Kawaii Culture in The Philippines

Hello everyone ~ good afternoon!

Just want to share my answers from an interview I answered last year for a school project / research by M & C (don’t want to disclose their names for privacy) from the Netherlands. I’m not going to copy-paste everything but if you want to have a good read about Kawaii / the way we promote “kawaii” in the Philippines, please go read the blocks of text below. Hehe! ありがとう!

Illustrated by Little Miss Paintbrush

Dear Kaila Ocampo,

We are M* and C* from the I* College in the Netherlands. A few months ago we sent you a request to be interviewed by us about the Kawaii culture around the world.

Before the questions, we would shortly like to explain what our project is about.

We wanted to take a special culture and find out if it would be accepted by our culture easily and the reasons for it. Besides that, we wanted to discover the Kawaii culture and actually spread it through our project.

Most people in the Netherlands find it hard to accept something they aren’t used to. We are also curious about your organization in the Philippines and the way people in your country react to your events.

If you would like to see the final result of our project we would be honored to e-mail it to you.

So here are the questions, you shouldn’t feel obliged to answer them all.

What would be your ideal description of Kawaii?

My ideal description for kawaii would be: kawaii = inside & out


What is Kawaii to you?

For me, kawaii means empowerment. It is more than just a cute face, a fashion style or trend or a smiling character face. Before, it used to be just a “happy lifestyle” that I wanted to share with others but after the recent events, I believe that “kawaii” is a very empowering tool for everyone. It’s a highly recommended lifestyle for everybody who wants to creatively express herself or himself as who she/he really is.


Do you see a difference between Kawaii culture in Japan and the Kawaii culture in the Philippines? Could you name a difference and why do you think it’s like this?

Yes, I do see a difference between Kawaii culture in Japan and Kawaii culture in the Philippines. After living in Japan for 3 years and being immersed with their “fearless” way of kawaii culture, I could say that cuteness is indeed a way of life in Japan and from a business perspective, it’s a booming industry catered to kawaii consumers / everyone in general.

Here in the Philippines (maybe in Japan as well or from a Japanese kawaii girl’s opinion), “kawaii” is about surrounding yourself with cuteness (whatever that is readily available) and embracing your unique self and quirks. I feel that the Japanese has been desensitized by the kawaii culture already since it is widely accepted within the society from way before (hence the Harajuku-style of fashion, and the like being considered as “not a big deal”). In other countries especially in the Philippines, if you decide to become “kawaii” or be more expressive when it comes to fashion, do not be surprised if you become a “head turner” because at present, kawaii has not been accepted fully has a “social norm” here (but we are making a progress with regards to this). This is why we are passionate about making “Kawaii Philippines” a huge success here. Even if our own style of “kawaii” fashion here is more toned down than Japan, we still want or create a noise that will make our fellow Filipinos think that being “kawaii” is not being “weird”.. but being creative, fearless and confident (like the Japanese!).

Although the “kawaii” term is originally from Japan, I / we have always believed that each country has their own cute / adorable culture. When we started “kawaii” more aggressively for the year, we aimed to bring “Kawaii Japan” culture straight from the roots but we do not want to brainwash our community that “kawaii” is only from Japan. It just so happens that the term for “cute culture” that is called “kawaii”.. is indeed the cutest term out there (the closest word for “cute” in Filipino is “Kyut”).

Maybe in Japan (and being as a first-world country), it is easy for many girls or kawaii enthusiasts to experience and incorporate kawaii fashion in their daily life. In the Philippines, it is a different case.

This is why we promote “kawaii” here by having workshops, events, and kawaii empowerment talks to teach  / enlighten them that you do not have to buy this certain pack of expensive eyelashes or that kawaii Angelic Pretty dress you see from Tumblr just to be considered “kawaii”. Instead, we first educate them what we think of “kawaii lifestyle” (like a Kawaii Girl should not be just pretty outside, but also a doll inside) and how they can be resourceful and practical.. and still be super kawaii. What is most important is what the kawaii girl truly feels, not the sugarcoated external things she dresses herself up with just to be considered beautiful or kawaii.  It is such a deep way of seeing kawaii but we at Kawaii.PH believe in this real essence of what “kawaii” should be.


Through our project, we mainly focus on the clothing style. Which sub-Harajuku name would fit this style the best (Like fairy-kei, Decora, etc.)? Or do you think it deserves its own name “Kawaii”?

I think that for kawaii culture to be readily accepted or “easier to digest” by others, countries that aim to spread this culture should mix their own kind of cute culture with the Japanese version. And then later on, they can reintroduce the original roots of the (more) unique kawaii subcultures such as decora, fairy-kei, and the like.

This is a good read about aomoji-kei by Chai, a Filipina who knows a lot about Japanese street fashion. 


Was it hard to integrate the Kawaii culture in the Philippines or is it still considered kind of weird?

Introducing a foreign concept such as “embedding the kawaii lifestyle to our life” into a conservative country such as Philippines was quite challenging at first. For some, it is still quite weird but since we have gatherings, events, online groups and such that promote “let’s embrace our own quirks and weirdness to spread happiness” concept… these people from the community have become more indifferent about the judging looks / stares from others. Kawaii is a form of self-expression for us here.


We think the Kawaii culture mainly spreads through social media, do you agree? If not, what do you think?

I think that the power of social media is equally great (or sometimes, greater) than traditional advertising / promotion. KyaryPamyuPamyu and the efforts of the Japanese government to spread the “Cool Japan Phenomenon” (which includes kawaii culture) have been effective as well (using the mainstream media). The first kawaii convention in the Philippines was a huge “social media” success because we didn’t allot a budget for trad. advertising. Creativity + team work + utilizing social media = recipe for something to be viral. [Reference]


Do you have any future plans considering Kawaii culture in foreign countries?

Yes, definitely! We really want to spread our vision or multiply affiliates with other countries’ kawaii communities too in the future. One of our biggest dreams is to travel around the world as a group and organize events that are kawaii-related (and are about kawaii empowerment).


What makes the Kawaii culture attractive (for you, and most people)?

Kawaii culture used to be my “escape”, now it is now my “life” / “lifestyle”. It’s attractive because it’s very uplifting and it brightens up my mood.. and motivates me to do things. I get inspiration from kawaii as well. 🙂


Have you ever meet someone who was totally against it? What was his/her reason?

Not really, but I do have friends who are not really into kawaii culture (they respect the culture) but they are not totally against it. Kawaii is about happiness, positivity, and the like .. so I don’t see why people should have any reason to hate it, haha. I usually surround myself with like-minded people (usually those who love kawaii) so I haven’t encountered super anti-kawaii people yet haha. Hopefully never 🙂


 What are the most common reactions when you tell people what you do?

Usually they give me these puzzled looks and some get weirded out but when I tell them how I / we started, they seem to have positive feedback after, haha.


What is the nicest/weirdest reaction you have ever had to your Kawaii projects/looks?

Nicest reaction would be the supportive and warm messages. The weirdest… I cannot remember though, haha!


Who do you see as the main Kawaii leader?

I don’t see anyone as the “main” Kawaii leader, but I believe that there are many “kawaii leaders”. My co-teammates are my co-leaders as well!


Is there a “Kawaii leader” you really want to meet?

I would love to meet KyaryPamyuPamyu again in the future! 😀


What aspect of Kawaii do you find the most interesting/can you show yourself through most?

I think that the fashion aspect of kawaii is the most interesting way to express yourself. What you feel inside can be translated in the way you dress up.


Where do you get most of your inspiration from?

I get inspiration from the simple cute things around me / that I have surrounded myself. Whether it’s a rilakkuma stationary or an icecream-shaped umbrella.. or even a smiling cute baby.. I get inspired by those. Haha!


Are there any other things you would like to tell us, or would maybe be helpful for our project?

I think that “kawaii” isn’’t a superficial culture in a way that it’s just about looking kawaii from the outside, or being able to afford the expensive / branded kawaii clothes. It’s a way of being.. and a state of mind, just like what Kyary would tell us.



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