Kawaii Japan Cute Glossary

Glossary of Japanese Kawaii Words & Phrases

Japanese Kawaii Glossary

A glossary of kawaii Japanese words and phrases. Cute (kawaii) culture in Japan is deeply associated with anime, manga and street fashion but enters all facets of Japanese life from instruction manuals to road signs. Kawaii culture is now very much part of the national character and identity of Japanese people.



Ageha - Japanese fashion magazine.

Aidoru - idols - media personalities considered particularly cute or kawaii.

Aikyou - coquettish behaviour - equivalent of aegyo in Korea.

Akiba - abbreviation for "Akihabara," Tokyo's famous electronics, gaming, kawaii and nerd culture district.

Angelic Pretty - Japanese fashion company specializing in Lolita fashion and based in the department store Laforet Harajuku.

Anime - a shortened form of the English word 'animation' referring to Japanese cartoons.

Anpanman - cute manga aimed at elementary school children.

Yosan Line Anpanman Train, Shikoku, Japan.
Anpanman Train


Baby, The Stars Shine Bright - Japanese fashion house focused on kawaii clothing.

Bigaku - sense of beauty.

Burikko - child-like appearance and demeanor.

Chopper in Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan.
Chopper in Akihabara


Cat Street - fashionable shopping street in Shibuya, Tokyo.

Chiba-kun - Chiba Prefecture mascot.

Character Trains - are cute trains with carriage liveries and interiors based on anime and manga motifs.

Chopper - is the cute mascot of the Hakujuji family care products company.

Ciao - shojo manga magazine.

Cool Japan - term used to encompass Japan's soft power expressed through anime, manga and (kawaii) cute fashion.

Cosplay - cosplay (costume play) is the fetish for dressing as Japanese anime or manga characters. Read more on cosplay

Cute - kawaii.

NHK Studio Park in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan.
Domo-kun, NHK Studio Park in Shibuya


Dear Daniel - Hello Kitty's childhood friend and later her boyfriend.

Decora - fashion style characterized by wearing lots of brightly-colored decorations on oneself and one's accessories such as bags and smart phones.

Dojin - (Doujin) refers to a group with shared interests.

Dojinshi - are works, often anime, manga, hentai etc, published by dojin groups.

Domo-kun - official mascot of Japan's public broadcaster NHK.

Doraemon - popular robotic cat manga character created in 1969 by manga drawing duo Fujiko Fujio.


Egg - influential Japanese women's fashion magazine.

Eiga - the Japanese word for film or movie. Read more on eiga

Ekichoken - "Station Master Doggy," is the cute mascot of the Chiba Prefecture branch of JR.

Enjo kosai - 'compensated dating'; a euphemistic term for schoolgirl prostitution with older men.

Ero-kawaii - erotic kawaii, a mix of sexy and cute.


Fairy-kei - sub genre of Lolita fashion style.

Fujoshi - lit. "rotten girl" - a term for female fans of yaoi ("boy love") anime, manga and other literature.


Gals - urban fashion tribe.

Ganguro - fashion tribe that favors a heavily tanned look and bleached hair. Originated in the 1990's in Shibuya and Ikebukuro.

Gashapon (gatchapon) - capsule toys bought from a machine. Read more on Gashapon

Gei-no-jin - TV "talent" or star.

Gloomy Bear - kimo-kawaii character - a huge pink bear with blood-stained nails.

Gothic-Lolita - a sub-genre of Lolita emphasizing the Gothic look.

Gundam - legendary Japanese animated science fiction phenomenon.

Hello Kitty Roadworks, Tokyo, Japan.
Hello Kitty Roadworks


Hamtaro - manga character from the 1990's.

Hatsune Miku - a 16-year-old girl with long, turquoise hair first developed as synthesizer Vocaloid software.

Hello Kitty - cute cat character created by Sanrio. Hello Kitty has no mouth and lives in London.

Hello Panda - Japanese biscuit associated with kawaii culture.

Hi-Chew - cute Japanese candy.

Hikonyan - popular character representing the city of Hikone in Shiga Prefecture.

Hime - princess - slang for spoilt girl.

Hina Matsuri - Doll Festival held in March and known for its cuteness.


Idol - aidoru - media personalities (talento) considered particularly cute or kawaii.

Ikebukuro - geek culture and cosplay shopping district in Tokyo. Read more about Ikebukuro


JoJo - character mascot of the Toyama Fire Brigade.

J-pop - Japanese pop music often featuring young idol singers, boy-bands and girl-bands such as Morning Musume, AKB48 etc.

Joshi kosei - high school girls.

Manga inspired kimono at Takashimaya Department Store, Tokyo, Japan.
Manga inspired kimono at Takashimaya Department Store, Tokyo


Kabuki - highly-stylized traditional Japanese theater developed from the 17th century onwards which has an influence on contemporary Japanese fashion. Read more on kabuki

Kanebo - Japanese cosmetics company.

Kappa - mythical frog-like evil sprite.

Karaoke - lit. 'empty orchestra' - singing along to to your favorite tunes on a mic often in karaoke boxes. Read more on karaoke

Kashu - singer.

Katakana - Japanese syllabary of angular characters often considered childlike and therefore cute Read more about katakana

Kawaii - (可愛) cute, loveable, adorable and the appreciation of cuteness in Japanese society and fashion. Read more on the culture of cute.

Kayokyoku - popular songs.

K-Books - popular chain of stores selling dojinshi.

Keitai (denwa) - the Japanese term for mobile, or cell, phones. keitai rental

Keroppi - 1980's kawaii frog character by Sanrio.

Kewpie - Kewpie dolls are kawaii icons in Japan.

Kimo-kawaii - gross-cute typified by the character Gloomy Bear.

Kimono - traditional Japanese dress worn by both men and women. kimono products

Koara no Machi - (Koala's March) cute cookie in the shape of a koala.

Kodomo - child.

Kogal - a contraction of kokosei gyaru (high school gal) - a type of kawaii fashion based on the Japanese school uniform with very short skirts and loose socks.

Koneko ji - "kitten writing" - cute school girl handwriting.

K-pop - Korean popular music with a large following in Japan. Read more on K-pop.

Kumamon - massively popular character representing Kumamoto Prefecture. Kuma is "bear" and "mon" local slang for "man".


Lolicon - Lolita complex.

Lolita - fashion style based on Victorian and Rococo era clothes to achieve a cute, doll-like look.

Loose Socks - school girl socks that crossed over into kawaii fashion.

Lolita in Omotesando, Tokyo, Japan.
Lolita fashion in Omotesando


Mamba - aka yamamba - sub-tribe of ganguro.

Mamegoma - cute seal characters produced by San-X.

Mamezo-kun - "Bean Boy".

Mandarake - chain of stores specializing in both dansei-muke and josei-muke dojinshi, used manga of all genres including porn, figurines and cosplay accessories.

Maneki Neko - cute ceramic beckoning cats thought to bring good fortune, especially for businesses, as the cats are believed to attract customers with their beckoning paw. Maneki neko products

Manga - Japanese comic books, as popular with adults as with children. manga products

Matsuri - a traditional Japanese festival. Read more on matsuri

Meido kissa - maid cafe (see Akihabara).

Mickey Mouse - important kawaii icon in Japan along with Minnie Mouse.

Miffy - imported kawaii icon from Holland.

Moe - strong affections (sometimes sexual) towards Japanese anime and manga characters.

My Melody - cute rabbit character by Sanrio.

Akihabara Glam Biker, Tokyo, Japan.
Akihabara Glam Biker, Tokyo


Naruto - popular manga and anime created by Kishimoto Masashi.

Netsuke - carved fastener made from wood or ivory, a precursor of kawaii culture.

Nico Nico Douga - Japanese video sharing site.

Ningyo - doll.

Noh - a masked, highly stylized form of classical Japanese theater developed in the 14th century and subsequently refined to its present minimalism. Seen as an influence on Japanese fashion trends such as ganguro.


Obi - an embroidered sash for a kimono.

O-josan - lit. "princess" - young woman of conservative taste.

OL - abbreviation for 'Office Lady' - a female office worker.

Omukai Jizo - kawaii jizo made from plastic balls placed in plant pots.

Onnagata - man playing woman's role in kabuki.

Otaku - nerdy hobbyist obsessed by manga, anime, gaming or other sub-cultures.


Pikachu - kawaii character from Pokemon.

Pokemon - (Pocket Monsters) video game developed for the Gameboy in the 1990's by Nintendo.

Popteen - monthly teenage fashion magazine.

Purikura - shortened form of "purinto kurabu" - teenage mug shots. Read more on purikura


Q.E.D. - detective manga, created by Motohiro Kato.


Retoro - "retro."

Rilakkuma - compound word from "relax" and "kuma" meaning bear - a cute soft, toy bear.

Romaji - a system of transcribing the Japanese language in to the Latin alphabet. Read more about romaji

Satoko-chan and Sato-chan, cute mascot characters of the Sato Pharmaceutical company in Japan..
Satoko-chan and Sato-chan


Sailor Moon - popular shojo (teenage girl) manga series.

Sakura - cherry blossom is pink - the ultimate kawaii color.

Sanrio - company behind the Hello Kitty phenomenon and other cute products.

Satoko-chan and Sato-chan - cute mascot characters of the Sato Pharmaceutical company in Japan.

Sempai - one's elder and therefore superior at school or work.

Sensei - teacher, master.

Shibui - austere sense of beauty.

Shibuya - Tokyo district and center of Japanese youth culture. Read more on Shibuya.

Shin-jinrui - lit. "new human species" media term for empty-headed, consumer-orientated youth.

Smapho - abbreviation for "smart phone."

Stich - Disney character incorporated into the Japanese kawaii pantheon.

Sweet Lolita - a sub genre of Lolita with more lace, ribbons and bows.


Tarepanda - kawaii character produced by San-X.

Teineigo - polite language.

Temomin - the cute mascot of a chain of massage clinics in Japan. temomi means "massage" in Japanese.


Ume - plum.


Visual kei - style in J-pop with fashion emphasis on over-the-top hair styles, outrageous costumes and make-up.


Wa - harmony also prefix to denote Japanese.

Wabi Sabi - a basic concept of Japanese aesthetics, stressing unpretentiousness, plainness, earthiness, and satisfaction with imperfection.


X-Japan - influential Visual-kei band in Japan.

Yuru kyara in Tokyo, Japan.
Yuru kyara in Tokyo


Yabai - can be translated as dangerous or risky but often used by youth in the sense of "dodgy" or "weird."

Yaoi - aka Boys' Love or BL, a genre of male-male romance in anime and managa that appeals to a mostly female fan set.

Yokai - Japanese monsters - often associated with Mizuki Shigeru's influential manga and anime, most notably GeGeGe no Kitaro.

Yosakoi - Yosakoi is group formation dancing to fast-paced modern electronic music, but is based on earlier folk dances from Kochi in Shikoku.
Read more on yosakoi

Yukata - thin cotton gown.

Yuru kyara - lit. "soft or loose characters" often adopted by a town or city as their mascot or "character" such as the hugely popular Kumamon in Kumamoto.


Zentai - full body Cosplay suits.

Zettai ryoiki - Japanese fashion term referring to the gap of exposed thigh between loose socks and a mini-skirt.

Japanese Glossary
Japanese Food Glossary
Japanese Acronyms & Abbreviations
Korean Glossary

Books on Japanese Culture

Goods From Japan to your home or business.