hello-kittyAuthor: Tim Craig
Published March 2017.
Length: 15 pages (plus exhibits)

“Kawaii,” the Japanese word for “cute,” is big in Japan. It is found in many forms, including cute goods, cute food, cute idols, cute fashion, cute handwriting, and cute behavior. Kawaii has even become a national symbol: one of those things, like ninja, sushi, and Pokémon, that pops into people’s minds when they think of Japan. Kawaii is also profitable; the world market for Hello Kitty products, to take one example, is worth $6.5 billion.

“Kawaii”: Hello Kitty and Japanese Cute examines the roots of Japanese-style cute and explores some of the questions its popularity raises: What is the appeal of cute? Is it universal or culture-specific? Is kawaii’s popularity fundamentally healthy, or does it harbor darker aspects as well? The case also takes a close look at Hello Kitty, and the business model that parent company Sanrio has used to turn this famous cat, drawn with a few simple lines, into a successful business empire.

Topics: History, forms, and meaning of “kawaii” (cute); Hello Kitty; Character merchandise; Licensing