Doing some tidying over the long weekend I found a box full of memories from Japan. It appeared to be a box I posted home to Perth at the end of my stay, then didn't really unpack because I didn't get back to Perth for three more years. It was a real trip down memory lane, with numerous cards and gifts from my former students there, and especially lovely were photographs of the kids' classes I used to teach - even though all those cute little kids are now teenagers! Time flies.
What I was reminded of above all is the Japanese love of cute. I imagine it hasn't changed much since I was there, and it had become everyday to me at the time, but it's fascinating that adults in Japan obsess over cutesy cartoon characters just as much as kids do (more, perhaps!). Unpacking this box brought out numerous versions of Miffy, Hello Kitty and Doraemon - on cards, envelopes, note paper, photo frames, stickers, fans, you name it, these guys were all over it! (My son was fascinated - especially as we've recently been reading Miffy books).
But to top it all off, I found my old ATM card. I remember very well the trouble it took to get this ATM card - our employer helped all new recruits fill out the complicated bank forms and then eventually my ATM card was delivered. And it looked like this:
Yes, a serious bank (Sanwa Bank, which merged into a bigger bank while I lived there - I got a boring looking card the following year!) issued automatic teller cards with Peanuts characters all over them. The passbook I was given where transactions would be printed was the same. At first I wondered if they'd mistakenly issued me with a children's account, but I soon realised that it was completely normal. It was just me who thought it was strange.
My opinion about this love of cute changed over the time I was there. At first I thought it was a bit childish, even a little silly, for adults to be so interested in children's cartoon characters. As my experience in Japan continued I began to think there was nothing wrong with it - and even something quite right with it, because why shouldn't we enjoy some of the fun aspects of childhood even when we're "all grown up"? I even started using Miffy pencils in class and putting Doraemon key chains on my mobile phone - and thanks to that newly-discovered box, I have heaps more cute stuff to put to use in the near future. Just seeing this bank card on my desk puts a smile on my face. Thanks, Japan!