Twitter exploded in a mess of coos and smiles last night when a single photo of a puppy whose markings look almost exactly like the classic Japanese “frowny face” emoticon (>_<) was shared by user panda_tamio. Puppies rarely have to try especially hard to be adorable, but this one may just be the cutest thing we’ve seen all week.
Here in Japan, punctuation-based emoticons, or kaomoji (lit. “face character”) are a vital part of digital communication, often conveying entire feelings and emotion more succinctly than a whole sentence ever could. The classic smiley, wink, or the “pulling tongues” smiley may get plenty of use in the West, but compared to the kaomoji used in Japan – especially if you happen to be a high school girl or a twentysomething office worker desperately clinging to her youth – they’re barely an afterthought.
Most mobile phones come with a whole host of kaomoji faces to choose from as well as Western-style emoticons and icons. In fact, look in a Japanese garakei or smartphone keyboard and you’ll find an enormous menu of preprepared kaomoji faces, some of which are so obscure that we can’t say we’ve ever had an excuse to use them.
▼ A typical kaomoji selection. There are four pages of these things.
With this profound love of kaomoji in mind, you can no doubt imagine Japanese texters’ excitement when this little chap appeared in a tweet yesterday.
For those who don’t speak Japanese or are unfamiliar with Twitter, the figure “10,907″ in the bottom left shows the number of times this single photo was re-shared yesterday afternoon. Yup, Japan definitely loves a pup with a funny face, even if it is supposed to be a frown.