Monday 4 October 2010

Cute sells!

As opposed to sex, like what I'm used to...

I always knew this I guess, living in the land of cute and all, but not until my livelihood depended on the business I created did I really get to what extent 'cute' plays such a big role in Japan.

You want to get a rich boyfriend? Be cute. (Good in bed is a plus...)

You want to get a good-looking boyfriend? Be cute.

You want to get a rich, good looking boyfriend with a heart of gold. Sorry, fuck that, not happening.

You want to get your way? Be cute.

You want to swindle an old granny out of her life savings? Being cute and pathetic is the key my friend.

You want to get out of an awkward social situation? You can umm and ahh all you want but as soon as you mention the word "kawaiiiiii" in a high-pitched tone, you're in!

It's like a secret club, if you can't recognise the cuteness, you're banished.

A prime example has been the last few days, now usually, I'm pretty minimal with the things hanging on the walls and stuff at the school. I have the ABC posters, the basic learning shite, but apart from that, white walls. Simple. Plain. Nice. BUT... NOT KAWAII, NOT KAWAII ENOUGH!!! I should have heard the 'non-kawaii' alarm bells ringing sooner!

So in the last few days I've been stocking up on decorations for Halloween. In actual fact I fucking hate Halloween, in my opinion it's a pointless holiday that I've never celebrated until I came to Japan where I now have to wear a wanky hat every year and be the princess of fucking genkiness, but besides the point really.
I got loads of pumpkins and bats and all that shite and went to town on the school, outside and in. Now, I feel a bit ridiculous surrounded by all this crap but I can not even remember the number of kids (and adults) who have walked past the school since the decorations have been up and squealed "kaaaaaawwwwaaaaaiiii!!!" in giddy delight. This conversation even went down the other night outside the school door:

Small child (AKA my cash cow)- Mummy mummy, look a the cute decorations, they're so, so... cute!!

Mummy- (Obviously thinking, 'Fuck me, if I go in there that money sucking gaijin is going to take me for all I've got for speaking her native language to my child!) Yeah, they're cute aren't they! OK, let's go!

Small child- I want to go in, it looks like fun!! The teacher is smiling at me!! I'm going in!

Mummy- No, not now!! I'll call tomorrow I promise!

Small child- Awwww, but I want to go in now! Promise you'll call OK!!

So this got me thinking, when it isn't Christmas or Halloween or Easter should I just plaster the whole school in hearts and clovers?? Will it be like bees to honey, getting sucked in by all the extreme cuteness...??

Another key to a good business in Japan is a small face too, well duh! Obviously!
I suspect this is closely related to the cute factor though. For example, I had two little 6 year old girls come in for a trial lesson, after the lesson was over the mother asked her daughter if she had fun and did she want to take lessons. The little girl said: "Yes I had fun!! And that teacher has yellow hair and a small face!!" The mothers laughed and agreed with her that, yes, the teacher did in fact have a small face, and yellow hair for that matter. Errrr, what the fuck? Since when does small face and yellow hair have anything to do with learning English?? I mean I wasn't offended or anything but... huh?!
I was contemplating dying my hair black for winter but decided it would be bad for business, I always put on weight in winter from all the comfort food and imagine, a teacher with black hair and a big face!!! Shock horror!!!

My mum and sister arrive tonight, so excited and dreading it all at the same time. I know we'll have fun but the logistics of our rat hole of a house are a bit of a worry... We'll see anyway!


  1. Well, if cute sells, I'd imagine you do alright just based on your profile picture. But I can totally see where that factor is big there for some reason. Can't actually put it into words or a coherent thought though. Meh -- I'm old and forgetful. Enjoy the time with your family.

  2. I always wonder what exactly constitutes a "small face." Sure someone who is skinny will I probably have a smaller face than someone who is not, but my ex-boyfriend (a japanese guy) went further with it and told me that Japanese people tend to have big faces while foreigners (he probably mean "white people") tend to have smaller faces. I have yet to figure out what he was talking about...

    I agree, black hair would probably be bad for business... as strange as that sounds!

  3. Ohh, have i got a Kawaii! story.. so recently i volunteered to lead little tour groups of Japanese high school girls around my Uni (easy job, good money..), but on the second day of doing the tours was nearly かわいい!'ed to death by my first group. They came up to me and chorused "かわいい~!" and wanted to take my picture, and when i got embarrassed about it and tried to hide my face from the sudden rush of cell phones and cameras, it was "かわいい~!", and then when i started leading the tour and talking, it was ‎"声もかわいい!", and then everything we passed by was "かわいい!", and everything i did, and then at the end, when the 5 other groups were gathering back together, there was this swarm of girls who wanted pictures of (not with, OF) me and and my friend Jason.. seriously 15+ girls with cameras chorusing "かわいい!", "イケメン!", "かわいい!", "イケメン!" It was.. the most i think i've ever heard that word in my entire life. Their shrill voices echoed in my head for the rest of the day!
    Never have been told i have a small face though. Hmm..
    (Sorry for the long-ass comment, but your post reminded me of this!)

  4. Yeah the are heaps of other holidays you can milk for "kawaii-ness"

    Valentines Day, White Day, St Patricks Day, Christmas, Easter, Your birthday, Umi no hi

    Oh and when all else fails- go for a theme- jungle or ocean or summer, fall, winter, spring, cherry blossoms blah blah blah, start of school (think pencil cases, books and apples!)

    Definitely think the decorations will attract more customers. That and your small face and yellow hair!


  5. i was going to say something along the lines of what lulu said. as soon as halloween is over, christmas decorations can go up and after christmas, you can definitely work the cute snowman and snowflake look. or how about mittens, mugs with steam, anything that makes you think "warm"??

    spring with flowers and i like the back to school idea. (and YES, more clovers! more hearts! more cute! more more more!!)

    at work for summer we did ice cream cones, hotdogs, fish, star fish, crabs and big white fluffy clouds all cut out of construction paper and taped to the walls. was very cute, i must say. and then pretty soon you're back to halloween!

    an endless cycle of cuteness - what could be better?! :P

  6. My dad taught English in Japan for years (as a black haired Japanese-American).

    One of the reasons he left was that while he spent years trying to figure out the best ways to teach English to Japanese people, any obviously foreign (and particularly Caucasian) person off the plane had a badge of native English speaking authenticity that he couldn't match.

  7. Great post. Great honesty. Understandable frustration. If only I'd had yellower hair and smaller face - I might just have stayed in the Land of Kawaii.

  8. This is hilarious. Kawaicountry has clearly not changed a jot since I was a JET teacher 14 years ago - although I wish your caustic commentary had been around then!

  9. Plaster the place with cute kangaroo photos - and then offer them a freshly bbqd piece of kangaroo steak.

  10. Great post small-faced kawaii wonder!! I never thought of praise for small faces before coming here, let alone thought of people's faces in such terms...I never know what to say when I get the Your face is so small!! thing so I usually grin like an idiot and try to make a joke about it. Whenever I have low self-esteem days, I just remember how "lucky" I am to be small-faced :)