainly instilled within us a love for that which is innocent, cute, and helpless. When we reflect upon these things it reminds us of our own frail beginnings of infancy and early childhood. We can realize that we are really not as great and mighty as we think we are since we all came from humble beginnings. Once we realize this we can begin to realize that we are indeed not the greatest power in the galaxy, instead rather turning our focus to God which is the true great power.