I'm totally in love with Japanese merch and design. Why? Mostly, I think, cause it's not terribly gender classified or age classified. It's cool when a guy can look like a girl, like this:
Keep in mind that these boys aren't transgender or transvestites.
They're just cross-dressing cause they like it.
Here everything is so divided. You'd never find Hello Kitty in the ladies' department and you'd never see Mickey Mouse on a grown man's sneakers. In Japan I was so happy to find purple sneakers with glitter and Disney themes on them in the mens' department. My feet are too big to fit into the largest size of ladies' shoes :( The fact that I could find those kind of shoes made the possibility of me actually buying shoes a little higher, and I wasn't restricted to black Converse.
Other than that I love that themes from manga, anime, Disney etc aren't restricted to children. It's no big deal if adult girls have Hello Kitty or Disney straps on their mobile phones. It's no big deal if a man has a cool teddybear strap. It wasn't a big deal when I was completely fangirling when I found this section full of One Piece merch at Kiddy Land:
Shounen Jump Store was filled with teenagers and adults. Here that store would almost be equal to a toy store. Here I'm almost embarrassed to enter toy stores, in Tokyo Kiddy Land was filled with teenagers and adults. I loved to walk around inside the Disney Store in Shibuya and I loved that there were as many teenagers and young adults out on dates at Disneyland as there were children with their parents. I loved that not only children were hugging Donald and Goofy when they came around, but teenage girls too.
Something else that I really like is that cartoons aren't just something for children. But in Japan there are cartoons (anime) for all ages and it's alright to be obsessed with a cartoon. In my first year studying Japanese at the university I met a girl who absolutely adored Moomin and wanted all the merch she could find with the characters. This girl was in her 20's and it was absolutely nothing weird about it. And when was the last time you saw a new cartoon being advertised like this in the busiest areas of the city?
But what got me into Japanese merch in the first place was that they had perfected something that really spoke to me: the creepy cute. I fell in love with the Gloomy bears. Cute teddy bears that kills and eats everyone who threatens the girl they belong to. I have two: a pink and a black one. I would love to expand my collection with a purple and a white one too, but the Swedish store that sold them has closed down :(
I also fell in love with Junko Mizuno's dolls and art. It's beautiful and creepy at the same time. I don't yet own something of hers, but I would really love to - very much.
Then there's Skelanimals (which I'm not sure is originally Japanese, but anyway they are obviously inspired by Japanese style and art) and there's also h.NAOTO's fashion, which is so cool and incredibly creepy cute. Enough to spawn a musical group with two of everyone's favourite ex-Morning Musume members.
h.NAOTO also come in dolls as I discovered in Kiddy Land. I think of these dolls everytime I see a CM for Monster High here. And I wonder why such cool dolls didn't exist when I was a kid.
Other than the creepy cute, Japanese merchandise has proved that to be cute it doesn't have to be baby pink. I like when things can be cute, but not necessarily the colour of cotton candy. My favourite merch as of right now is that of Sentimental Circus and Mamegoma. Sentimental Circus seems very inspired by Alice in Wonderland (which also is a big hit in Japan) and I really like that :)
I guess that's pretty much it. I love it cause you can never really grow out of it. I love it cause it's available for me, although I'm above the age of 12. I love it cause it's different from what we have and yet it's still very much the same, but with a twist.