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The new science of cute | Neil Steinberg

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The Long Read: Kumamon, a caricature allow created to promote tourism in an overlooked part of Japan, has become a billion-dollar phenomenon. Now, a new academic orbit is trying to pinpoint what obligates situations cute and why we cant refuse them

On 14 April 2016, a 6.2 -magnitude earthquake smacked Japans southernmost island of Kyushu, overthrowing constructs and communicating tenants rushing into the streets. Hundreds of aftershocks one an even greater 7.0 shock continued for days, killing 49 people, disabling 1,500 and forcing tens of thousands from their homes.

News spread immediately around the globe on social media.

Earthquake just happened, Margie Tam posted from Hong Kong. R u ok kumamon?

Are Kumamon and his acquaintances safe? amazed Eric Tang, a college student.

Pray for Kumamoto& Kumamon, wrote Ming Jang Lee from Thailand, a phrase that would be repeated thousands of times.

On 12 March 2016, a few months before the earthquake. Kumamon had bounded on to an outdoor stage at the opening contest of his birthday party in Kumamoto, a town of 700, 000 in a largely agricultural district of the same identify in the centre of Kyushu. About 150 guests mostly wives encouraged, applauded and whistled. Kumamon waved and bent. He is just under 5ft towering, with pitch-black glossy hair, circular cherry-red cheeks and wide-ranging, staring gazes, and he was wearing, for the reason, a lily-white satin dinner jacket pared in silver and a crimson prow tie.

One woman in the crowd harboured a Kumamon doll swaddled in a baby blanket. Another had garmented her doll in a grey-haired outfit matching her own. It had taken her a month to form. A number of love had pasted ruby-red paper curves on their buttock to simulate his. Those in the first sequence had arrived at 3am to snag prime spots to accost the object of their affection.

Actually, I have no suggestion why I desire him so much, said Milkinikio Mew, who had winged from Hong Kong with her friends Lina Tong and Alsace Choi to attend the three-day-long festival although there are Hong Kong was viewing its own birthday defendant for Kumamon. She had overslept, and simply been able to reach 6am for the 10 am kick-off, so she had to settle for a seat in the back row.

Kumamon is not exactly a caricature character, though he does appear in a daily newspaper cartoon strip. Hes not a brand icon either, like Hello Kitty, though like her, his image surely sells merchandise. Hes not sexy, but when the Empress Michiko fulfilled Kumamon at her solicit during the imperial duos call to Kumamoto in 2013, she asked him: Are you single?

A birthday cake was rolled out, and the crowd sang Happy Birthday. Then presents. A delegates of Honda, which has a motorbike mill nearby, yielded him its Kumamon-themed scooter. An Italian bicycle maker unveiled a usage Kumamon racing bike. There was also a new rehearsal DVD, on which Kumamon passes the workout.

Kumamoto
Kumamoto prefectures official mascot Kumamon travels the Kumamon-themed scooter make use of Honda. Picture: The Asahi Shimbun/ Asahi Shimbun/ Getty Images

The Italian bicycle was not for sale, at that time. But the other two parts were, meeting more than 100,000 produces that boast Kumamons image from stickers and notebooks to vehicles and aeroplanes( one budget Japanese airline flies a Kumamon 737 ). When the doll make Steiff offered 1,500 special edition Kumamon plush toys at $300 each, they claimed the digests sold out online in five seconds. Last year Leica developed a $3,300 Kumamon camera, a buy compared with the solid gold statue of Kumamon crafted by a Tokyo jeweller, which retails for$ 1m.

Kumamon is a yuru-kyara , or loose attribute, one of the cuddly mortals in Japan that represent everything from towns and cities to airfields and prisons. The statement is sometimes restated as mascot, but yuru-kyara are significantly different from mascots in the west, like those links with professional plays units, which tend to be benign, prankish one-dimensional court jesters that operate in the restricted realm of the sidelines during activity time.

Kumamon has a far wider field of operation as the yuru-kyara for Kumamoto Prefecture. He has become more than a mark for that region, more than merely a strategy to push its tourism and farm produces. He is almost regarded as a living entity, a kind of fun ursine household god( it is perhaps significant that the very first licensed Kumamon product was a Buddhist shrine emblazoned with his appearance ). He levitates in a realm of imagination like a character from childrens literature, a cross between the Cat in the Hat and a teddy bear.

After the April earthquake, Kumamons Twitter feed, which has half a million partisans, stopped questioning communications. With a thousand constructs shattered, liquid to the city cut, a infirmary jarred off its foundations, and 44,000 people out of their homes, the prefectural authority, which handles Kumamons business dealings and looks, had more important things to do than stage-manage its fictional bear.

But Kumamon was missed.

People are asking why Kumamons Twitter account has moved silent when the prefecture needs its mascot bear more than ever, the Japan Times posted on its Facebook page on 19 April.

Into the vacuum came hundreds, then millions of traces, posted by children, both adults and even professional manga artists , is not simply from Japan, but from Thailand, Hong Kong and China. They waged an impromptu campaign to drum up is supportive of earthquake succor using the assume, which held in for the city itself and its people. Kumamon was illustrated resulting the rescue efforts, his head bandaged, hoisting stones to rebuild the tumbled walls of Kumamoto Castle, propping up tottering footings, enfolding children in his arms.

Ganbatte Kumamon! many wrote, exploiting a word that necessitates something between dont give up and do your best.

Kumamon is kawaii the word is carried as cute, but the word has broad-minded, multilayered signifies, including a variety of sweetly alluring portraits and behaviours.

People invest a lot on cute avatars Kumamon deserved$ 1 billion in 2015, Hello Kitty four or five times that. But what is cute? What is the basis of its petition? Does appreciation for cuteness come naturally, or does it divulge something about our society? Is it broadly positive or could cuteness harbour darker facets as well? These are some of the questions being addressed by a nascent academic discipline, cute studies.

Empress
Empress Michiko( pictured with Emperor Akihoto and Kumamotos governor) asked whether Kumamon was single, in 2013. Photo: The Asahi Shimbun/ Getty Images

About a week before Kumamons birthday, Soma Fugaki checked the opening-night army at Blossom Blast, a feminist art present at the UltraSuperNew Gallery in Tokyos hip Harajuku district. Parties were drinking and dancing. But Soma doesnt dance, or even sit. Hes a baby. Just five months age-old, Soma fidgeted in the weapons of his father, Keigo, who gazed lovingly into his sons face.

Everything about him is a thinking of myself, Keigo said, a caricature form I stare at him all the time. He consider this to be me. Its my aspects, but exaggerated: bigger cheeks, big eyes.

Babies are our simulate for cuteness. Those last-place two details big cheeks, big eyes are straight out of Konrad Lorenzs Kindchenschema , or baby schema, as defined in the Nobel prize-winning scientists 1943 article on the innate liberating mechanisms that cause affection and nurture in human being: fatty buttock, big gazes adjusted low-grade on the face, a high forehead, a small snout and jaw, and stubby forearms and legs that move in a unwieldy fashion. Not simply humen: puppies, child ducks and other young animals are included in Lorenzs theory.

Lorenzs paper is the blueprint of cute subjects, but it did not cause a positive action among the scientific community. He was a Nazi psychologist writing during wartime, exploring the partys assumptions on selective rearing( he afterward apologised for joining the Nazi party and disavowed its dogma ).

For decades, scientists focused on what newborn recognize, and how they guess. But in the 21 st century, notice turned to how babies themselves are recognized, as cuteness started becoming a cohesive realm of studies. Ventures have reportedly been demonstrated that deeming cute faces improves concentration and hones fine machine abilities, which are useful modifications for treating an baby. Experimentations hooking up volunteers to magnetic resonance likeness scanners have shown how considering cute mortals encourages the mentality to secrete dopamine. Societys embrace of cuteness has led academics in gender studies to wonder whether cute culture learns maidens to be childlike, or whether it could be a means by which young lady take control of their own sexuality.

More recent experimentations have been carried out with the aim of identifying general aesthetic guidelines that can make an inanimate object cute. In a study at the University of Michigan in 2012, visual datum expert Sookyung Cho questioned subjects to design a cute rectangle by adjusting the width, amount, roundness, rotation, and colouring of the figure.

What she found supported the idea that smallness, roundness, tiltedness, and lightness of emblazon can serve as determinants of perceived cuteness in artefact layout. It mattered, she found, whether the person designing the rectangle was in the US or South Korea. Cuteness is culturally specific, and that itself has become a rich focus of inquiry.


Cuteness is so links with Japan that the actual country can come as something of a astonish. On the Tokyo subway, jammed with tycoons in dark suits, women in newspaper disguises, minors in plain school garbs, examples of cuteness can be hard to recognise. Still, “theres” pockets of cuteness to be found: minuscule yuru-kyara attractiveness dangling off backpacks or peeking from signs or interpretation obstructions in the form of newborn ducks.

In Kumamoto, during Kumamons birthday weekend in March, at the depart of the Shinkansen bullet train at Kumamoto station, I gazed around for signeds of cute fever. I was not disappointed: I caught display of the enormous head of Kumamon on the lower floor, in a scoff stationmasters role that had been specifically to construct him. The instruct depot shop was filled with Kumamon items, from bottles of purpose to stuffed swine. In the city, his appearance was spread across the sides of country offices house, with birthday placards hanging from the semi-enclosed browse arcades that are a feature of every Japanese city.

Six years ago, Kumamoto wasnt knows we much. There is an active volcano, Mt Aso, nearby, and a 1960 s reproduction of a dramatic 1600 s-era castling that burned down in 1877. Kumamoto residents belief there was nothing in their metropoli that anyone would want to visit. The field is mainly agricultural, growing melons and strawberries.

But in 2010, Japan Railways was working to extend the Shinkansen bullet train to Kumamoto, and the city fathers were eager for tourists to use it. So they commissioned a logo to promote the region, hiring a decorator who offered a stylised exclamation marking( their bureaucrat slogan, Kumamoto Surprise, was a bright spin on the fact that numerous Japanese would be surprised to find anything in Kumamoto worth hearing ).

An
An image of Kumamon inscribed on the grass at Suizenji Ezuko Park in Kumamoto. Photo: The Asahi Shimbun/ Getty Images

The exclamation point logo was a red blotch, resembling the sole of a shoe. The designer, was striving to exaggerate it, and knowing the popularity of yuru-kyara , contributed a surprised black tolerate. Kuma is Japanese for bear. Mon is local lingo for man.

He was endowed with a mischievous temperament Milkinikio Mew, who came from Hong Kong for his birthday fete, called him very naughty. Kumamon firstly built headlines after Kumamoto propped a press conference to report that he was missing from his post, having run off to Osaka to urge occupants there to take the study. The stunt laboured. Kumamon was voted the most popular yuru-kyara in 2011.( Japan has a national struggle, the Yuru-kyara Grand Prix, held in November. The most recent one were engaged in 1,727 different mascots and virtually 77,000 witness. Millions of votes were cast .)

A few Kumamoto officials refused Kumamon their concern was that he would scare off potential tourists, who would expresses concern about encountering wild births, of which there are none in the prefecture. But the Kumamoto governor was a fan, and cannily waived licensing costs for Kumamon, inspiring manufacturers to use him royalty-free. Rather than pay upfront, in order to get approval to use the suffers image, business are required to support Kumamoto, either by exploiting locally produced percentages or ingredients, or by promoting the neighborhood on their packaging.

The side of the box of the Tamiya radio-controlled Kumamon Version Buggy has photographs of the regions top sightseer ends. In one of the carols on the rehearsal DVD exhausted on Kumamons birthday, as he leads his fans through their exercises, they grunt, Toh-MAY-toes straw-BEAR-ies wah-TER-melons all agricultural products that are specialities of Kumamoto. In every convenience store, Kumamon smiles from every punnet of strawberries and honeydew melon wrapper.

The bullet train embarked busines to Kumamoto on 12 March, so the date is now used as Kumamons official birthday. He was there to greet the first planned set, a moment recreated during his birthday galas. Devotees lined up at the station to hug him, contacting back for a persist last stroke as they were extended off to make way for the next waiting fan.

In 2014, Kumamon dedicated a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, where his title was given as head of PR. The journalists constituted respectful interrogations. How many personnel do you have, to help you out with your activities? one asked. The answer We have about 20 the staff in our part was given by one of those subordinates, Masataka Naruo, who enjoys telling beings that Kumamon is his boss.

The day before the start of the celebration, Mew and her friends were browsing in Kumamoto. They wore Kumamon T-shirts and carried Kumamon knapsacks. The three women showed their disclosures to one another. They owned a lot of Kumamon commodities already. Hes very cute, said Tong, in English, by way of explanation.

But for a mascot to be successful, being cute is not always enough. For every popular yuru-kyara , there are a hundred Harajuku Miccolos a 5ft-tall yellow-and-brown bee, who I matched standing on the sidewalk outside the Colombin bakery and coffeehouse, celebrating Honey Bee Day with 3 hour of loitering in front of the coffeehouse, reacting passers-by, or trying to. Most barely glanced in his direction and did not crack pace, though some did “re coming” and constitute for a photograph. There was no queue.

Kumamon
Kumamon speaks his mail at his office in Kumamon Square in Kumamoto. Photograph: The Asahi Shimbun/ The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Imag

Harajuku Miccolo, Colombins signature character, is cute hitherto obscure the common fate for most yuru-kyara . The municipality of Osaka has 45 different reputations that promote its various aspects and who must fend off periodic culls in the name of economy. One head piteously was contended that the government officials who create these reputations work hard on them and so would feel bad if they were discontinued.

Harajuku Miccolo is trying to avoid that fate.

He is not a success hitherto, one of his handlers admitted, dispensing cubes of the cafe trademark honey patty. Many are not as successful

as Kumamon?

Were trying


Nobody is cute in Shakespeare . The statement was not available until the early 1700 s, when the a in acute was replaced by an apostrophe cute and then declined altogether. Acute came from acus , Latin for needle, subsequently expressing moment events, so cute at first entailed acute, inventive, keen-witted, sharp-witted, cunning, in agreement with the 1933 publication of the Oxford English Dictionary, which doesnt propose the expression could describe visual appearance.

The newer application was still being refused in Britain in the mid-1 930 s, when a correspondent at the Daily Telegraph included cute on his directory of bastard American expressions, along with OK and radio. The depicting of cute, chubby babes is predominantly absent from visual prowes before the 20 th century. Children in medieval paintings are illustrated as wizened miniature adults. Cute likeness of the nature we have become accustomed to began showing up around 1900, when popular culture was discovering the bottomless marketability of cute happens. In 1909, the American illustrator Rose ONeill reaped a cartoon strip about kewpies( taken away from cupid) cleaning babylike beasts with tiny backstages and huge presidents, which were handed out as celebration medals and capered around Jell-O ads( to this day, Kewpie Mayonnaise, introduced in 1925, is the top-selling firebrand in Japan ). Cuteness and modern commercialisation became intricately linked.

Still, kewpies followed the lines of actual human dissection more or less, the course that Mickey Mouse resembled a real mouse when he firstly appeared on film in 1928. A half century of fine-tuning constructed him much more infantile, a process the evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould famously described in his biological homage to Mickey, in which he retraced the mischievous and sometimes violent mouse of the late 1920 s as he morphed into the benign, bland superior of a enormous corporate empire. He has assumed an ever more guileles image as the ratty attribute of Steamboat Willie grew the cute and inoffensive host to a occult empire, Gould wrote.

In Japan, the obsession with cuteness is visible in girlfriends handwriting. Around 1970, schoolgirls in Japan began to imitate the caption textbook in manga comics what was announced koneko-ji , or kitten writing. By 1985, half of the girls in Japan had adopted the style, and companies selling pencils , notebooks and other inexpensive endowment parts, such as Sanrio, became aware that these components sold better when festooned with a variety of characters, the queen of whom is Hello Kitty.

Her full epithet is Kitty White, and she has a family and was living in London( due to a Japanese furor for all things British in the mid-1 970 s ). The first Hello Kitty commodity, a vinyl silver purse, went on sale in 1974. Today, about$ 5bn value of Hello Kitty stock is sold annually. In Asia, “theres” Hello Kitty amusement parks, restaurants and hotel suites. EVA Air, the Taiwanese airline, tent-flies seven Hello Kitty-themed airplanes, which carry epitomes of Hello Kitty and her friends not only on their hulls, but throughout their cabins, on the pillows and antimacassars.


If your target is young women , world markets saturated, said Hiroshi Nittono, director of the Cognitive Psychophysiology Laboratory at Osaka University, talking about world markets for cute makes in Japan. That was no doubt. In an attempt to stand out, some yuru-kyara are now obligated intentionally crude or semi-frightening. There is the whole class of kimokawaii , or gross-cute, epitomised by Gloomy, a pink tolerate whose claws are blood-red with the blood of his child owner, whom he habitually manhandle. Even Kumamon, beloved as he is, is still subject to a popular internet meme where his occupations are revealed to be done for the magnificence of Satan.

Because the practice of putting characters on commodities is so prevailing, Nittono, a placid, smiling gentleman who wears a cravat, has been working with the government on developing produces that are intrinsically cute. He hinted we encounter at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in Hiroshima, where he is finishing up a tenured academic position.

For the past few years, Nittono and the government have been collaborating to develop cute pieces, a few of who the hell is laid out on a counter in his office: a squatting make-up touch, a container, a brazier, a few medallions and tiles. Payed the mind-boggling display of cute merchandise can be accessed at stores in every mall around the world, the display was a little lacklustre.

Nittonos group is exploring how cuteness can be used as a invention to draw people toward makes without flagrant branding.

We expend kawaii for such sentiment, find kawaii things are not threatening, that is the most important part, small-time and not damaging, said Nittono. A high-quality make is somewhat distant from “the consumers “; it looks expensive. But if you put kawaii nuance on such produces, maybe such pieces can be more approachable.

If you have something cute, then you want to touch it, and then you view a better quality of it, included Youji Yamashita, a ministry official.

Objects can also be unintentionally kawaii . With her husband Makoto, Date Tomito owns Bar Pretty, a tiny side-street tavern in Hiroshima. Six parties would be crowded sitting at the bar. Makoto walked in from world markets enduring a small bush in a yellow-bellied utensil, a present for his wife.

This is kawaii , Date said, accommodating the flower up, elaborating. There are lots of different means for kawaii: cute, tiny, ungainly. Some concepts exactly have a cute shape.

Its never bad, she included. I never use kawaii in an ironic lane. Kawaii is various kinds of the best kudo around Japanese beings, specially girls and women. They really like kawaii material and things.

Not all women agree. Hello Kitty has caught the interests of both academics, particularly in Japan, where the progress of women has lagged behind other industrial nations. Girlishness is a national infatuation Japan did not ban possession of child pornography until 2014 and its most popular female icon, Hello Kitty, doesnt have a lip. If cuteness does become a province of academic consider, then much recognition has to be given to the feminist pushback against what Hiroto Murasawa of Osaka Shoin Womens University calls a mentality that spawns non-assertion.

Japanese women still live in a culture where single women in their 30 s are sometimes referred to as leftover Christmas cake, means that after the 25 th of December for patty, birthday for women they are past their expiration date and difficult to get rid of. Nobody craves them.

Those surgical concealments worn in public are to avoid colds, contamination and allergies. But many Japanese dames say that they wear them year masuku just for show because they didnt have time to put on their makeup, or because they dont consider themselves cute enough, and they miss a shield against the obtrusive gazes of their overflowing world-wide. In a German consider of 270,000 beings in 22 countries, when respondents were asked whether they were happy with how they appeared, Japanese beings came last.

A
A Hello Kitty theme restaurant in Hangzhou, China. Image: VCG/ VCG via Getty Images

Joshua Paul Dale, a 50 -year-old culture analyzes scholar on the faculty of Tokyo Gakugei University, has been the driving force in cute surveys. Part behavioural discipline, constituent culture investigates, side biology, the field is so new it hasnt had a consultation yet.

Dale was the first to put together an online cute contemplates bibliography, a roster now containing over 100 booklets. They range in alphabetical guild from C Abidins Agentic cute (^.^): Pastiching East Asian cute in Influencer commerce, from the East Asian Journal of Popular Culture, to Leslie Zebrowitz et als Baby talk to the babyfaced, from the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior.

Dale likewise revised the East Asian Journal of Popular Cultures special cuteness edition, published in April 2016. The articles collected in this issue illustrate the flexible of cuteness as an analytical category, and the broad scope of the penetrations it generates, he wrote in the introduction.

Cuteness has not yet developed as an independent technical study Dale is forecast that only a few dozen academics worldwide focus on the topic but he is hopeful that it is in the process of happening. When we met at his light-filled suite in the Sendagaya section of Tokyo, he made a comparison withporn analyses, which now has its own quarterly publication, developed after professors joined to focus on a topic they detected was being forgotten by investigates, out of misplaced squeamishness.

Hiroshi Nittono contributed to the East Asian Journals special issue. Nittono, who authored the first peer-reviewed technical newspaper with kawaii in its entitle, postulates a two-layer modeling of cuteness: not only does it spur parental care of newborns, but once a newborn moves into toddlerhood and begins interacting with “the worlds”, cuteness promotes socialisation.

Its fascinating because its inherent in the concept itself, Dale told me. Cute occasions refer readily to interesting thing. It kind of breaks down the barriers a little bit between soul and other, or subject and objective. That entails it invites cultivate from various fields. Its interested in get beings together from different fields talking about the same subject.

Japan has uniquely embraced cuteness as a thought of its national attribute, the course tea ceremonies or cherry-red flowers were once held up as symbolic of Japanese nationhood. In 2009, the government equipped a trio of cute ambassadors, three women in ribbons and babydoll getups whose undertaking was to represent the country abroad.

The
The Taiwanese airline EVA Air operates seven Hello Kitty-themed jet-blacks. Image: China Foto Press/ Barcroft Medi/ China Foto Press/ Barcroft Media

Humanity has always hugged household deities: not the world-creating universal deity, but minor, more personal allies to softened what can be a harsh and lonely life. Not everyone has the friends they deserve or the baby they would cherish. Often people are alone in the world. Teddy permits exist because the nighttime is dark and long and at some extent your mothers have to go to bed and leave you. There is real convenience in cuteness.

Filling in an emotional require is exactly where kawaii plays an important persona, said Christine R Yano, a prof of anthropology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and the author of Pink Globalization: Hello Kittys Trek Across the Pacific.

Even in America, journalist Nicholas Kristof has written of an empathy gap in todays society, said Yano. He points to the place of objects that may be considered promoters of joy, consolation, solace. When national societies must be free to heal, it endeavours solace in the familiar. And often the familiar may reside in cute. Witness the use of teddy carries as sources of consolation for firefighters in the aftermath of NYCs 9/11. So I consider kawaii things as potential empathy generators.

Kumamon provokes a ton of empathy. In the weeks after the Kumamoto earthquake, Kumamon was so necessary that in his absence his love conjured him up themselves, separately, as an are the subject of commiseration, a tireless savior, an obvious hero.

Three weeks after the 14 April earthquake, Kumamon saw the convention passageway of the hard-hit town of Mashiki, where residents were still sleeping in their automobiles for safety as 1,200 shakes continued to rumble across the province. His visit was reported on TV and in the papers as bulletin, as if a long-sought survivor had stumbled out of the rubble alive. The children, many of whom had lost their dwellings in the earthquake, flocked around him, squawking, hugging, taking pictures. Their pal had returned.

This article first appeared in Mosaic and is republished here under a Creative Commons licence.

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The new discipline of cute | Neil Steinberg

/ by / Tags: , , ,

The Long Read: Kumamon, a cartoon assume created to promote tourism in an overlooked part of Japan, has become a billion-dollar phenomenon. Now, a brand-new academic province is currently in the process of pinpoint what makes events cute and why we cant refuse them

On 14 April 2016, a 6.2 -magnitude earthquake punched Japans southernmost island of Kyushu, overthrowing constructs and moving occupants hastening into the streets. Hundreds of aftershocks one an even stronger 7.0 earthquake continues to be eras, killing 49 beings, disabling 1,500 and thrusting tens of thousands from their homes.

News spread immediately around the globe on social media.

Earthquake just happened, Margie Tam posted from Hong Kong. R u ok kumamon?

Are Kumamon and his acquaintances safe? pondered Eric Tang, a college student.

Pray for Kumamoto& Kumamon, wrote Ming Jang Lee from Thailand, a motto that would be repeated thousands of times.

On 12 March 2016, a few months before the earthquake. Kumamon had bounded on to an outdoor stage at the opening affair of his birthday defendant in Kumamoto, a town of 700, 000 in a largely agricultural province of the same epithet in the centre of Kyushu. About 150 guests mainly girls heartened, clapped and whistled. Kumamon curved and bowed. He is just under 5ft towering, with pitch-black glossy coat, circular blood-red cheeks and wide-eyed, staring attentions, and he was wearing, for the occasion, a white-hot satin dinner jacket pared in silver and a crimson bowing tie.

One woman in the crowd nursed a Kumamon doll swaddled in a newborn blanket. Another had garmented her doll in a grey attire coinciding her own. It had taken her a month to do. A number of love had glued blood-red newspaper cliques on their buttock to simulate his. Those in the first sequence had arrived at 3am to snag prime places to accost the object of their affection.

Actually, I have no theory why I affection him so much better, said Milkinikio Mew, who had hovered from Hong Kong with her friends Lina Tong and Alsace Choi to attend the three-day-long festival although there are Hong Kong was regarding its own birthday defendant for Kumamon. “Shes had” overslept, and only arrived at 6am for the 10 am kick-off, so she had to settle for a seat in the back row.

Kumamon is not exactly a caricature character, though he does appear in a daily newspaper comic strip. Hes not a label icon either, like Hello Kitty, though like her, his image surely sells stock. Hes not sexy, but when the Empress Michiko converged Kumamon at her request during the course of its imperial duos see to Kumamoto in 2013, she asked him: Are you single?

A birthday cake was reeled out, and the crowd sang Happy Birthday. Then presents. A representative from Honda, which has a motorbike factory nearby, passed him its Kumamon-themed scooter. An Italian bicycle make unveiled a custom-made Kumamon racing bike. There was also a new exercise DVD, on which Kumamon precedes the workout.

Kumamoto
Kumamoto prefectures official mascot Kumamon journeys the Kumamon-themed scooter made by Honda. Picture: The Asahi Shimbun/ Asahi Shimbun/ Getty Images

The Italian bicycle was not for sale, at that time. But the other two components were, meeting more than 100,000 concoctions that facet Kumamons image from stickers and notebooks to gondolas and aeroplanes( one budget Japanese airline wings a Kumamon 737 ). When the plaything manufacturer Steiff offered 1,500 special edition Kumamon plush toys at $300 each, they claimed the stands sold out online in five seconds. Last-place year Leica caused a $3,300 Kumamon camera, a buy compared with the solid gold bronze of Kumamon crafted by a Tokyo jeweller, which retails for$ 1m.

Kumamon is a yuru-kyara , or loose reference, one of the cuddly people in Japan that represent everything from towns and cities to airports and prisons. The term is sometimes carried as mascot, but yuru-kyara are significantly different from mascots in the west, like those associated with professional sports units, which tend to be benign, prankish one-dimensional court jesters that operate in the narrow realm of the sidelines during competition time.

Kumamon has a far wider field of operation as the yuru-kyara for Kumamoto Prefecture. He has become more than a represent for that region, more than merely a strategy to move its tourism and farm concoctions. He is almost regarded as a living entity, a kind of enjoyable ursine household divinity( it is perhaps substantial that the very first licensed Kumamon product was a Buddhist shrine decorated with his look ). He levitates in a realm of imagination like a reputation from childrens literature, a cross between the Cat in the Hat and a teddy bear.

After the April earthquake, Kumamons Twitter feed, which has half a million followers, stopped issuing communications. With a thousand houses detriment, liquid to the city slash, a infirmary jarred off its foundations, and 44,000 parties out of their homes, the prefectural authority, which handles Kumamons business dealings and looks, had more important things to do than stage-manage its imaginary bear.

But Kumamon was missed.

People are asking why Kumamons Twitter account has travelled silent when the prefecture needs its mascot carry more than ever, the Japan Times posted on its Facebook page on 19 April.

Into the vacuum came hundreds, then thousands of drawings, posted by children, adults and even professional manga artists , is not simply from Japan, but from Thailand, Hong Kong and China. They waged an impromptu safarus to drum up is supportive of earthquake succor use the suffer, which accepted in for the city itself and its parties. Kumamon was outlined resulting the rescue efforts, his head bandaged, elevating stones to rebuild the collapsed walls of Kumamoto Castle, propping up tottering feet, enfolding children placed in his arms.

Ganbatte Kumamon! many wrote, employing a period that represents something between dont give up and do your best.

Kumamon is kawaii the word is restated as cute, but the word has wide-reaching, multilayered meanings, including a variety of sweetly alluring likeness and behaviours.

People waste a lot on cute avatars Kumamon gave$ 1 billion in 2015, Hello Kitty four or five times that. But what is cute? What is the basis of its plea? Does appreciation for cuteness come naturally, or does it uncover something about national societies? Is it broadly positive or could cuteness harbour darker facets as well? These are some of the questions being addressed by a nascent academic field, cute studies.

Empress
Empress Michiko( depicted with Emperor Akihoto and Kumamotos governor) would be interesting to know whether Kumamon was single, in 2013. Image: The Asahi Shimbun/ Getty Images

About a few weeks before Kumamons birthday, Soma Fugaki searched the opening-night army at Blossom Blast, a feminist prowes prove at the UltraSuperNew Gallery in Tokyos hip Harajuku district. Parties were boozing and dancing. But Soma doesnt dance, or even countenance. Hes a child. Just five months old, Soma writhed in the arms of “his fathers”, Keigo, who gazed lovingly into his sons face.

Everything about him is a reflection of myself, Keigo said, a caricature version I stare at him all the time. He looks like me. Its my boasts, but overdid: bigger cheek, bigger eyes.

Babies are our simulation for cuteness. Those last-place two items big cheeks, big eyes are straight out of Konrad Lorenzs Kindchenschema , or babe schema, as defined in the Nobel prize-winning scientists 1943 newspaper on the innate secreting devices that stimulate affection and nourish in human being: fatty cheeks, big eyes adjusted low-spirited on the face, a high forehead, a small snout and mouth, and stubby limbs and legs that move in a cumbersome pattern. Not precisely humen: puppies, child ducks and other young animals are included in Lorenzs theory.

Lorenzs paper is the blueprint of cute analyses, but it did not produce a positive reaction amongst the scientific community. He was a Nazi psychologist writing during wartime, searching the partys hypothesis on selective breeding( he afterwards apologised for to intervene in the Nazi party and disowned its ideology ).

For decades, scientists focused on what newborn perceive, and how they speculate. But in the 21 st century, attention turned to how newborn themselves are comprehended, as cuteness started becoming a cohesive realm of research. Ventures have reportedly been has showed that viewing cute faces improves concentration and hones fine machine skills, which are useful revisions for treating an baby. Experimentations hooking up volunteers to magnetic resonance likeness scanners have shown how recognizing cute men arouses the intelligence to release dopamine. Societys embrace of cuteness has led professors in gender studies to wonder whether cute culture qualifies wives to be childlike, or whether it could be a means by which young woman take control of their own sexuality.

More recent ventures have been carried out with the aim of identifying general aesthetic guidelines that they are able make an inanimate object cute. In research studies at the University of Michigan in 2012, visual datum expert Sookyung Cho expected topics to design a cute rectangle by conforming the sizing, balance, roundness, rotation, and emblazon of the figure.

What she found supported the idea that smallness, roundness, tiltedness, and lightness of colour can serve as determinants of perceived cuteness in artefact designing. It mattered, she found, whether the person or persons designing the rectangle was in the US or South Korea. Cuteness is culturally specific, and that itself has become a rich focus of inquiry.


Cuteness is so links with Japan that the actual country can come as something of a bombshell. On the Tokyo subway, jammed with financiers in dark clothings, women in newspaper disguises, girls in plain institution garbs, a few examples of cuteness can be hard to smudge. Still, there are pockets of cuteness to be found: tiny yuru-kyara attractiveness hanging off knapsacks or peeking from posters or building hindrances in the form of child ducks.

In Kumamoto, during Kumamons birthday weekend in March, at the exit of the Shinkansen bullet train at Kumamoto station, I appeared around for signalings of cute excitement. I was not disappointed: I caught spate of the tremendous heads of state of Kumamon on the lower storey, in a mock stationmasters office that had been specifically to construct him. The develop station store was filled with Kumamon items, from bottles of sake to substance swine. In the city, his appearance was spread across the sides of an office build, with birthday flags hanging from the semi-enclosed patronize arcades that are a feature of every Japanese city.

Six years ago, Kumamoto wasnt knows we much. There is an active volcano, Mt Aso, nearby, and a 1960 s reproduction of a stunning 1600 s-era castle that burned down in 1877. Kumamoto residents conceived there was nothing in their metropolitan that anyone would want to visit. The region is primarily agricultural, growing melons and strawberries.

But in 2010, Japan Railways was working to extend the Shinkansen bullet train to Kumamoto, and the city fathers were anxious for tourists to use it. So they commissioned a logo to promote the country, hiring a designer who offered a stylised exclamation celebrate( their bureaucrat motto, Kumamoto Surprise, was a bright spin on the fact that many Japanese would be surprised to find anything in Kumamoto worth visualizing ).

An
An image of Kumamon etched on the grass at Suizenji Ezuko Park in Kumamoto. Photograph: The Asahi Shimbun/ Getty Images

The exclamation point logo was a crimson blotch, resembling the sole of a shoe. The designer, was striving to embellish it, and knowing the popularity of yuru-kyara , contributed a surprised pitch-black tolerate. Kuma is Japanese for bear. Mon is local jargon for man.

He was endowed with a naughty identity Milkinikio Mew, who came from Hong Kong for his birthday fete, called him very naughty. Kumamon firstly established headlines after Kumamoto accommodated a news conference to report that he was missing from his pole, having run off to Osaka to advise inhabitants there to take the train. The stunt toiled. Kumamon was voted the more popular yuru-kyara in 2011.( Japan has a national competition, the Yuru-kyara Grand Prix, held during November. The recently completed one were engaged in 1,727 different mascots and roughly 77,000 witness. Millions of referendums were cast .)

A few Kumamoto officials withstood Kumamon their concern was that he would scare off potential sightseers, who would worry about encountering wild assumes, of which there are none in the prefecture. But the Kumamoto governor was a fan, and cannily waived licensing costs for Kumamon, inspiring manufacturers to use him royalty-free. Rather than pay upfront, in order to get approval to use the accepts image, companies are required to support Kumamoto, either by utilizing locally fabricated portions or parts, or by promoting the domain on their packaging.

The side of the box of the Tamiya radio-controlled Kumamon Version Buggy has photographs of the regions top sightseer ends. In one of the ballads on the rehearsal DVD exhausted on Kumamons birthday, as he conducts his followers through their exercises, they grunt, Toh-MAY-toes straw-BEAR-ies wah-TER-melons all agricultural products that are specialities of Kumamoto. In every grocery store, Kumamon smiles from every punnet of strawberries and honeydew melon wrapper.

The bullet train embarked service to Kumamoto on 12 March, so the year is now is available as Kumamons official birthday. He was there to greet the first planned improve, a moment recreated during his birthday festivities. Devotees lined up at the station to hug him, reaching back for a lingering last contact because they are passed off to make way for the next waiting fan.

In 2014, Kumamon opened a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, where his name was given as head of PR. The correspondents constituted respectful interrogates. How numerous personnel do you have, to help you out with your activities? one requested. The rebuttal We have about 20 staff members in our part was delivered by one of those subsidiaries, Masataka Naruo, who enjoys telling parties that Kumamon is his boss.

The day before the commencement of the celebration, Mew and her friends were patronizing in Kumamoto. They wore Kumamon T-shirts and carried Kumamon backpacks. The three women demo their findings to each other. They owned a lot of Kumamon products already. Hes very cute, said Tong, in English, by way of explanation.

But for a mascot to be successful, being cute is not always enough. For every popular yuru-kyara , there are a hundred Harajuku Miccolos a 5ft-tall yellow-and-brown bee, who I filled standing on the sidewalk outside the Colombin bakery and coffeehouse, celebrating Honey Bee Day with 3 hour of loitering in front of the coffeehouse, greeting passers-by, or trying to. Most just gazed in his direction and did not shatter stride, though some did come over and pose for a photo. There was no queue.

Kumamon
Kumamon reads his correspondence at his office in Kumamon Square in Kumamoto. Image: The Asahi Shimbun/ The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Imag

Harajuku Miccolo, Colombins signature character, is cute yet obscure the common fate for most yuru-kyara . The metropolitan of Osaka has 45 different personas that promote its various aspects and who must fend off regular culls in the name of economy. One executive piteously was contended that the government officials who generate these attributes work hard on them and so would feel bad unless they are discontinued.

Harajuku Miccolo is trying to avoid that fate.

He is not a success yet, one of his handlers acknowledged, administering cubes of the coffeehouse logo sugar cake. Numerous are not as successful

as Kumamon?

Were trying


Nobody is cute in Shakespeare . The word was not available until the early 1700 s, when the a in acute was replaced by an apostrophe cute and then stopped wholly. Acute came from acus , Latin for needle, afterwards denoting pointed stuffs, really cute at first necessitated acute, ingeniou, keen-witted, sharp-worded, cunning, in agreement with the 1933 copy of the Oxford English Dictionary, which doesnt intimate the period could describe visual appearance.

The newer usage was still being fought in Britain in the mid-1 930 s, when a reporter at the Daily Telegraph included cute on his register of bastard American expressions, along with OK and radio. The picture of cute, chubby newborns is mainly absent from visual artwork before the 20 th century. Babies in medieval paints are depicted as wizened miniature adults. Cute personas of the nature we have become accustomed to began indicating up around 1900, when favourite culture was detecting the bottomless marketability of cute happenings. In 1909, the American illustrator Rose ONeill outlined a comic strip about kewpies( taken from cupid) preening babylike beings with minuscule wings and massive brains, who the hell is handed out as carnival trophies and capered around Jell-O ads( to this day, Kewpie Mayonnaise, introduced in 1925, is the top-selling firebrand in Japan ). Cuteness and modern commercialisation became intricately linked.

Still, kewpies followed the lines of actual human dissection more or less, the lane that Mickey Mouse resembled a real mouse when he firstly appeared on film in 1928. A half century of fine-tuning constructed him much more infantile, a process the evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould famously described in his biological homage to Mickey, in which he detected the mischievous and sometimes violent mouse of the late 1920 s as he morphed into the benign, bland overseer of a vast corporate territory. He has assumed an ever more childlike illusion as the ratty reputation of Steamboat Willie grew the cute and innocuous host to a sorcery realm, Gould wrote.

In Japan, the fascination with cuteness is visible in girls handwriting. Around 1970, schoolgirls in Japan began to simulate the caption textbook in manga comics what was called koneko-ji , or kitten writing. By 1985, half of the girls in Japan had adopted the style, and companies marketing pencils , notebooks and other inexpensive endow parts, such as Sanrio, learned that these pieces sold better when festooned with a variety of characters, the queen of whom is Hello Kitty.

Her full reputation is Kitty White, and she has a family and lives in London( due to a Japanese fad for all things British in the mid-1 970 s ). The first Hello Kitty commodity, a vinyl copper pocketbook, went on sale in 1974. Today, about$ 5bn worth of Hello Kitty stock is sold yearly. In Asia, there are Hello Kitty amusement parks, eateries and hotel suites. EVA Air, the Taiwanese airline, wings seven Hello Kitty-themed jet-blacks, which carry likeness of Hello Kitty and her friends not only on their hulls, but throughout their compartments, on the pillows and antimacassars.


If your target is young women , the markets saturated, said Hiroshi Nittono, director of the Cognitive Psychophysiology Laboratory at Osaka University, talking about world markets for cute concoctions in Japan. That was no doubt. In an attempt to stand out, some yuru-kyara are now constituted intentionally crude or semi-frightening. There is the whole class of kimokawaii , or gross-cute, epitomised by Gloomy, a pink permit whose claws are ruby-red with the blood of his child owned, whom he habitually mauls. Even Kumamon, beloved as he is, is still subject to a popular internet meme where his acts are revealed to be done for the magnificence of Satan.

Because the practice of putting reputations on produces is so prevailing, Nittono, a serene, smiling husband who wears a cravat, co-operates with the governmental forces on developing commodities that are intrinsically cute. He intimated we assemble at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in Hiroshima, where he is finishing up a tenured academic position.

For the past few years, Nittono and the government have been collaborating to develop cute parts, a few of which were laid out on a table in his office: a squatting make-up touch, a container, a brazier, a few medallions and tiles. Demonstrated the mind-boggling display of cute merchandise can be accessed at shops in every mall around the world, the flaunt was a little lacklustre.

Nittonos group is investigating how cuteness can be used as a machine to draw parties toward products without blatant branding.

We usage kawaii for the purposes of the sentiment, detecting kawaii things are not threatening, that is the most important part, small-scale and not harmful, said Nittono. A high-quality produce is somewhat distant from “the consumers “; it ogles expensive. But if you throw kawaii nuance on such concoctions, perhaps such pieces can be more approachable.

If you have something cute, then you want to touch it, and then you assure a better quality of it, added Youji Yamashita, a ministry official.

Objects can also be unintentionally kawaii . With her husband Makoto, Date Tomito owns Bar Pretty, a minuscule side-street tavern in Hiroshima. Six people would be army sitting at the bar. Makoto walked in from world markets allowing a small bush in a yellowish jackpot, a present for his wife.

This is kawaii , Date said, bracing the flora up, elaborating. There are lots of different senses for kawaii: cute, small, clumsy. Some happenings exactly have a cute shape.

Its never bad, she lent. I never use kawaii in an sardonic room. Kawaii is various kinds of best available congratulate around Japanese people, specially girls and women. They really like kawaii trash and things.

Not all women agree. Hello Kitty has caught the interests of both professors, especially in Japan, where the progress of women has lagged behind other industrial nations. Girlishness is a national preoccupation Japan did not ban control of child pornography until 2014 and its most well known girl icon, Hello Kitty, doesnt have a mouth. If cuteness does become a study of academic learn, then much recognition has to be given to the feminist pushback against what Hiroto Murasawa of Osaka Shoin Womens University calls a mentality that multiplies non-assertion.

Japanese women still live in a culture where single women in their 30 s are sometimes referred to as leftover Christmas cake, means that after the 25 th of December for cake, birthday for women they are past their expiration date and hard to get rid of. Nobody misses them.

Those surgical concealments worn in public are to avoid coldness, contamination and allergies. But many Japanese dames say that they wear them appointment masuku just for show because they didnt have time to put on their makeup, or because they dont consider themselves cute enough, and they want a shield against the intrusive sees of their cramped world. In a German study of 270,000 parties in 22 countries, when respondents were asked whether they were happy with how they looked, Japanese people came last.

A
A Hello Kitty theme eatery in Hangzhou, China. Picture: VCG/ VCG via Getty Images

Joshua Paul Dale, a 50 -year-old cultural surveys scholar on the faculty of Tokyo Gakugei University, has been the driving force in cute investigates. Part behavioural discipline, place culture analyzes, fraction biology, the field is so new it hasnt had a discussion yet.

Dale was the first to put together an online cute subjects bibliography, a list now containing over 100 publications. They range in alphabetical guild from C Abidins Agentic cute (^.^): Pastiching East Asian cute in Influencer commerce, from the East Asian Journal of Popular Culture, to Leslie Zebrowitz et als Baby talk to the babyfaced, from the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior.

Dale also edited the East Asian Journal of Popular Cultures special cuteness concern, published in April 2016. The sections collected in this issue substantiate the flexibility of cuteness as an analytical category, and the wide-cut scope of the revelations it generates, he wrote in the introduction.

Cuteness has not been able to developed as an independent scientific province Dale is forecast that only a few dozen professors worldwide focus on specific topics but he is hopeful that it is in the process of incident. When we met at his light-filled apartment in the Sendagaya section of Tokyo, he made a comparison withporn considers, which now has its own quarterly gazette, created after academics joined to focus on a topic they find was being forgotten by investigates, out of misplaced squeamishness.

Hiroshi Nittono contributed to the East Asian Journals special question. Nittono, who authored the first peer-reviewed scientific paper with kawaii in its name, theorizes a two-layer prototype of cuteness: is not simply does it spur parental care of newborns, but once a baby moves into toddlerhood and begins interacting with “the worlds”, cuteness promotes socialisation.

Its interesting because its inherent in the concept itself, Dale told me. Cute circumstances pertain easily to other things. It kind of breaks down the barriers a little bit between soul and other, or subject and object. That necessitates it invites production from various fields. Its interested in get people together from different fields talking about the same subject.

Japan has uniquely cuddled cuteness as a thought of their own national attribute, the practice tea ceremonies or cherry-red flowers were once hold back as symbolic of Japanese nationhood. In 2009, the government equipped a trio of cute diplomats, three women in ribbons and babydoll dress whose duty was to represent the country abroad.

The
The Taiwanese airline EVA Air moves seven Hello Kitty-themed planes. Image: China Foto Press/ Barcroft Medi/ China Foto Press/ Barcroft Media

Humanity has always espoused household gods: not the world-creating universal deity, but minor, more personal allies to soften what can be a coarse and lonesome life. Not every human being has my best friend they deserve or the baby they would cherish. Often people are alone in the world. Teddy produces exist because the nighttime is dark and long and at some detail your mothers have to go to bed and leave you. There is real convenience in cuteness.

Filling in an psychological need is exactly where kawaii plays a significant persona, said Christine R Yano, a professor of anthropology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and the author of Pink Globalization: Hello Kittys Trek Across the Pacific.

Even in America, writer Nicholas Kristof has written of an empathy spread in todays society, said Yano. He points to the place of objects that may be considered promoters of merriment, solace, solace. When a society must be free to heal, it tries comfort in the familiar. And often the familiar may reside in cute. Witness the use of teddy digests as sources of comfort for firefighters in the aftermath of NYCs 9/11. So I understand kawaii happenings as potential empathy generators.

Kumamon rekindles a ton of empathy. In the weeks after the Kumamoto earthquake, Kumamon was so necessary that in his absence his followers invoked him up themselves, separately, as an object of commiseration, a tireless savior, an obvious hero.

Three weeks after the 14 April earthquake, Kumamon called parties to the convention dormitory of the hard-hit town of Mashiki, where tenants were still sleeping in their cars for safety as 1,200 earthquakes continued to rumble across the field. His visit was reported on TV and in the papers as bulletin, as if a long-sought survivor had stumbled out of the wreck alive. The children, many of whom had lost their residences in the earthquake, flocked around him, moaning, hug, taking scenes. Their friend had returned.

This article firstly appeared in Mosaic and is republished here under a Creative Commons licence.

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The brand-new discipline of cute | Neil Steinberg

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The Long Read: Kumamon, a cartoon accept created to promote tourism in an overlooked part of Japan, has become a billion-dollar phenomenon. Now, a new academic land is currently in the process of pinpoint what builds circumstances cute and why we cant fight them

On 14 April 2016, a 6.2 -magnitude earthquake smacked Japans southernmost island of Kyushu, collapsing constructs and transmitting inhabitants hastening into the streets. Hundreds of aftershocks one an even greater 7.0 earthquake continues to dates, killing 49 beings, injuring 1,500 and obliging tens of thousands from their homes.

News spread instantly around the globe on social media.

Earthquake just happened, Margie Tam posted from Hong Kong. R u ok kumamon?

Are Kumamon and his friends safe? meditated Eric Tang, a college student.

Pray for Kumamoto& Kumamon, wrote Ming Jang Lee from Thailand, a term that would be repeated millions of times.

On 12 March 2016, a few months before the quake. Kumamon had bounded on to an outdoor stage at the opening incident of his birthday defendant in Kumamoto, a city of 700, 000 in a largely agricultural region of the same figure in the center of Kyushu. About 150 clients chiefly maidens heartened, applauded and whistled. Kumamon rippled and submitted. He is just under 5ft towering, with pitch-black glossy wool, circular red neck and wide-cut, staring sees, and he was wearing, for the party, a white-hot satin dinner jacket decorated in silver and a ruby-red submit tie.

One woman in the crowd hampered a Kumamon doll swaddled in a child blanket. Another had dressed her doll in a grey clothing according her own. It had taken her a few months to manufacture. A number of fans had pasted red-faced newspaper cliques on their cheek to simulate his. Those in the first sequence had arrived at 3am to snag prime spots to salute the object of their affection.

Actually, I have no idea why I desire him so much, said Milkinikio Mew, who had operated from Hong Kong with her friends Lina Tong and Alsace Choi to attend the three-day-long festival even though Hong Kong was supporting its own birthday party for Kumamon. “Shes had” overslept, and exclusively arrived at 6am for the 10 am kick-off, so she had to settle for a seat in the back row.

Kumamon is not exactly a caricature character, though he does appear in a daily newspaper cartoon strip. Hes not a brand icon either, like Hello Kitty, though like her, his image surely sells merchandise. Hes not sexy, but when the Empress Michiko filled Kumamon at her asking during the course of its imperial pairs call to Kumamoto in 2013, she asked him: Are you single?

A birthday cake was rolled out, and the crowd sang Joyous Birthday. Then presents. A representative from Honda, which has a motorbike factory nearby, rendered him its Kumamon-themed scooter. An Italian bicycle make unveiled a tradition Kumamon racing bike. There was also a brand-new usage DVD, on which Kumamon precedes the workout.

Kumamoto
Kumamoto prefectures official mascot Kumamon goes the Kumamon-themed scooter made by Honda. Picture: The Asahi Shimbun/ Asahi Shimbun/ Getty Images

The Italian bicycle was not for sale, at that time. But the other two parts were, connecting more than 100,000 makes that aspect Kumamons image from stickers and notebooks to cars and aeroplanes( one budget Japanese airline pilots a Kumamon 737 ). When the toy make Steiff offered 1,500 special edition Kumamon plush toys at $300 each, they claimed the brings sold out online in five seconds. Last time Leica made a $3,300 Kumamon camera, a buy in comparison with the solid gold bronze of Kumamon crafted by a Tokyo jeweller, which retails for$ 1m.

Kumamon is a yuru-kyara , or loose reputation, one of the cuddly creatures in Japan that represent everything from towns and metropolitans to airfields and prisons. The term is sometimes restated as mascot, but yuru-kyara are significantly different from mascots in the west, like those links with professional plays units, which is generally benign, prankish one-dimensional court fools that operate in the narrow realm of the sidelines during tournament time.

Kumamon has a far wider field of operation as the yuru-kyara for Kumamoto Prefecture. He has become more than a badge for that region, more than simply a strategy to move its tourism and farm makes. He is almost regarded as a living entity, a kind of fun ursine household divinity( it is perhaps substantial that the very first licensed Kumamon product was a Buddhist shrine emblazoned with his appearance ). He poises in a realm of fiction like a attribute from childrens literature, a cross between the Cat in the Hat and a teddy bear.

After the April earthquake, Kumamons Twitter feed, which has half a million partisans, stopped problem communications. With a thousand houses injury, liquid to the city piece, a infirmary jarred off its footings, and 44,000 people out of their dwellings, the prefectural authority, which handles Kumamons business dealings and impressions, had more important things to do than stage-manage its fictional bear.

But Kumamon was missed.

People are asking why Kumamons Twitter account has croaked silent when the prefecture needs its mascot produce more than ever, the Japan Times posted on its Facebook page on 19 April.

Into the vacuum reached hundreds, then millions of gleans, posted by progenies, both adults and even professional manga creators , is not simply from Japan, but from Thailand, Hong Kong and China. They waged an impromptu expedition to drum up is supportive of earthquake succor utilizing the make, which stood in for the city itself and its people. Kumamon was outlined producing the rescue efforts, his head bandaged, elevating stones to rebuild the tumbled walls of Kumamoto Castle, propping up tottering footings, enfolding children in his arms.

Ganbatte Kumamon! many wrote, utilizing a word that intends something between dont give up and do your best.

Kumamon is kawaii the word is carried as cute, but the word has broad-minded, multilayered entails, including a variety of sweetly alluring personas and behaviours.

People invest a lot on cute avatars Kumamon made$ 1 billion in 2015, Hello Kitty four or five times that. But what is cute? What is the basis of its entreaty? Does appreciation for cuteness gone naturally, or does it expose something about our society? Is it broadly positive or could cuteness harbour darker facets as well? These are some of the questions being addressed by a nascent academic battlefield, cute studies.

Empress
Empress Michiko( portrait with Emperor Akihoto and Kumamotos governor) wished to know whether Kumamon was single, in 2013. Photograph: The Asahi Shimbun/ Getty Images

About a week before Kumamons birthday, Soma Fugaki checked the opening-night gathering at Blossom Blast, a feminist artwork appearance at the UltraSuperNew Gallery in Tokyos hip Harajuku district. Parties were boozing and dancing. But Soma doesnt dance, or even stand. Hes a child. Just five months old, Soma squirmed in the weapons of “his fathers”, Keigo, who gazed lovingly into his sons face.

Everything about him is a thought of myself, Keigo answered, a cartoon version I stare at him all the time. He looks like me. Its my features, but inflated: bigger neck, bigger eyes.

Babies are our prototype for cuteness. Those last-place two items big cheeks, big eyes are straight out of Konrad Lorenzs Kindchenschema , or child schema, as defined in the Nobel prize-winning scientists 1943 newspaper on the innate liberating devices that cause affection and nourish in human beings: fatty cheeks, large-scale gazes adjusted low-spirited on the face, a high forehead, a small nose and mouth, and stubby forearms and legs that move in a clumsy pattern. Not just humans: puppies, baby ducks and other young swine are included in Lorenzs theory.

Lorenzs paper is the blueprint of cute investigates, but it did not render a positive action among the scientific community. He was a Nazi psychologist writing during wartime, exploring the partys possibilities on selective raising( he afterwards apologised for to intervene in the Nazi party and disinherited its ideology ).

For decades, scientists focused on what babies realize, and how they believe. But in the 21 st century, attention turned to how babies themselves are comprehended, as cuteness started becoming a cohesive realm of research. Experiments have reportedly been demonstrated that viewing cute faces improves concentration and sharpens fine machine knowledge, which are useful adjustments for treating an babe. Ventures fastening up voluntaries to magnetic resonance portrait scanners have shown how interpreting cute animals encourages the psyche to liberate dopamine. Societys embrace of cuteness has led academics in gender studies to wonder whether cute culture teaches ladies to be childlike, or whether it could be a means by which young woman take control of their own sexuality.

More recent experimentations have been carried out with the aim of identifying general aesthetic standards that can make an inanimate object cute. In a study at the University of Michigan in 2012, visual info expert Sookyung Cho asked themes to design a cute rectangle by changing the width, proportion, roundness, spin, and emblazon of the figure.

What she found supported the idea that smallness, roundness, tiltedness, and lightness of colour can serve as determinants of perceived cuteness in artefact blueprint. It mattered, she found, whether the person or persons designing the rectangle was in the US or South Korea. Cuteness is culturally specific, and that itself has become a rich focus of inquiry.


Cuteness is so links with Japan that the actual country can come as something of a surprise. On the Tokyo subway, jammed with tycoons in dark suits, women around article masks, children in plain academy garbs, a few examples of cuteness can be hard to spot. Still, there are pockets of cuteness to be found: tiny yuru-kyara appeals hanging off knapsacks or peeking from signs or interpretation obstacles in accordance with the arrangements of child ducks.

In Kumamoto, during Kumamons birthday weekend in March, at the exit of the Shinkansen bullet train at Kumamoto station, I seemed around for clues of cute fever. I was not disappointed: I caught spate of the enormous heads of state of Kumamon on the lower flooring, in a mock stationmasters power that had been specially to construct him. The teach station shop was fitted with Kumamon items, from bottles of sake to substance animals. In the city, his face was spread across the sides of an office house, with birthday banners hanging from the semi-enclosed shopping arcades that are a feature of every Japanese city.

Six years ago, Kumamoto wasnt knows we much. There is an active volcano, Mt Aso, nearby, and a 1960 s reproduction of a stunning 1600 s-era castling that burned down in 1877. Kumamoto residents accepted there was nothing in their city that anyone would want to visit. The neighborhood is predominantly agricultural, growing melons and strawberries.

But in 2010, Japan Railways was working to extend the Shinkansen bullet train to Kumamoto, and the city fathers were enthusiastic for tourists to use it. So they commissioned a logo to promote the neighbourhood, hiring a designer who offered a stylised exclamation celebrate( their official slogan, Kumamoto Surprise, was a bright spin on the fact that numerous Japanese would be surprised to find anything in Kumamoto worth realizing ).

An
An image of Kumamon etched on the grass at Suizenji Ezuko Park in Kumamoto. Image: The Asahi Shimbun/ Getty Images

The exclamation point logo was a red-faced blot, resembling the sole of a shoe. The decorator, was striving to embellish it, and knowing the popularity of yuru-kyara , lent a surprised black countenance. Kuma is Japanese for bear. Mon is local lingo for man.

He was endowed with a spiteful identity Milkinikio Mew, who came from Hong Kong for his birthday fete, announced him very naughty. Kumamon first reached headlines after Kumamoto supported a news conference to report that he was missing from his upright, having run off to Osaka to insist residents there to take the civilize. The stunt acted. Kumamon was voted the most popular yuru-kyara in 2011.( Japan has a national game, the Yuru-kyara Grand Prix, to participate in November. The most recent one were engaged in 1,727 different mascots and practically 77,000 eyewitness. Millions of referendums were cast .)

A few Kumamoto officials fought Kumamon their concern was that he would scare off potential tourists, who would are concerned about encountering wild carries, of which there are none in the prefecture. But the Kumamoto governor was a fan, and cannily waived licensing fees for Kumamon, fostering manufacturers to use him royalty-free. Rather than pay upfront, in order to get approval to use the brings portrait, fellowships are required to support Kumamoto, either by exploiting locally fabricated constituents or ingredients, or by promoting the region on their packaging.

The side of the box of the Tamiya radio-controlled Kumamon Version Buggy has photographs of countries of the region top tourist destinations. In one of the chants on the employ DVD released on Kumamons birthday, as he passes his devotees through their exertions, they grunt, Toh-MAY-toes straw-BEAR-ies wah-TER-melons all agricultural products that are specialities of Kumamoto. In every grocery store, Kumamon smiles from every punnet of strawberries and honeydew melon wrapper.

The bullet train embarked work to Kumamoto on 12 March, so the appointment is now is available as Kumamons official birthday. He was there to greet the first scheduled teach, a few moments recreated during his birthday festivities. Love lined up at the station to hug him, reaching back for a remaining last touching because they are resulted off to make way for the next waiting fan.

In 2014, Kumamon dedicated a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, where his entitle was given as head of PR. The reporters posed respectful doubts. How numerous staff do you have, to help you out with your activities? one requested. The explanation We have about 20 the staff in our division was given by one of those subsidiaries, Masataka Naruo, who enjoys telling people that Kumamon is his boss.

The day before the start of the celebration, Mew and her friends were browsing in Kumamoto. They wore Kumamon T-shirts and carried Kumamon backpacks. The three women evidenced their findings to one another. They owned a lot of Kumamon commodities already. Hes very cute, told Tong, in English, by way of explanation.

But for a mascot to be successful, being cute is not always enough. For every popular yuru-kyara , there are a hundred Harajuku Miccolos a 5ft-tall yellow-and-brown bee, who I congregated standing on the sidewalk outside the Colombin bakery and coffeehouse, celebrating Honey Bee Day with three hours of loitering in front of the coffeehouse, responding passers-by, or trying to. Most just glanced in his direction and did not crack stride, though some did come over and pose for a photograph. There was no queue.

Kumamon
Kumamon reads his correspondence at his office in Kumamon Square in Kumamoto. Photograph: The Asahi Shimbun/ The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Imag

Harajuku Miccolo, Colombins signature character, is cute hitherto obscure the common fate for most yuru-kyara . The municipality of Osaka has 45 different characters that promote its various aspects and who must fend off periodic gleans in the name of economy. One executive piteously argued that the government officials who develop these personas work hard on them and so would feel bad unless they are discontinued.

Harajuku Miccolo is trying to avoid that fate.

He is not a success yet, one of his handlers acknowledged, distributing cubes of the cafe trademark honey cake. Many are not as successful

as Kumamon?

Were trying


Nobody is cute in Shakespeare . The text was not available until the early 1700 s, when the a in acute was replaced by an apostrophe cute and then discontinued altogether. Acute came from acus , Latin for needle, afterwards signifying moment happens, really cute at first signified acute, inventive, keen-witted, sharp, clever, in agreement with the 1933 copy of the Oxford English Dictionary, which doesnt recommend the period could describe visual appearance.

The newer usage was still being fought in Britain in the mid-1 930 s, when a reporter at the Daily Telegraph included cute on his register of bastard American expressions, along with OK and radio. The portraying of cute, chubby babes is predominantly absent from visual artwork before the 20 th century. Newborns in medieval paintings are imaged as wizened miniature adults. Cute personas of the species we have become accustomed to began demo up around 1900, when favourite culture was discovering the bottomless marketability of cute acts. In 1909, the American illustrator Rose ONeill gleaned a comic strip about kewpies( taken from cupid) cleaning babylike men with tiny offstages and vast brains, which were handed out as circu loots and capered around Jell-O ads( to this day, Kewpie Mayonnaise, introduced in 1925, is the top-selling label in Japan ). Cuteness and modern commercialisation became intricately linked.

Still, kewpies followed the lines of actual human anatomy more or less, the practice that Mickey Mouse resembled a real mouse when he first appeared on film in 1928. A half century of fine-tuning became him much more infantile, a process the evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould famously described in his biological homage to Mickey, in which he drew the mischievous and sometimes brutal mouse of the late 1920 s as he morphed into the benign, bland superior of a vast corporate empire. He has assumed an ever more guileles look as the ratty reputation of Steamboat Willie became the cute and inoffensive emcee to a occult realm, Gould wrote.

In Japan, the infatuation with cuteness is visible in girls handwriting. Around 1970, schoolgirls in Japan began to imitate the caption textbook in manga comics what was announced koneko-ji , or kitten writing. By 1985, half of the girls in Japan had adopted the style, and companies marketing pencils , notebooks and other inexpensive talent components, such as Sanrio, became aware that these components sold better when festooned with various categories of personas, the queen of whom is Hello Kitty.

Her full name is Kitty White, and she has a family and lives in London( due to a Japanese furor for all things British in the mid-1 970 s ). The first Hello Kitty commodity, a vinyl copper purse, went on sale in 1974. Today, about$ 5bn value of Hello Kitty stock is sell yearly. In Asia, “theres” Hello Kitty amusement parks, eateries and inn suites. EVA Air, the Taiwanese airline, runs seven Hello Kitty-themed aircrafts, which carry portraits of Hello Kitty and her friends not only on their hulls, but throughout their cabins, on the pillows and antimacassars.


If your target is young women , the markets saturated, answered Hiroshi Nittono, director of the Cognitive Psychophysiology Laboratory at Osaka University, talking about the market for cute products in Japan. That was no doubt. In an attempt to stand out, some yuru-kyara are now formed intentionally crude or semi-frightening. There is the whole class of kimokawaii , or gross-cute, epitomised by Gloomy, a pink allow whose claws are crimson with the blood of “their childrens” owned, whom he habitually mauls. Even Kumamon, beloved as he is, is still subject to a popular internet meme where his projects are revealed to be done for the glory of Satan.

Because the practice of putting attributes on commodities is so prevalent, Nittono, a serene, smiling being who wears a cravat, has been working with the governmental forces on developing concoctions that are intrinsically cute. He advocated we fill at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in Hiroshima, where he is finishing up a tenured academic position.

For the past few years, Nittono and the governmental forces have been collaborating to develop cute components, a few of who the hell is laid out on a counter in its term of office: a squatting make-up clean, a container, a brazier, a few medallions and tiles. Payed the mind-boggling array of cute merchandise can be found at browses in every mall around the world, the parade was a little lacklustre.

Nittonos group is exploring how cuteness can be used as a invention to draw people toward produces without flagrant branding.

We application kawaii for such feeling, seeming kawaii things are not threatening, that is the most important part, small-time and not pernicious, enunciated Nittono. A high-quality product is somewhat distant from “the consumers “; it examines expensive. But if you put kawaii nuance on such makes, perhaps such items can be more approachable.

If you have something cute, then you want to touch it, and then you watch a better quality of it, contributed Youji Yamashita, a ministry official.

Objects can also be unintentionally kawaii . With her husband Makoto, Date Tomito owns Bar Pretty, a tiny side-street tavern in Hiroshima. Six beings would be crowded sitting at the bar. Makoto walked in from world markets standing a small weed in a yellowish toilet, a present for his wife.

This is kawaii , Date supposed, deeming the flora up, developing. There are lots of different senses for kawaii: cute, small-minded, cumbersome. Some events simply have a cute shape.

Its never bad, she included. I never use kawaii in an sarcastic style. Kawaii is kind of the best congratulate around Japanese beings, specially girls and women. They really like kawaii stuff and things.

Not all women concur. Hello Kitty has caught the interests of both professors, particularly in Japan, where the progress of women has lagged behind other industrial nations. Girlishness is a national obsession Japan did not ban wealth of child pornography until 2014 and its most well known female icon, Hello Kitty, doesnt have a opening. If cuteness does become a arena of academic analyse, then much credit has to be given to the feminist pushback against what Hiroto Murasawa of Osaka Shoin Womens University calls a mentality that engenders non-assertion.

Japanese women still live in a culture where single women in their 30 s are sometimes referred to as leftover Christmas cake, meaning that after the 25 th of December for cake, birthday for women they are past their expiration date and difficult to get rid of. None craves them.

Those surgical masks worn in public are to avoid colds, pollution and allergies. But many Japanese maidens say that they wear them year masuku just for show because they didnt have time to put on their makeup, or because they dont consider themselves cute enough, and they crave a shield against the intrusive attentions of their cramped world. In a German examine of 270,000 parties in 22 countries, when respondents were asked whether they were happy with how they appeared, Japanese parties arose last.

A
A Hello Kitty topic restaurant in Hangzhou, China. Image: VCG/ VCG via Getty Images

Joshua Paul Dale, a 50 -year-old cultural examines scholar on the faculty of Tokyo Gakugei University, has been the driving force in cute studies. Part behavioural science, place culture examines, percentage biology, the field is so new it hasnt had a meeting yet.

Dale was the first to put together an online cute analyzes bibliography, a index now containing over 100 brochures. They range in alphabetical tell from C Abidins Agentic cute (^.^): Pastiching East Asian cute in Influencer commerce, from the East Asian Journal of Popular Culture, to Leslie Zebrowitz et als Baby talk to the babyfaced, from the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior.

Dale also edited the East Asian Journal of Popular Cultures special cuteness problem, published in April 2016. The essays collected in this issue substantiate the flexible of cuteness as an analytical category, and the wide-cut scope of the revelations it generates, he wrote in the introduction.

Cuteness has not yet rose as an independent scientific battleground Dale is forecast that merely a few dozen professors worldwide focus on specific topics but he is hopeful that it is in the process of happening. When we met at his light-filled apartment in the Sendagaya section of Tokyo, he made a comparison withporn examines, which now has its own quarterly publication, created after professors united to focus on a topic they felt was being neglected by researchers, out of misplaced squeamishness.

Hiroshi Nittono contributed to the East Asian Journals special edition. Nittono, who authored the first peer-reviewed technical article with kawaii in its entitlement, postulates a two-layer model of cuteness: not only does it foster parental care of newborns, but once a babe moves into toddlerhood and begins interacting with “the worlds”, cuteness promotes socialisation.

Its interesting because its inherent in the concept itself, Dale told me. Cute stuffs relate easily to interesting thing. It kind of breaks down the barriers a little bit between soul and other, or subject and objective. That entails it invites act from various fields. Its interested in get beings together from different fields talking about the same subject.

Japan has uniquely hugged cuteness as a thoughtfulnes of its national reputation, the route tea ceremonies or cherry blooms were once hold back as symbolic of Japanese nationhood. In 2009, the governmental forces appointed a trio of cute representatives, three women in ribbons and babydoll full-dress whose project was to represent the country abroad.

The
The Taiwanese airline EVA Air runs seven Hello Kitty-themed aircrafts. Picture: China Foto Press/ Barcroft Medi/ China Foto Press/ Barcroft Media

Humanity has always cuddled household gods: not the world-creating universal deity, but minor, more personal allies to soften what can be a harsh and lonesome life. Not everyone has my best friend they deserve or the baby they would cherish. Often people are alone in the world. Teddy births exist because the night is dark and long and at some degree your parents have to go to bed and leave you. There is real solace in cuteness.

Filling in an emotional necessary is exactly where kawaii plays a significant role, responded Christine R Yano, a prof of anthropology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and the author of Pink Globalization: Hello Kittys Trek Across the Pacific.

Even in America, journalist Nicholas Kristof has written of an empathy gap in todays civilization, responded Yano. He points to the place of objects that may be considered promoters of prosperity, consolation, solace. When national societies needs to mend, it seeks solace in the familiar. And often the familiar may reside in cute. Witness the use of teddy tolerates as sources of comfort for firefighters in the aftermath of NYCs 9/11. So I interpret kawaii situations as potential rapport generators.

Kumamon evokes one tonne of empathy. In the weeks after the Kumamoto earthquake, Kumamon was so necessary that in his absence his love invoked him up themselves, separately, as an object of tendernes, a tireless rescuer, an obvious hero.

Three weeks after the 14 April earthquake, Kumamon inspected parties to the convention passageway of the hard-hit town of Mashiki, where tenants were still sleeping in their autoes for safety as 1,200 tics continued to rumble across the arena. His visit was reported on TV and in the newspaper as word, as if a long-sought survivor had stumbled out of the wreck alive. The infants, many of whom had lost their residences in the earthquake, flocked around him, moaning, embrace, taking depicts. Their sidekick had returned.

This article firstly appeared in Mosaic and is republished here under a Creative Commons licence.

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Nobility Campuses Offer Students Coloring Books, Puppies to Get Over Trump

The post-election freak-out on nobility campuses is total, and is made all the worse because students on these campuses never convene anyone who disagrees with them. “>

In the wake of the election, numerous university student at nobility colleges and universities have come down with serious cases of PTSD: President Trump Stress Disorder.

Their inability to anticipate this outcomethe election of Donald Trumpshould inspire the Ivy League to consider whether its really educating students for life outside the radical foam of campus.

To equip students with the resources they need to refute Trumpism, colleges have to stop shielding them from meanings that offend their radical insights. They have to stop professing that shutting down its consideration of the item is the same concept as acquiring an proof. Silence is not persuasion.

At Cornell University, exhausted students sat outside in stun the morning after the election. The Cornell Daily Sun, which live-streamed the muster , invited sees to cry with us. Attendees indicated that they are heartbroken and terrified.

Elsewhere, at campuses across the country, students asked professors to nullify classes and defer exams, quoting horror, tired, and psychological damage. Such accommodations were frequently awarded : Academics at Columbia University, Yale University, the University of Connecticut, and other institutions told students to take some time to come to terms with what had happened, as if the election of the members of Donald Trump was akin to a natural disaster or terrorist attack.

That wasnt all. Law students at the University of Michigan were provided with a post-election self-care with meat and play incident, complete with stress busting acts like play lettuce, coloring books, legos, and foams. Columbia Universitys Barnard College offered hot chocolate and colouring. The University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League academy, made a healing cavity: more coloring books, and too puppies.

There were actual cats and a puppy there, one UPenn student, Daniel Tancredi, told The College Fix. The incident as a whole seemed to be an flee from the reality of the election results.

One wonders whether some campuses have routinely provided too much of an flee from world, if the election has reduced their students to weepings, play lettuce, and a whole lot of coloring books.

To be sure, there are good reasons for students to be disheartened by Trumps victory. Candidate Trump committed to evict illegal immigrants, his government could curtail LGBT claims, and his embracing of Steve Bannon and the alt-right has emboldened white-hot domination, to identify precisely a few. Left-leaning students hurl outbursts all the time, but this tantrum has the virtue of being grounded in lawful concernunlike, answer, Christina Hoff Sommers coming to campus or someone wearing a culturally appropriative Halloween costume .

Intensifying this post-election freak-out reflects the fact that almost no one considered it comingand thats even more true on numerous college campuses than it is for other similarly blindsided institutions, like the left-of-center media. Campuses are remarkably devoid of conservative, Republican, and independent spokespeople, especially at the most selective and well-regarded schools. To give one example, just a single Princeton University faculty member made a donation to the Republican candidate in 2012. You would be more likely to encounter a Trump-sympathetic academic on the surface of the moon or the bottom “of the worlds oceans” than at Harvard or Yale.

All this ideological similarity has a cost, wrote Charles Camosy, an assistant professor of moralities at Fordham University, in a recent op-ed for The Washington Post .

Camosy developed on the problem in an interview.

People who are college educated, especially on hot button issues like life or selection or sex or wedding, are unable to even imagine how person might have a different sentiment, he told The Daily Beast. Theyve never been exposed to a different sentiment except as a caricature.

The purpose of college is to educate students and prepare them to succeed in the real world. But the rest of the country is distinctly unlike campus: It is filled with people who represent a wide range of political beliefs, religion traditions, income levels, and racial backgrounds. And it is filled with people who wanted Trump to be the next chairman of the United States.

Not all students are evenly sheltered, of course: Cherry-red nation universities no doubt had a much larger proportion of Trump comforters. On these campuses, at least, liberals had to debate their conservative classmates. But on nobility campuses , not so.

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