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New exhibition explores the Japanese culture of cute

A NEW exhibition at Rugby Art Gallery and Museum explores the Japanese culture of kawaii.

Mitsuo ToyazakiKawaii - Crafting the Japanese Culture of Cute features works by artists who have turned to traditional crafts to push the boundaries of kawaii beyond its most famous manifestation, the global Hello Kitty brand.

But while Hello Kitty even has its own theme park in Tokyo, the influence of kawaii - meaning cute - has spread throughout Japanese culture.

From street fashion to commercials, manga to anime and cosplay to Pokémon, kawaii plays a pivotal role in Japanese life.

Kawaii - Crafting the Japanese Culture of Cute delves deeper into the world of kawaii, featuring humorous, beautiful and dark pieces created from traditional crafts of Japan such as textiles, ursushi (lacquer), ceramics, glass, ohigashi (sculpting soft bean paste) and washi (handmade paper).

And while many pieces take inspiration from kawaii's modern manifestation, other works in the exhibition reclaim the meaning of kawaii as described in Sei Shonagon's 11th century Pillow Book, where in a chapter entitled Endearingly Lovely Things she wrote: "In fact absolutely anything that's tiny is endearing."

Kawaii - Crafting the Japanese Culture of Cute, a collaboration between Rugby Art Gallery and Museum and the University of Creative Arts, runs from Saturday 30 January to Saturday 2 April.

Jessica Litherland, Rugby Art Gallery and Museum's senior exhibitions officer, said: "The combination of traditional crafts and kawaii has created a unique exploration of a concept which has enjoyed an enduring influence on Japanese culture and now further afield.

"Brands such as Hello Kitty and Pokémon have a global audience, the influences of manga and anime can now be seen in western cinema, while the cosplay sub-culture has a rapidly growing following here in Britain.

"This exhibition explores the many facets of kawaii and we're looking forward to visitors joining in the exploration of the culture of cute."

A number of themed activity sessions, workshops and talks take place at Rugby Art Gallery and Museum during the exhibition.

For more details, and information about other exhibitions and events at Rugby Art Gallery and Museum, visit

Picture caption: © Mitsuo Toyazaki

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