Recently I've been accumulating books about Japanese pop culture, particularly ones that reference the Lolita fashion in one way or another. There aren't a ton to choose from, but there have been a few releases that seemed worth checking out!
The first one I'd like to review is Manami Okazaki and Geoff Johnson's Kawaii! Japan's Culture of Cute
from 2013. Of the few I've recently picked up this one is probably my
favorite of the bunch! I had actually almost skipped over this one
completely because the cover made it look like a much more shallow book
than it actually was. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was
insightful as well as authentic, showcasing some things beyond just
Hello Kitty bento boxes. Kawaii! contains a number of interviews
with a variety of different creators about their own take on the kawaii
lifestyle. The book is divided into six different aspects of this kawaii
The first section of Kawaii!, "The Roots of Kawaii" is probably
the most wordy, even though it's composed of almost entirely interviews,
just as the rest of the book is. There's really just a lot to be said
about the early days of kawaii in the 60s and 70s! I love the kawaii characters of the 70's and it was really cool to get to see some pictures of the "fancy goods" of the era, in addition to the totally iconic shojo art of the era!
Interviews in this section include the curator of the Yayoi-Yumeji Museum, Eico Hanamura, a couple different researchers with the Kyoto International Manga Museum, Macoto Takahashi, and Yumiko Igarashi.
The second section was entitled "Cute Design Overload" and focused on
kind of "iconic" Japanese kawaii, from cute merchandise characters like
Hello Kitty and Gloomy Bear, to cute shops like Swimmer, to cute public
works, to even Itasha which is an otaku fad of tricking their cars out
with anime character decals.
This section was one of the largest in the books and very photo oriented, but still had a fair number of interviews with the Gloomy Bear creator Mori Chack, Swimmer designer Hiroko Sakizume, and Nameneko creator Satoru Tsuda.
The third section in the book, "Adorable Eats", was very brief and all about cute foods! This section was mostly devoted to pictures, but it did have an interview with Miki Ikezawa, a rep for MaiDreamin.
The fourth section was called "How to Dress Kawaii" and was tied with the chapter on kawaii designs for largest in the book! There were tons of interviews and street snaps in this section, pretty much all of which I found very interesting (which is fantastic, because it was the reason I bought the book in the first place!). While most of this section is devoted to street fashion and designers, there is, of course, a few pages devoted to cosplay and Comiket. Books like this almost always inevitably will talk about cosplay, and I'm thankful that this book kept it very short and kept the focus on fashion designers and lifestyle wear rather than costume and otaku culture.
Interviews in this section included Shoichi Aoki of FRUiTS, Kumamiki of Party Baby, Takuya Sawada of Takuya Angel, Yuka and Vani of 6%DOKIDOKI, Toyoko Yokoyama from Conomi, Lolita models Rin Rin and Chikage, and Gashicon of h.NAOTO's Hangry & Angry line.
The fifth section was "Cute Crafts" which is pretty self explanatory! It featured a number of different Japanese crafters, of both modern cute things as well as traditional Japanese cute things like kokeshi. This section was brief but packed full of pictures and interviews with various crafters.
The final section is called "Kawaii Visual Art" and is a bit different from the design section because it featured artists who create art for themselves rather than as part of a larger merchandising business. This section was also brief but packed full of pictures and interviews. A lot of the art in this chapter was trendier and edgier than the design section and was a refreshing end to a book about all things kawaii.
Interviews featured in this chapter include Chikuwaemil, Junko Mizuno, Osamu Watanabe, and a handful of others.
Overall, while the actual Lolita related content in this book is minimal, I really enjoyed this book. I particularly loved the different takes on the kawaii culture, and even the different creators very definitions of the word!
I actually recently put together a list on Amazon of all the English language books about Japanese street fashion that I could find! I have a handful of them but I'm hoping to work my way through the list and eventually get them all. Especially while I'm anticipating the possible English translation of Shades of Wonderland!