totes kawaii

Whenever I’d chat online with friends from Mexico (I studied abroad in Puebla to learn Spanish, and didn’t realize I’d also learn to like drinking beer, as it was cheap and tasty), I’d always confuse them by posting “awww.” “What’s that mean–awww?” they’d ask. My response included baby animals, romantic gestures, and anything miniature. “Is that a baby can of Coke? Awww!” I took it for granted that the “awww” reaction for cute or sweet things was universal–doesn’t everyone go “awww” (at least on the inside) when they see puppies or babies,  or (cutegasm alert!) puppies AND babies?

This picture COMPLETES me.

This picture COMPLETES me.

Or super-elaborate marriage proposal musicals?

In English, we say, “Aww, that’s SO cute!” or “How adorable!” It might even be the truncated “totes adorbs” (totally adorable) made über famous by Stacy London of TLC’s show What Not to Wear. Though I have a feeling that phrase will become so overused (mostly by me) that it ever-so-quickly gets buried alongside “That’s swell” and “the bee’s knees.”

WWST?

“Gee whiz, Stacy, isn’t this black-and-white office decor just the bee’s knees?”

In Japan, “aww” = kawaii (rhymes with Hawaii). Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, fellow expats!  It’s one of the few Japanese phrases we mostly monolingual Americans pick up, right up there with “hai” (yep) “choto ma-te” (wait a sec) and “arigato gozaimasu” (thanks a lot). You’ll hear “kawaii!” a lot around little children, but also with just about anything else that’s cute and/or cool. Here are a few examples:

Yeah, I'm going to need you to come in on Saturday.

Yeah, I’m going to need you to come in on Saturday, mmkay?

My yellow legal pad now seems grossly inferior.

My yellow legal pad now seems grossly inferior.

I found this shirt at a Target in the U.S. That's right, kawaii style is international.

I found this shirt at a Target in the U.S. That’s right, kawaii style is international.

Here are some kawaii things I’ve come across that are distinctly Okinawan:

Giant happy pineapple. It's. so. FLUFFY!

Giant happy pineapple. It’s. so. FLUFFY!

kawaii flower pots

kawaii flower pots–no gardener should be without them.

Not just Hello Kitty. Shisa Hello Kitty. Totes Okinawan.

Not just Hello Kitty. Shisa Hello Kitty. Totes Okinawan.

What’s that, you say–yeah, you in the back? You’re not sure why these are necessarily Okinawan? Pull up a chair! We’ve got a lot to cover.