Professor Hiroko Chiba

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Professor Hiroko Chiba

“I’m very interested in Japanese cuteness now. So, I collaborate with Japanese researchers who do work on Japanese cuteness over there. I’ve been working with Professor David Burke here at DePauw, and it has been a very fun development for me.

“The concept of ‘kawaii’, Japanese cuteness, it’s a little different from ‘cuteness’ that we define in English. The difference is that cuteness comes from something non-threatening and peaceful, so there is a history of the word. Originally, the word meant ‘pitiful’ or ‘helpless’, you know, like a baby. Babies are cute and round, and you want to protect them. That kind of feeling came to cuteness, the concept of cuteness in contemporary society. So, somehow Japanese society really pursues this design principle. If you go to Japan, you see a lot of cute things. To people outside, they might find it a little too much. Everything has to be cute. The posters are cute, even the warning signs at construction sites are cute, there are many cute products, and people even think that certain movements are cute. Look at roombas! For people who grew up in the U.S., do they see the cute products the same way as Japanese people do?”