Kawaii (pronounced like “Hawaii”), is much more than just a Japanese word used to describe anything that looks really cute — it’s actually a style, a culture, and a magical kingdom of lollipop dreams, blushing cheeks and squishy pastel hugs. From entertainment to clothing, food, toys, handwriting, personal appearance, behavior and even mannerisms — kawaii cuteness can be found all over Japan!
The fascinating rise of all things adorable in Japanese culture emerged in the 1970s as part of a new style of writing. Today, kawaii has gone far beyond its basic definition and has become an integral part of Japanese society. It has become so popular, that people are now flocking to Tokyo to indulge themselves in every aspect of this whimsical craze.
And, if you think you’re too old for kawaii? Think again, because there are plenty of eye-popping, smile broadening, heart-melting kawaii experiences that will make even the sourest lemons go “aw”!
These places are uber-kawaii with extra super-duper kawaii on top!
(We think you get the picture).
Takeshita Street in Harajuku
This is the usually the first point of call for kawaii fans and fashionistas alike. It’s a pedestrian street near Harajuku Station and it’s full of kawaii shops, restaurants, cafés and creperies. Keep in mind that this alley is a pilgrimage site for teens from all over Japan, so be prepared for crowds. Fans of Gwen Stefani will also recognize the fun-filled shopping mecca from the song Harajuku Girls, as it was the main inspiration.
Hello Kitty Store in Tokyo Solamachi
You can’t talk kawaii without paying homage to Hello Kitty. Keeping it cute since 1974, this iconic brand has a range of merchandise that includes everything from diamonds to door knobs, and you’ll be mesmerized by the entire Kitty spectrum when you visit their store in Solamachi.
Moshi Moshi Box Harajuku
This kawaii hotspot is as useful as it is cute. Here you’ll find tourist information, foreign exchange, free Wi-Fi and a stand that serves crepes themed after your favorite kawaii characters! Located on Meiji Dori, not far from Harajuku and Meiji-jingumae Stations (look out for the huge technicoloured clock), the Moshi Moshi Box should be your first stop, as the shopping fray in Harajuku can be a little intimidating at times.
A whole world of cuteness awaits at the unofficial land of kawaii; Sanrio Puroland. This theme park offers a wide variety of live performances and attractions including a sneak peek inside the life-size Hello Kitty house. You will be mesmerized by full-scale musicals, audience participation shows and of course, finally knowing what Kitty’s bathroom and living room look like.
Alice in Wonderland Restaurants
The Alice in Wonderland restaurant is a testament to the popularity of kawaii culture in Japan! With five spread out over Tokyo, each one of these wonderful restaurants has a different concept but the same theme. You can choose from Alice in a Labyrinth in Ginza, Alice in a Fantasy Book in Shinjuku, Alice in a Magical Land in Nishi-Shinjuku, Alice in an Old Castle in Minami-Ikebukuro, and Alice in a Dancing Land in Shibuya. And, even though the food isn’t 5-star quality, they make up for it with pop-up picture menus, waitresses in Alice costumes, and food in the shape of Alice in Wonderland characters. Well-worth a tumble down the rabbit hole!
Kawaii Cake Shops
A cute little cake is a perfect representation of what kawaii means because there is nothing cuter than a cute little face on an inanimate object! In Tokyo, there are hundreds of extremely good cake shops, offering mind-blowing kawaii cake creations that are as sweet and fluffy as the next. La Terre Saison in Futakotamagawa or Funs in the Hikarie complex in Shibuya will leave your heart-melting and your mouth salivating.
If kawaii culture is your jam? It’s worth checking out the travel costs to Japan!