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Tokyo, Japan

Cray Pop: The Kawaii Genius of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

Cray Pop: The Kawaii Genius of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers Japan

The Uncanny Cuteness of Japan's Harajuku Empress

By Beverly Bryan
July 16, 2012

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is living, singing, dancing proof that taking risks with your personal style can take you far in life. She’s a model, a blogger, and a next-generation J-pop star with internationally charting hits. But these things are all mere mediums. Her true artform is kawaii. Roughly translated, it means simply cuteness. Everything she does drips adorbs.

That said, this kawaii artist’s inspirations lean toward the David Lynch/Salvador Dalí end of the cultural spectrum. From her eyeball covered bloomers to her lovable shark hats, the Japanese style icon and international Web sensation has a talent for making cute seem bizarre (and turning bizarre things cute).

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu began her reign of left-field glamour as a fashion blogger. The blogging led to modeling for Harajuku fashion magazines, which led to notoriety and the launch of her own line of fake eyelashes. As a well-known cover girl, she already had a lot of fans, so  she took the next logical step, teaming up with Perfume producer Yasutaka Nakada and %6 Doki Doki fashion line founder Sebastian Masuda to launch an all out pop offensive.

In 2011 her ridiculously catchy first single “Pon Pon Pon” and the Lisa-Frank nightmare video that accompanied it introduced her to a stunned and fascinated world. The video went mondo viral. After teasing her audience with the Moshi Moshi Harajuku EP and a volley of hallucinogenic videos, she made a full-length debut this year with Pamyu Pamyu Revolution. Pop culture may never be the same.

Through waaaay-over-the-top style, mind-altering videos and dizzy stage shows, this ingenue subverts the now well-worn archetype of a Japanese pop idol, while somehow still being an actual idol. Her singing voice may be heart-meltingly small and childlike, but she is a singer and a genuine performer. Of course she has a crack team of wardrobe and studio magicians helping her achieve these aesthetic triumphs, but if anyone asks, the diabolical mastermind behind Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is none other than … Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.

Read our interview with the musical agent provocateur for an introduction to the secrets of Kyary-ism.

Photo credit: Warner Brothers Japan

What does Kyary Pamyu Pamyu mean?


高校生のとき、おしゃれを楽しむために金髪のウィッグをよく被ってました。 それを見た友達が外国人風に冗談で「きゃりー」呼び始めたのがきっかけです。 ブログを始めることになって、「きゃりー」だけじゃものたりなく「ぱみゅぱみゅ」は響きがかわいいので「きゃりーぱみゅぱみゅ」にしました。

When I was in high-school, I was often wearing a blond wig, just for fashion. And one of my friends started to call me Kyary, just for fun, saying that I’m like a foreign girl. When I started my blog, I’d felt Kyary was a bit too short for a name, and missing something, so I’d thought of adding ‘Pamyu Pamyu’ ‘cause it had a cute (kawaii) little tone – that’s why my name is “Kyary Pamyu Pamyu”.


We’ve heard you were initially inspired by Gwen Stefani and that you’re a Katy Perry fan. But what do you think of Nicki Minaj?



She has a bizarre sense of fashion, which I think is great.


What defines Harajuku culture today?



Freedom in fashion for everyone. Anyone can wear anything in their own style and fashion.


How do you incorporate that into your style as Kyary Pamyu Pamyu?


たまにモードでロックぽい日があったり、パステル全開のフェアリーぽい日があったり、本当に気分によってバラバラ 「自分のスタイルはこれ!」と決めつけないスタイルかな

It really depends on my mood of the day. Sometimes I feel like wearing a cutting edge rock-style, and the other day, my feelings are for a sweet and light colored fairy-ish fashion. I think my style is kind of don’t categorize yourself into “This is My Style” fashion.


Do you work with stylists or do you do a lot of your costumes and makeup yourself?


衣装を決めるときは、スタイリストさんと細かく話合って決めてます。 私が「○○にしたい!」というとその場でスタイリストさんがデザイン画を描いてくれます。 流行モノはあまり身に着けないかもしれないです。

When I decide my costumes, I talk and work closely with my stylists. For instance, I give them my ideas, saying like “I want to do this and that!”, and the stylist will draw up some images for the design right away.


Photo credit: Warner Brothers Japan

Is there something you would never ever wear?



I think I don’t follow the current fashion and trends.


What item of clothing could you never live without?





What do you think of mainstream J-pop?



I listen to some of them, and some of them I don’t.


Do you like k-pop?



Yes, especially my favorites BIGBANG and 2NE1.


What do your parents think about your career?


高校生の時は、奇抜なファッション過ぎてよくケンカしましたが、今ではとても応援してくれてます。 よくライブも観にきてくれます。

When in high school, I had little fights with my parents over my eccentric fashion. But now they are supporting me a lot, and they are coming to see my show a lot.


What is the hardest part of your job?



Getting up early in the morning.


Do you have a message for your fans outside of Japan?


いろいろな国に早くライブに行きたいです! これからもきゃりーぱみゅぱみゅをよろしくお願いします!

I love to go and perform all over the world!! Thank you for all your support, and hope to see you soon!


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