Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on May 2012

© きいち/小学館

Kawaii” is now so thoroughly associated with Japanese cuteness around the world, the word has its own English Wikipedia entry. But how did the kawaii esthetic arise? The cozy Yayoi Museum takes a look at the emergence of kawaii characters through so-called fancy goods—stationary, hand towels and the like—in the early and mid-20th century. Craftsmen and artists like Rune Naito began to decorate household products with big-eyed girls and adorable animals that in retrospect can be seen as the direct ancestors of Hello Kitty and Pokémon.

Yayoi Museum, until Jun 1 (listing).