Scope, infrared


In the era of globalization, the land of the samurai and the salaryman has acquired a strange new identity. Japan now shows itself to the world as a country of ­“pink-­clad girls, animated fan­tasies, and winking Kitty logos,” writes Christine R. Yano, a professor of anthropology at the University of ­Hawaii.

Kawaii, or “Japanese cute,” has become a global phenomenon. The rage for cute stretches from the ­pre­pubescent haunts of the world’s shopping malls to the catwalks of haute couture. At New York City’s Fashion Week last year, one show featured the work of 30 ­cutting-­edge designers inspired by Hello Kitty, the iconic mouthless cartoon kitten that engendered Japanese cute. In Times Square, shoppers flocked to a ­newly ­opened Sanrio Luxe boutique peddling diamond-encrusted Hello Kitty watches and fine ­luggage.

Sanrio is the company that launched Hello Kitty and the whole cute phenomenon in the 1970s. Founder Tsuji Shinitarou saw the cartoon figure as “the Japanese cat that would overtake the American mouse,” according to Yano. He is the de facto father of “pink globalization.”

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