The word kawaii, meaning ‘cute and sweet’ in English, has been part of the Japanese culture for centuries. While the word and trend were historically associated with young women and children, there has recently been an attempt to expand the definition of kawaii outside of its traditional borders to other age and gender groups by creating uniquely synthesised words and trends. The newly coined term otona-kawaii [‘adult-cute’] refers to mature women who passed their teen years and continue to dress cute and behave innocent and adorable. In this paper, a focus will be taken upon the new concept of otona-kawaii, and how it is defined and evaluated by the Japanese people.
Results of a recent survey conducted among male and female respondents between the ages of 18 to 29, showed that many of them were in favour of the idea of behaving cute at an older age. It was also found that women were more familiar with the term otona-kawaii and had a more positive approach towards it than men. The results of the study suggest that kawaii can be extended beyond infants and may apply to other age populations, such as mature women.
The aim of this study is to bridge the gap between kawaii and maturity by providing some empirical evidence and information, bringing to a deeper understanding of the concept of kawaii, contributing to the scholarship of the kawaii culture in Japan.
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