Thursday, October 16, 2014

I had no idea kawaii was now an English word: Kimono-clad princesses offer apologies for roadside construction in Kyoto

Kimono-clad princesses offer apologies for roadside construction in Kyoto

I came by that info from this article.  I'm fine with kawaii joining the vast numbers of words English has borrowed from other languages.  Most of them are food words, but there are enough that aren't.  And we use various foreign language phrases at times, too, because they have a certain je ne sais quoi.  That sounds smarter than saying we use them because they have this thing and I don't know what to call it.  It's probably charisma.  Kawaii means cute, but used for a particular form of cuteness as exemplified by Hello Kitty and various manga and anime characters (to use two more borrowed words), it has charisma.

For example, your grandchild is cute.  Your grandchild's Sailor Moon blanket is kawaii.

And yes, to make a general observation, there is a lot of emphasis on kawaii in Japan.  Every prefecture, many cities and practically every company you can do business of some kind with has as a mascot some cutie-pie cartoon character.  And some of these involve sending emissaries in fluffy costumes to do personal appearances.  Even the grotesque and hilarious Funasshi, a parody of these "wild characters," is ultimately kawaii unto itself.  Himself?  Herself?  Our local cute character is Ieyasu-kun, a kawaii-ified version of the guy who beat all comers to unify Japan and set up the Tokugawa Shogunate that then ruled the country as an all-powerful dictatorship for about 200 years. 

It's fun to have your photo taken giving the peace sign and smiling broadly next to a fluffy, round-headed caricature of an iron-willed man responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in battle, plus who knows how many political murders in order to consolidate his rule.  I feel the same way about Ieyasu-kun I do when I see the presidents race at a Washington Nationals game.

C'est la vie!

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