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To say kawaii or not to say kawaii? Almost half of Japanese guys don’t want to be 'cute'

13 Comments
By Casey Baseel

It’s no secret that Japan is seriously into cuteness. Accordingly, in most situations, deeming something kawaii, or cute, is seen as high praise.

This is especially true when it comes to women. Whereas in English-speaking countries some may take issue with what they perceive as a diminutive or demeaning connotation to the word “cute,” in Japan, calling a girl kawaii is almost universally considered a compliment. Even actresses and models who would ordinarily be described as “beautiful” by English speakers earn kawaii cred if they have a kind smile, or any other sort of soft warmth to the aura they project.

But while just about any Japanese woman is happy to be called kawaii, things aren’t quite so simple for men.

Internet portal My Navi Woman recently asked 114 men between the ages of 22 and 39 how they’d feel when a woman referred to them as kawaii. Only 52.6% said they’d come away feeling happy.

Those who’re in touch with their kawaii-ness, or kawaisa to use the proper term, simply take it as a compliment and don’t see the need to second guess the rationale behind it. “I’m happy when a woman shows any sort of interest in me,” one respondent stated matter-of-factly.

Another man concurred, adding that he’s got no problem being called kawaii if it’s coming from an older woman. “I feel like they’ll treat me nicely,” the 35-year-old explained.

Others took an even more practical stance. “Well, it’s better than having her say I’m not cute,” concluded another member of the kawaii camp.

Most pragmatic of all was one 26-year-old who’s clearly made peace with his limitations. “I know it’s impossible for me to be cool, so being cute is the only chance I have to win a girl over with my looks.”

Actually, his self-deprecating quote touches on one of the major reasons nearly half of the survey participants would rather not have a woman call them kawaii. To many, the word has a decidedly feminine ring to it, and isn’t exactly the look or image they’re going for. “I’m happy if a woman calls me cool, but with kawaii things aren’t so straightforward,” explained a 27-year-old health industry professional.

Many others echoed this sentiment, with statements such as “As a guy, I’m happier being called cool than cute.”

As a matter of fact, some dudes see being called kawaii as an out-and-out affront to their masculinity. “It’s like she doesn’t see me as a man,” grumbled one 27-year-old. “I’d feel like she’s making fun of me,” lamented another.

Unfortunately, with a nearly equal split between guys who view being seen as kawaii as a pat on the back and those who feel it’s a slap in the face, there’s no clear-cut way of handling the issue. Aside from avoiding the judgment altogether until you’ve sounded out a guy’s feelings on the matter, you can always try hedging your linguistic bets.

For example, during a meal I once had someone tell me, “There are some kawaii things about you.” I took it as the compliment it was meant as.

Plus, it still left me feeling secure enough that I didn’t feel like a wuss for ordering dessert.

Sources: My Navi Woman, Livedoor

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Five ways guys blow their chances at singles’ parties in Japan -- I’m dreaming of Kitty: One fashion designer’s love of Japan’s most famous feline -- Which manga heroines do Japanese comic fans wish they could be?

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13 Comments
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I think most men hate the compliment of being called cute because they don't want to be lumped into the same category as puppies or babies. So if you tell him that his dimples are cute, that doesn't convey his rugged handsomeness. Cute makes men feel like a little boy. So an alternative like handsome is what men like. People choose elementary words because they avoid deeper intimacy. Therefore saying something underused like handsome really says "I love."

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Only 52.6% said they'd come away feeling happy.

That's a pretty high percentage!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I think most men hate the compliment of being called cute because they don't want to be lumped into the same category as puppies or babies.

I think most foreign women feel exactly the same way! 100% agree!

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Wow, no wonder this country is having such a big problem with the birthrate. Guys are seriously letting this small thing bother them? "It's not the look I'm going for?" seriously! The same guy can be both cute and cool. It doesn't depend on how you look or what you're wearing (although it'll affect slightly), but more so on how you act or what you do. You could be called kakkoi when a girl sees your for the first time, then after talking with you and you do something cute, you could be called kawaii. What I mean is, even a cool ikemen like someone from Exile who's masculine can be cute such as being jealous of something but trying to play it off like he's not jealous at all although it's super obvious.

I don't know about other guys, but I'd feel happy if a girl says I'm cute. They're complimenting you. It's a good thing. It means they're interested in you even if it's a tiny bit. It's better than them not talking about you at all and only about themselves.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

There are good and bad meanings to "kawaii".

Last month I wandered into the wrong classroom at uni, and started taking the register. After a complete lack of response and a lot of stifled laughter, I realised my mistake and, red-faced, made a swift exit.

Apparently, according to some girls in the class, I was "kawaii".

I suspect that was a euphemism for "prematurely senile" : (

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I've been called kawaii many times (over the years) by girls at the high schools where I teach. It usually happens when I've done something funny, or imitated somebody like "Rola". Although I must admit I was a bit puzzled when it first happened. "How can a middle-aged fart like me be kawaii?"

2 ( +2 / -0 )

if the intentions of a person is good while saying cute so there should be no problem, but this is also a fact that Japanese society overused the world cute, when you enter a room, the room is full with many things for the sake of cuteness.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The cult of kawaii in Japan infantalises both men and women. Being called kawaii is not a compliment, I am not a child, or a kitten or a stupid pink bow so don't compare me to them.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

'Almost half of Japanese guys don't want be 'cute'".

Well, seeing as more than half of them aren't cute that is probably just as well.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If a woman says a man is cute she is saying she thinks he's gay. If a man says a woman is cute he is saying she is still a child

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Hahahahaha @umbrella that was funny because it is true!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I prefer to be called kimokawua than kawaii

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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