Sporadic Happiness (in Japan!)

(formerly) updated every Wednesday

#34 Cuteness everywhere in Japan

Probably one of the things I will miss the most about Japan, besides the food, is the cuteness that is everywhere.

Really, it’s considered acceptable, if not preferred, to make something, anything, cute.

For example, why have plain old metal and plastic sitting around when you’re trying to rope off a certain area? Why not have adorable frogs do the work, telling everyone you’re “sorry” for inconveniencing them?

Or, say you want to tell people to wear masks when they’re sick, to keep their germs to themselves. Write a sign saying “wear a mask?” Nope! Draw a hippo wearing a mask. Tell people to wash their hands? Nope! Show a raccoon washing his hands.

This sign is particularly well-thought out in that it’s also a play on words.  As the word “cover” as in “cover your mouth” is similar to the word for hippo (kaba), and the word racoon has the word “arai” in it which is from the verb “arau” which means “to wash.”

Japan also likes to cuteify sensitive subjects, such as Domestic Violence or unacceptable behavior when riding public transportation:

The left panel is showing that you don’t break things or steal things, while the right side is showing you that behaviors such as groping or sexual harassment are not acceptable.  Have you ever seen such a cute public service announcement?  Both this and the previous animal-themed one were found on the boat I often take to go places.

On a similar vein is this sign I found on the subway in Nagoya:

It’s basically promoting public transportation, and everyone’s cooperation.

Of course, cuteness is often used in advertising as well, such as this display for glasses cleaner (at least I think that’s what they’re advertising .  Or maybe it’s just standard laundry detergent?  I’m not sure):

I found this adorable anthropomorphic pencil (with an umbrella…?!) over a stationary store:

Mr. Donuts (my favorite Donut Chain!) recently sold some donuts with smiley faces on them:

Also I had an amazing Baskin Robbins Ice Cream Cone around Christmas, back in December 2010:

To be fair, they’re just cute gingerbread and holly cookies, and this sort of thing could probably also be found in the US.

Same can be said for the two mugs below, which were used to serve coffee at a fancy ice cream bar.  What’s an ice cream bar you say?  That’s a question that requires an entirely separate post to answer; look forward to it sometime in the future!

It’s also common to see adorable signs out on the streets.  For example, this lovely Pikachu is warning people (cars mostly) that children might come out of nowhere, so be careful not to hit them (basically).

Next we have a panda demonstrating that you need to look both ways to cross the street:

If you ever thought children’s things were cuteified in the US, or other countries, you have no idea what awaits you in Japan.

Textbooks in Japan, for elementary schoolers, are overly cute, and full of tons of pictures and lavish colorful illustrations.

That textbook actually is for 4th graders.  It’s a music textbook in a series.  Here’s the one that 1st graders get:

Here’s another example.  I’m not sure what grade level this is for:

Lastly, I want to introduce one more category of “cute” that you often find here.  And that is, mascot characters.

This is the mascot character of Matsuyama Castle, located in Matsuyama, which is the capital of my prefecture, Ehime.

Another mascot character for my area is this little guy, which represents the Shimanami Kaido (a large bridge connecting several islands in the Seto Inland sea that extends from it’s southern start-point in Shikoku to it’s northern end-point in mainland Honshu).  He’s supposed to represent crossing the sea by car, as he sports a tiny red car on top of his head.

There are a ton more mascot characters all over Japan, as well as Hello Kitty versions of everything (something that needs a post of its own, and I plan to get to some day).

I’m under the impression that South Korea has a thing for cute too.  I don’t yet know about Taiwan though.  I’m seriously hoping they’re also part of the Asian-cute-scramble because I will probably go into cute withdrawal after some time spent back in the US.  Though, I guess with the popularity of Japanese culture/anime, there’s still plenty of Japan products to be had in the US, and it’s not like we can claim the US is cute-phobic either.  There will be some home-grown cute as well, I’m sure.  I’ll get my fix somehow!

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#28 Homage to my Rirakkuma Stuffie

While  Hello Kitty still holds top ranking in Japan, Rirakkuma is still quite popular.  I wrote a post on this a while back.  Check it out if you haven’t already.

There’s actually a number of Rilakkuma plushes out there these days.  On that other post I linked to a bear that I *thought* was my bear, but actually isn’t.  My bear doesn’t seem to be on amazon.com (alas), but is on amazon.co.jp

This is the exact plush that I have:

Anyway, the thing I love about him more than any other stuffed animal I’ve owned (that I can remember) is that because of the way his body is and how his head is positioned, and how floppy his arms and legs are, he always looks somewhat alive, or realistic, in a way a stuffed animal who is forever in the sitting position never can look.

I sleep with my Rirakkuma every night when I’m at my apartment (I don’t take him with me on trips).  A while back I started to notice that whenever I’d wake up, Rirakkuma would be in a position that really looked like he was chilling, or resting, or was doing his own thing. So I snapped a few pictures over the span of several weeks, and today I will share them with you.

I want to stress that none of these are posed; instead they’re just how Rirakkuma ended up after I got out of bed.


My Rirakkuma has been my trusty companion since I studied abroad in Japan 2007-2008 when I bought him at a store near my host family’s apartment.

He was so important to me during my time studying abroad that I actually had him sit with me the whole time on the flight back home from Japan, and thus was able to proudly display him when I was reunited with my mom after being away for 9 months.

When I leave Japan for a 2nd time, in just under 2 months, I also intend to keep him close, though this time perhaps in my carry on suitcase, instead of right in my arms.  A 22 year old can get away with a stuffed animal on a plane, but can a 26 year old?  Probably.  Hmm.

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#22 Character Goods – Sentimental Circus

So for my last post I presented to you Rilakkuma.

However, for me, Rilakkuma is old news. I liked him 5 years ago. I still like him in a way; as mentioned previously I have a Rilakkuma stuffed animal that I sleep with every night.

However, I don’t buy Rilakkuma goods anymore.

What catches my eye these days is a line of goods known as Sentimental Circus.

They’re also owned by the company San-X (who owns Rilakkuma and a host of others).

Their star character is a rabbit wearing pajamas who has a Mad Hatter’s hat on.

I think he’s super adorable, and he has a host of friends including some adorable bird ballerinas:

As of this moment, I own two Sentimental Circus notebooks and a small clear plastic folder. I’m highly considering acquiring a pencil case as well.

The one I want most is a hybrid between a plushie and a pencil case:

fluffy Sentimental Circus pencil case with pink rabbit

The downsides though are that A) it’ll probably get dirty/ratty fairly quickly, and B) I’ve heard it doesn’t hold as much as a regular pencil case would.

There’s this one that would hold a lot more:

San-x Sentimental Circus Pen Pouch Cube Series

Or this one that would hold less but is a cuter design (in my opinion):

San-x Sentimental Circus Pen Pouch

In any case, I’m still deciding.

I have to exert a lot of self-control when looking at these goods. I’ve been pretty good though, in that every time I see a display of Sentimental Circus goods in a store, or browse offerings online, I fawn over and want to buy every single thing…but generally am able to pull myself away and say “no.” Or at the very least, “not now.” I have enough things at the moment. I have to be very conscientious over what I have because I’ll need to lug it all back in just a few suitcases, and ship any remaining things. There’s a limit to what I can reasonable carry home.

But if you’re in the need of something or are craving your own Sentimental Circus item, amazon has a great deal of their goods! Which is a relief for me in case I go into Sentimental Circus or character-goods withdrawal after moving back to the US.