Japan is obsessed with cuteness, and wherever possible cuteness of the small, cute, fluffy and fuzzy kind. I think everyone probably knows who hello kitty is, but what about totoro? or doraemon? or spulin? or the other million odd characters that live here?
And unlike NZ they arent confined to a solitary life at the foot of the bed or in kids toy boxs, they are everywhere. I cant make it to the kitchen without coming across a few, let alone the end of my street. But more about these little parasites later, because there is another thing certain japanese people seem to like, anything "western" (by which they invariably mean "american").
These two things were bound to combine in some way, so ask yourself what is american, small, cute and could be completely misinterpreted in someway? The playboy bunny of course! You see it everywhere here, on notebooks, bags, keyrings, clothes etc.
The one place you dont see it though is on playboy magazines, i cant remember seeing one in japan! This could have something to do with japans bizzare censorship laws which would leave them very pixelated, but thats another story.
Ive asked a couple of my students who came to class wearing playboy sweatshirts if they knew where the rabit came from, and none of them did. All im going to say about this is can you imagine explaining what playboy is to a group of japanese housewives in their 50s with limited english ability?
One of the most surprising places the rabbit turns up is on school uniforms. School dress codes are much stricter than in NZ, uniforms of course, no jewellery, uniform jackets, uniform schoolbags, I even heard of students being taken out of class to the hairdressers because their hair wasnt the right shade of black!
The one small shred of individuality that can creep into the uniform is in what brand of socks a student buys, with each brand having its own 1cm square logo. Most choose eiffel tower socks, or something similar, alot however choose the bunny.