On social media feeds all over the world, puppies experience hiccups for the first time, hamsters eat tiny tacos and cats befriend monkeys. And they do it a lot.

Kawaii is inescapable in Japan, where I have lived since the 1990s, so the global rise of adorable content online has not surprised me.

As of the time of writing, 676 million posts are tagged #cute on Instagram. The 66 million or so TikTok videos with the same hashtag have over 625 billion views. A constant presence online, cuteness occasionally rises to prominence in other ways too. Baby Yoda became a sensation in 2019, while “Barbie,” the movie, blew up in 2023, topping the global box office.