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Kawaii: The Emergence and Evolution of Cuteness in Japanese Girls’ Culture


Time & Location

June 27, 8pm – 10pm EDT



As part of our pop culture series, The Japan Foundation, New York started a special “Girls’ Culture Series” to gain a broader and deeper understanding of the roots of Japanese girls’ pop culture. In the past three episodes, we have explored shojo manga, Takarazuka Revue and boys’ love.

For our fourth and final episode, we will dive into kawaii, the culture of cuteness now associated with Japan across the world. Why is Japanese culture full of cuteness? What is the difference between “kawaii” in Japan and “cute” in the West?

In this panel, we will consider girls’ kawaii culture, including literature, illustration, manga, alternative fashion and fancy goods. Come join our panel discussion with four kawaii experts: Joshua Paul Dale, Masafumi Monden, Megan Catherine Rose and  Erica Kanesaka. They will delve into the history of how the kawaii aesthetic was created, and how it has evolved from 1,000 years ago to the present day all the while exploring the social background and motivations behind the popularity of kawaii and the cultural influences it has had on the world over the years.




The discussion will be followed by a live Q&A. Now is your chance to ask the experts your questions about kawaii culture! Please ask your question when you register. Live commentary will also be enabled on the YouTube stream, so you can participate in the Q&A session live as well.

This is a FREE event. Registrants will receive the link to the stream via email.



Dr. Joshua Paul Dale:

Joshua Paul Dale specializes in Cute Studies, a new academic field. He was awarded a four-year grant by the JSPS (Japan Society for the Promotion of Science) to study the Japanese kawaii and American cute aesthetics in 2020. Dale is a co-editor of The Aesthetics and Affects of Cuteness (Routledge 2017) and the editor of “Cute Studies,” a themed issue of the East Asian Journal of Popular Culture (Intellect 2016). Dale has been featured as an expert on cuteness by media outlets such as CNN, National Geographic, The Guardian, The Cut, Refinery29, and The New York Times. A professor in the English Department at Tokyo Gakugei University, Dale’s book Irresistible: How Cuteness Wired our Brains and Conquered the World is forthcoming from Profile Books in the summer of 2023.
Official Website

Dr. Masafumi Monden:

Masafumi Monden is a Lecturer in Japanese Studies at the University of Sydney. He writes and teaches on modern Japanese cultural history, fashion, art and popular culture, gender studies, Japanese language, and international relations focusing on Australia’s ties with Asia. Masafumi is currently working on two book-length projects: a co-authored book on Japanese shōjo culture and its cross-cultural influences, and a sole-authored book project that looks at the cultural history of male modeling in Japan as a means to engage with visual and consumer culture, the interlinked history of race, aging, technology, fashion and consumption, and the dissemination of bodily aesthetics and gender ideals within the modern Japanese imagination. His new project deals with the cultural history of Australia and Japan.
Official Website

Dr. Megan Catherine Rose:

Megan is a Sociologist and Arts-based researcher at the Vitalities Lab UNSW Sydney, Australia, and an affiliated researcher at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision Making and Society. She is Director of Research at KAWAII4U, a not-for-profit that supports young artists in Japan and Australia experiencing precarity connect with their peers overseas and develop their own portfolios and practices. Megan researches kawaii across a range of contexts, including kawaii fashion affiliated with Harajuku, anthropomorphic robots, games like Animal Crossing and characters like Rilakkuma and Aggrestuko. She explores how the cute objects shape and enhance our everyday lives.
Official Website

Dr. Erica Kanesaka:

Erica Kanesaka is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Gender Studies at the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women at Brown University. This fall, she will be starting as an Assistant Professor of English at Emory University. She specializes in Asian American literary and cultural studies, with interests in childhood studies, transnational feminisms, and global histories of kawaii and cuteness. Her current book project examines the circulation of children’s books and toys between Japan and the United States to explore how cute aesthetics have mediated transpacific race relations from the late nineteenth century to the present. Erica’s work has appeared in numerous public and scholarly publications, including the Journal of Asian American Studies, positions: asia critique, and Public Books.
Official Website



Previous Session

Boys’ Love: The History and Transformation of BL in Asia

Watch all the episodes on YouTube.


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