Hello, Kitty is one of the world's most known and lasting cartoon characters, but even the most devoted fans have a lot to learn about the cute symbol. According to Kitty White's imaginary biography, she is a third-grader who stands approximately five apples tall and weighs around three apples.
The character was born in the London suburbs to Mary "Mama" White and George "Papa" White. She has a sister, Mimmy, a boyfriend, Dear Daniel, and a pet cat, Charmmy Kitty. According to The Culture Tour, Yuko Shimizu designed the figure in 1974 when Sanrio founder Shintaro Tsuji recognized that including adorable symbols on their items helped improve sales.
Shimizu portrayed Kitty as a young female "gijinka," or anthropomorphized cat. Hello Kitty's look was purposefully kept basic and created in primary colors to appeal to young children. She is seen without a mouth, wearing a blue sweater over a red top and her trademark red bow on her left ear.
Although being eaten in many cultures, Hello Kitty as a commodity translates internationally because her novelty appeals to capitalist society. To limit the scope of this article, I will concentrate on the evolution of the kawaii subculture in the context of Japanese escapism. Next, there is a comparison of the cultural backdrop of Hello Kitty's US buyers to how the worldwide audience utilizes Hello Kitty to skew perceptions of Japanese culture and people.
The origins of kawaii items like Hello Kitty in Japan's post-war escapism did not globalize with Hello Kitty. Instead, capitalist cultures drew toward her novelty, resulting in the mindless consumption of kawaii and the creation of stereotypes that led to the sexualization of school uniforms as well as the fetishization of youth and submissiveness.
Escapism is the inclination to seek distraction and comfort from painful realities – in postwar Japan, economic and societal circumstances caused many to feel the need to escape from life's reality. In former Japanese colonies, the prevalent opinion toward Japan is unfavorable, and propaganda drives people to identify Japanese people with their country's past.
Even now, in 2019, a Korean province wants to mark select Japanese-made items with the phrase "This product was created by a war crime corporation" (Kang). After WWII, as Japan rebuilt its economy, global commerce exposed Japanese residents to the anti-Japanese sentiment that had previously been filtered out by closed-door practices. Japan's distinct character as an East Asian colonial country resulted in a distinct sort of racism directed towards Japanese people.
The Japanese population had little power to influence worldwide sentiment towards the Japanese people or government, producing a desire to avoid this painful reality. Additionally, the 1973 oil scarcity in Japan caused a workplace reorganization, resulting in "worker deaths, most commonly from heart failure, stroke, or suicide" from working 60 or 70 hours each week (Hunt).
This labor culture resulted in Japan's cultural acceptance of hard effort, and the word karoshi emerged: death as a result of labor. Another urge to seek sanctuary was the monotony, bleakness, and tension of having to sell one's soul to work.
Thirdly, more directed toward people, there is an increase in responsibility as one age, as well as the painful reality of failing to meet expectations. This is similar to the Japanese attitude of mono no aware, which refers to bittersweet grief connected with fleeting entities such as youth since aging and time cannot be reversed. Youth is viewed as lovely in many cultures because it is transient, and individuals frequently wish to relive or recreate a period of blissful innocence and little responsibility – especially when people fail to fulfill mature duties.
One example of cultural expectations is the assumption that women would perform housework or bear and care for children when they reach a certain age. Because of these painful truths in Japanese society, as kawaii became popular, it might also enable individuals to escape from their lives and find shelter in kawaii.
Hello Kitty is a symbol of Japanese culture's globalization. As Hello Kitty grows older, she absorbs the culture that others imbue on her, gaining a worldwide cultural richness that she would not have gained if she had stayed in Japan.
Hello Kitty's reception in Japan is now more than just an escape from the gloomy undercurrents of postwar society – Japanese people take pleasure in her accomplishment in introducing Japanese culture to the rest of the globe.
Hello Kitty took on the persona of an emblem of representation for Asian Americans who felt lonely and unconnected in the United States, but capitalism has transformed Japanese escapism into another commodity that reinforces prejudices and bigotry in the United States.
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Cats are respected in Japan for bringing good luck and other pleasant outcomes. Maneki-Neko (招き猫, "beckoning cat"), a famous Japanese cat figurine, is thought to deliver such favors. The statuette is frequently of a cat with its paw raised as if calling.
A nobleman was taking cover under a tree during a storm, according to one Japanese folklore, when he noticed a cat waving its paw at him. He approached the cat, intrigued by the gesture, when a lightning bolt struck the precise spot where he was standing. The lord felt that the cat's deeds were responsible for his good fortune. As a result, the beckoning hand became a sign of good fortune.
Maneki-Neko is typically seen near the entrances to stores, restaurants, and other commercial businesses. These may also be used as keychains and piggy banks, which are more practical and portable.
Cats have always played a significant part in Japanese culture and society, as seen by the country's numerous shrines and temples dedicated to them. These are a few examples.