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the Japanese Rilakkuma phenomenon

Updated on August 26, 2011

What's so special about this bear?

You may have come across this cute and cuddly plush bear, and wondered what it's all about?

It's Japanese kawaii culture at its best, the culture of anything cute and adorable which is rapidly spreading across the globe. Since the 1970s kawaii has been a prominent aspect of the Japanese popular culture, and today is one of Japan's biggest cultural exports.

Kawaii (かわいい)is the Japanese adjective for cute/loveable/adorable and is formed by the two kanji 可愛いwhich literally means "acceptable love". The word kawaii has had a few more attributes added to it, and today is also associated with being cool & funky.

Rilakkuma is just one of the characters from the universe of "cute" to enjoy increasing popularity, and win the hearts of kids and young women. So if you are into the cute & cuddly it's not hard to understand why.

Welcome to the world of Rilakkuma!

The story of Rilakkuma

Rilukkuma is one of the many cute characters created by the Japanese San-X company.

San-X specializes in the creation and marketing of cuddly designs, and their characters can be found on a variety of consumer products ranging from toys, stationary, books, anime and games to accessories and food packaging.

Hello Kitty by Sanrio may be seen as the queen of Kawaii, but San-X is not far behind with characters such as the lazy Tarepanda, Nyan Nyan Nyanko white kittens and Rilakkuma of course.

The name Rilakkuma literally means Relaxed Bear deriving from Rirakkusu (レラックス) to relax and Kuma くま(熊) meaning bear in Japanese.

Escaping the stress of modern day life, the universe of Rilakkuma is all about relaxing and enjoying a trouble free lifestyle. Rilakkuma lives in the apartment of an office lady, Kaoru, and it's a bit of a mystery why he ended up taking residency there! Other characters in the world of Rilakkuma is the little white bear Korilakkuma, who is Rilakkuma's companion as well as the energetic bird Kiiroi tori.

the world of Rilakkuma

Rilakkuma does things in his own pace and often lies around, enjoys hot springs, listens to music, watches tv and sleeps. However Korilakkuma literally "child or little bear" is more energetic and enjoys listening to music, dancing, drawing and joking around. Some of Rilakuma's favorite foods include pancakes, custard and "omurice" (omelette with fried rice and ketchup).

Rilakkuma first appeared in 2003, so is not exactly new to the scene, not to Japan anyway, and was created by Aki Kondo. The ideas are based upon her wish to enjoy a more relaxing life, so Rilakumma became a reflection of those thoughts. A cute & relaxed bear was born!

Other San-X characters

Another laid back character is the Tarepanda (たれぱんだ). The word "tare" roughly translates to droopy in Japanese, and was inspired by its designer Suemasa Hikaru, who at the time of its creation in the mid 90s, felt tired and worn out.

People felt sympathetic towards the worn out panda, and it became a huge success in Japan, and has since then also gained increased recognition outside Japan.

Other popular animals are the cats such as the sleepy or sockwearing cats Kutsushita Nyanko (靴下にゃんこ), Nyan Nyan Nyanko and the Jewel Cat.

Dogs, frogs and elephants are also a part of San-X's almost endless creations, but this was just a quick look into the universe of Rilakkuma.

So, if you weren't already familiar with Rilakkuma you would now know to cook up some pancakes :-)


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    • anglnwu profile image


      7 years ago

      It's good to keep up with the latest Japanese craze. I know my daughter will like Rilakkuma. She was in love with hello kitty before. Thanks for sharing.

    • ForestBear profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Thank you nikkiraeink, I appreciate it.

    • nikkiraeink profile image


      7 years ago from So. Cal.

      Great hub. I have a friend that lives in Japan so now I have something interesting to talk to her about their culture. Thank you! Voted up and awesome.


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