“Supa Kawaii” Means “Super Cute” in Japanese

Having second thoughts now about my somewhat recent decision to get hip to Japanese fashion, when my experiments result in the unfortunate pairing of ruffled smock-top dresses with turtlenecks or the wearing of slightly blousy sweaters adorned by bows. If it sounds cute, it’s not – at least not on a non-Japanese woman over the age of 15. Yet, the delicate ribbons, bows, buttons, smocking, and lace here excite me and I find myself drawn to Japanese-designed clothing even when I know it won’t fit or look good. Hence, the recent purchases of the bow-riddled sweaters. And a black gauze ballerina skirt, complete with flowing bow above the bum. And a cloth-covered purple and white swiss-dotted headband.

I’ve been insecure about the headband ever since I bought it. It was cute. Inexpensive. A seemingly harmless way to Japanese-up my look while prettifying hair that has only recently started to look nice again. Besides, one needs treats when evading takoyaki and luscious pastries. This month Beard Papa’s featured flavor is called “Chocolate” but is different from their normal chocolate – this chocolate is dark and studded with hazelnuts. Obviously, I need this. But no – at least not until I can definitively rule out gluten and dairy as a cause of my issues. So far, no real change but perhaps it hasn’t been long enough.

I digress. The headband, like all of my other Japanese fashion purchases, seemed like a good idea at the time but each day I wear it, I am troubled by thoughts of Teri Hatcher, Sharon Stone and others of that desperate ilk; striding about in shimmery leopard print minis to show off their “mature” gams. No, I am not in my 40s – not even close, but given the babydoll nature of Japanese women’s fashion, the effect might as well be the same. Each time I venture out in the headband, I find myself taking it off after I catch a glimpse of myself in a store window, a TV. It’s cute. It’s too girlish. But it’s got swiss dots. But it looks silly. I just don’t know.

The other day, I wore it to teach my class of 6 year-old savages. The usual happened – I saw my reflection and tugged it off, dropping it into the communal teachers’ bag Friday teachers take to this particular kindergarten. I taught an abysmal class; the children blocked my every move, learned nothing but, happily, did attempt to console me with the proud display of their boy bits.

“How was class?” asked Cookie, one of our Japanese staff members.

“Well,” I said. “Chin chin wo futatsu wo mita*.”

*I saw two wee wees.

This led to academic debate. In Japanese, the numbers 1-10 are not static. When used to count, the numbers change, depending on what you are counting, be it long, round things (yakitori, pencils), flat things (paper), books, glassfuls, animals, electronic things, small objects … etc. The suffix “~tsu” is kind of a neutral counter for random objects; I used it to count the 2 wee wees I’d seen in class.

“Was that correct?” I asked a snorting Cookie. “Should I have said ‘nihon*’? Or better yet, in this case, ‘niko**’?”

*two long, round things

**two small objects

“I don’t know,” said Cookie, gasping. “We don’t usually count them.”

Fair enough. It was about at this point that I noticed my headband was gone. I don’t take my own bag with me to other schools so it couldn’t have been in there and it wasn’t in my jacket pockets. I did a quick check of the teacher’s area, in case I had dumped it in there after I returned but no dice. I must have, I figured, left it behind at the kindergarten, or perhaps dropped it on the street. If it were at the kindergarten, I could count on it being there but I wouldn’t be able to go get it until work was out and, honestly, the thought of returning to that Lord of the Flies monstrosity when I didn’t absolutely have to was miserable.

I considered my issue and discovered that, though the misplacement of the headband represented a loss of money, I wasn’t all that upset. The headband was really something of a pain in my neck – cute, not cute, cute, unfit for a woman nearing 28. Perhaps it wasn’t a bad thing that it was out of my hands for a little while; a sign, maybe, that Japanese fashion and I weren’t meant to merge.

Cookie came to me.

“Is this yours?” she asked gently, holding my headband in one hand and the communal teachers’ bag in the other.

Or not.

0 Replies to ““Supa Kawaii” Means “Super Cute” in Japanese”

  1. this guy wears headbands, and i don’t think he’s too upset about it. nope, he’s doing just fine.


  2. i have to admit, if i was asked how my class went (were i a teacher), the last thing that i’d like to bring up are the times my savages peed. nice blog – have you read jo-in-japan? she’s british, teaching english somewhere in japan. not sure where though!

  3. Thanks, Zed! I’ve been a reader of yours for a while. Tattling on the savages has become therapy for me, as well as confirmation that some of the things I’ve witnessed really happened and I’m not crazy. I will have to give this Jo in Japan a look, thanks for the heads up!

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