Translated by MATCHA_En
Japan's Kawaii Culture: What Is It And Where Can You Find It?
Written by Sawada Tomomi
This article takes a look at just what the word kawaii means, and its impact on Japanese culture. Learn all about kawaii characters, places, souvenirs, fashion styles and more!
14 Kawaii Places in Tokyo and Peak Kawaii Souvenirs
Now let's hit the streets and see just a few of the best places to find kawaii culture in Tokyo, plus take a look at some of the most recommended cute souvenirs available at stores in these and other areas.
1. Sanrio Puro Land
Sanrio is the company behind internationally-beloved kawaii characters like Hello Kitty, My Melody, Pompom Purin, Cinnamoroll, and the Little Twin Stars. Sanrio also operates an indoor theme park featuring those characters, known as Sanrio Puro Land.
Featuring a variety of shows and attractions, the park offers many opportunities for visitors to meet Sanrio characters in person. The food items sold in the park are themed after the characters and are so kawaii it’s almost a shame to eat them. Naturally, there are also Sanrio Puro Land-exclusive goods available for purchase, and the park is a kawaii paradise for fans of Sanrio characters.
Address: Tokyo, Tama, Ochiai 1−31
2. Kiddy Land in Harajuku
Harajuku’s Kiddy Land is a toy store with an impressive selection of kawaii merchandise featuring anime characters and various other goods. While it is a toy store, the shelves are also crammed with Japanese accessories and all sorts of anime character items.
Some of the popular souvenirs available for purchase here are the socks and cell phone cases with anime character designs. Kiddy Land is divided by floors, each with their own theme. The first floor is for Japanese accessories and other unique items, and the second floor is for Studio Ghibli properties like Totoro; the third floor features merchandise from beloved anime and manga series such as One Piece and Doraemon, and the fourth floor is for Sanrio items like Hello Kitty.
Kiddy Land has branches outside of Harajuku as well. If you see the red sign that reads “Kiddy Land” in white lettering, drop in and look around. You won’t be disappointed.
Address: Tokyo, Shibuya, Jingumae 6-1-9
3. Maid Cafes (Akihabara)
Akihabara is home to countless maid cafes. These havens for otaku, where kawaii staff dress up in maid outfits and call the customers “master” and “princess” while serving them, require you to pay a seating charge. However, they are otherwise normal cafes which serve food and drinks.
You may think that the prices are a bit exorbitant, but there is a reason for that - the maids don’t just bring your orders to the table. They also spend time with you and perform songs and dances in the cafe.
Maid cafes have expanded their repertoire in recent years. In addition to the traditional maid cafes, you can now find maid cafes with unique themes, such as ones set in the historical Warring States period. How about doing some digging to find a maid cafe that fits your interests?
For more information about maid cafes, check out our Akihabara maid cafes article.
4. The Namja Town Game Center
Game centers are popular amusement facilities in Japan, and Namja Town is an indoor theme park operated by the famous game company Namco. Namja Town’s attractions offer plenty of fun and excitement, with a maze where players must team up with kawaii characters from popular children’s anime Yokai Watch in order to escape, as well as arcade games, events run by the theme park characters, and more. Namja Town also has crane games where players maneuver a crane arm to snag kawaii prizes like stuffed animals.
The crane games also feature prizes that are only available for a limited time, so if you think you’re deft with a joystick, how about challenging them? Namja Town also has purikura booths where you can spice up your photos with a swipe of a finger. The purikura booths have Namja Town-exclusive settings, and you can’t go wrong with taking a photo with Namja Town’s original characters as a keepsake of your day.
Address: Tokyo, Toshima, Higashi-Ikebukuro 3-chome Sunshine City World Import Mart Bldg. 2F
Phone: 03-5950-0765 (Reception hours: 9:30AM-6PM)
Website: http://www.namco.co.jp/tp/namja/pdf/english_guide.pdf (English)
5. Mitaka Ghibli Museum
The anime film production company Studio Ghibli is renowned all over the world for its beautiful animation films and its kawaii characters. At the Mitaka Ghibli Museum, you can immerse yourself in the world of Ghibli to your heart’s content. The museum is a Ghibli fan’s dream, with displays featuring Hayao Miyazaki’s hand-drawn storyboards for his films, as well as materials and documents for characters from each of Studio Ghibli’s films.
There are two important points to note if you want to visit the museum. First, you must buy tickets beforehand from a Loppi machine at any Lawsons convenience store. Second, taking photos is strictly prohibited. Ticket prices are as follows: 1000 yen for adults, 700 yen for junior/senior high school students, 400 yen for elementary school students, 100 yen for children over 4, and free for children under 4. The tickets have three panels from a Ghibli film attached, which is a nice memento.
Address: Tokyo, Mitaka, Shimorenjaku 1-1-83 (inside the western garden of Inokashira Park)
Phone: 0570-055777 (Japan domestic calls only)
For more about the Mitaka Ghibli Museum, please take a look at Going Back to Childhood - A Visit to the Ghibli Museum, Mitaka, The Ghibli Museum, Mitaka - Information on Booking Tickets and Access, and Welcome To The World Of Ghibli.
6. The Hello Kitty Japan/Rilakkuma Stores at Solamachi in Tokyo Skytree Town
The Tokyo Skytree Town is located around the popular Tokyo Skytree, and one of its attractions is Solamachi. The Rilakkuma Store is on Solamachi’s third floor, and just looking at the kawaii merchandise on display helps window shoppers to feel relaxed. The fourth floor is home to Hello Kitty Japan, where you can buy all sorts of goods featuring the world-famous Hello Kitty brand. Both stores boast an expansive selection, with special exclusive items developed in collaboration with Tokyo Skytree. Even if you’re just window shopping, these two great kawaii characters will refresh your spirit.
Hello Kitty Japan
Address: Tokyo, Sumida, Oshiage 1-1-2 Tokyo Skytree Town, Solamachi 4F
Rilakkuma Store In Tokyo Skytree Town, Solamachi
Address: Address: Tokyo, Sumida, Oshiage 1-1-2 Tokyo Skytree Town, Solamachi 3F
7. Fujiko F. Fujio Museum
Located a short distance from central Tokyo, in the Tama Ward of Kanagawa City, Kanagawa Prefecture, the Fujiko F. Fujio Museum is a gateway to the world of Doraemon. Thanks to the magic of Doraemon’s Talking Phones, audio guides are available in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean.
Original sketches drawn by Fujiko F. Fujio are among the precious items exhibited in the museum. Outside the museum, you will encounter Fujiko F. Fujio’s kawaii creations, including Doraemon, everywhere you look. Photography is not permitted inside the museum, but you can take as many photos as you like outside on the grounds. The museum shop sells souvenirs themed around Doraemon’s array of special gadgets, as well as other rare and exclusive goods.
If you want to know more, read our Enter The World Of Doraemon! The Fujiko F. Fujio Museum article.
Address: Kanagawa, Kawasaki, Tama, Nagao 2-8-1
Loft specializes in lifestyle accessories like household items and general goods. The store is notable for its extensive inventory of unique products, with plenty of poppy, kawaii-themed items.
While Loft deals with all sorts of goods, it has a particularly robust lineup of stationery. Memo pads that look like real donuts, as well as clips and Post-It notes featuring animals and popular mascot characters, are just a few of the items that are so kawaii, it’s almost a waste to use them up. Of course, these kawaii items are also extraordinarily functional. You’ll never get bored during a visit to Loft, even if you’re just window shopping.
Address: Tokyo, Shibuya, Udagawa-cho 21-1
9. Village Vanguard
Fans of specific subcultures, such as anime and idol music, flock to Village Vanguard. The shelves are densely packed with unique items, including comics, anime character and idol merchandise, kawaii accessories, T-shirts and more. Many of the goods at Village Vanguard can’t be found anywhere else, so we recommend a visit if you’re a fan of Japanese subcultures.
Village Vanguard - Lumine Est
Address: Tokyo, Shinjuku, Shinjuku 3-38-1 Lumine Est Shinjuku 5F
10. Shibuya 109
Shibuya 109 is a stronghold of cutting-edge fashion, and its distinctive building is flooded with crowds of fashion-conscious young people. Shibuya 109 is home to more than 120 shops, and naturally, the employees are quite stylish too.
There are employees at Shibuya 109 known as “charismatic salespeople” for their kawaii personal style and skill at looking after their customers, and even employees who work as models. If you find a shop where you admire the staff’s personal style, or a shop that is really to your liking, talk to one of these charming clerks as a reference for your own style, or ask them for advice about coordinating your look, so you can polish your own fashion sense.
Address: Tokyo, Shibuya, Dogenzaka 2-29-1