Thursday, October 27, 2011

Kawaii sights in Kamakura and beyond

An unexpected(ly) kawaii sight encountered
in the grounds of Hase Temple (Hasedera)

Spotted on the road to the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine:
a general Studio Ghibli shop and one devoted solely
to fans of Kiki's Delivery Service (particularly Jiji the cat)!

What do you think of when you see or hear the word "Japan"? For some people, it's Zen -- the austere aesthetics as well as meditative beliefs. For some older folks (particularly Asians who lived through the second world war), it's that terrible conflict and life under Japanese military occupation. And for certain other folks especially after the events of March 11 of this year, it's earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear scares.

However, I also get the sense that for a whole lot of people for some time now, Japan is linked most with the notion of a fondness for the kawaii. And a visit to the Land of the Rising Sun is going to only strengthen this perception -- what with squeals and murmurings of "kawaii-neh!" often peppering the air (including along the paths leading to major temples and shrines like those at Asakusa, Dazaifu and Kamakura) and kawaii sights seemingly being found in every direction that one looks.

I'm not ashamed to admit that some of the kawaii sights I encountered on my recent Japan vacation really did make me go "awwww" and want to squeal with delight myself. And of course I ended up buying my share of kawaii items (at places like Kiddy Land and Tokyo station's Tokyo Character Street) -- both for myself and also as fun gifts for friends.

At the same time, however, there were certain items that took my breath away in terms of their sheer unexpectedness and audacity -- such as cell phone accessories in which the face of the Great Buddha of Kamakura was substituted by Hello Kitty (see an example here) or Doraemon! Frankly, I wondered if they bordered on the sacrilegious. But judging from the reactions, few -- if any -- people who saw them seemed all that discernibly nonplussed about these items' existence,

Still, while I couldn't bring myself to purchase examples of Hello Kitty-faced mini Daibutsus, I have to admit that I did come away with a handkerchief bearing the image of Kitty Chan seated on the lap of the Great Kamakura Buddha (like can be seen here) -- because, if nothing else, it really seemed to say much about as well as encapsulate contemporary Japanese (pop) culture to my mind as well as does look pretty kawaii-neh! ;b


baroness radon said...

I'm speechless.

YTSL said...

Hi baroness radon --

I hope you're speechless in a good way! ;D

sbk said...

hi ytsl,

It took me awhile to appreciate kawaii. Now I look for it even in convenience (konbini) markets when I'm in Japan. I don't buy a lot but love to look.

baroness radon said...

Kawaii is one of the ways we can tell the difference between local Japanese and tourist Japanese in Hawaii.
Yes, speechles in a ood way. Words fail sometimes! That's the beauty of photos. And paintings.

YTSL said...

Hi sbk --

Didn't realize it took you awhile to appreciate kawaii -- especially pretty much ever since I've known you, I've known that you are a fan of Totoro and Hong Kong's McDull! ;O

Hi again baroness radon --

"Kawaii is one of the ways we can tell the difference between local Japanese and tourist Japanese in Hawaii."

Heh. I have an Asian American friend who I once said didn't have a kawaii gene. But this was before I discovered that she has an inordinate fondness for penguins, including Sanrio's Tuxedo Sam... ;b

Mar said...

Loved your interesting post, TY!