Kawaii (lovable”, “cute”, or “adorable”) is the culture of cuteness in Japan. It can refer to items, humans and nonhumans that are charming, vulnerable, shy and childlike, for example Hello Kitty 🙂
The rise of cuteness in Japanese culture emerged in the 1970s as part of a new style of writing. Many teenage girls began to write laterally using mechanical pencils. These pencils produced very fine lines, as opposed to traditional Japanese writing that varied in thickness and was vertical. The girls would also write in big, round characters and they added little pictures to their writing, such as hearts, stars, emoticon faces, and letters of the Latin alphabet.
These pictures would be inserted randomly and made the writing difficult to read. As a result, this writing style caused a lot of controversy and was banned in many schools. During the 1980s, however, this new “cute” writing was adopted by magazines and comics and was put onto packaging and advertising.
Because of this growing trend, companies such as Sanrio came out with merchandise like Hello Kitty. Hello Kitty was an immediate success and the obsession with cute continued to progress in other areas as well. The market for cute merchandise in Japan used to be driven by Japanese girls between 15 and 18 years old. No longer limited to teenagers, the spread of making things as cute as possible, even common household items, is embraced by people of all ages.
Taken from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kawaii