When I was a little girl in Korea, Hello Kitty was just getting popular. I remember liking how calm and adorable she was. Hello Kitty and I share a November 1 birthday. She was born in 1974 so I am her older “sister”. My sister was born in 1976 and she is also a fan of Hello Kitty. Every chance I got, I tried to buy her something Hello Kitty and I still do. It’s a silly obsession but it brings me comfort and nostalgia.
Hello Kitty was created by Sanrio. The founder, Shintaro Tsuji, realized adding cute details to things made them sell better so he hired people to create cute characters to go with his products. Soon, the business savvy creator started marketing products for overseas and HK has been a hit ever since. I personally own too many Hello Kitty items. I am not a collector in that I do not collect EVERYTHING or just have them lying around. I buy HK products that I can use like a party clutch, earrings, cups, etc. HK also has high end items but I’m not so obsessed that I need to buy any of those.
When I go to H mart or other Asian markets, I always pick something up for my sister. I have bought her Hello Kitty toilet paper even! I found Hello Kitty soy sauce, shot glasses, bowls, etc. For a hot minute the local mall had a Sanrio store a few years ago and she and I had a lot of fun buying things for my two daughters. I was sad when the store closed but that seems to be the way of Hello Kitty – her popularity comes in waves. It is not constant like Mickey Mouse or other cartoon icons.
It was always my hope to visit the couple of Hello Kitty parks that cropped up but it looks like COVID has ruined that chance for me. On January 1, 2020 Sanrio Hello Kitty Town in Iskandar Puteri, Malaysia permanently closed down due to lack of attendance. On February 21, 2020, the Sanrio Puroland theme park (also known as Hello Kitty Land) in Tokyo closed due to the COVID pandemic. Park officials hoped to have it reopened in early April 2020. However, in June 2020, Sanrio issued a statement that its founder, Shintaro Tsuji, would retire from his position as Sanrio’s chief executive on 1 July 2020, and his grandson, Tomokuni Tsuji, 31, would take over to “ensure efficient decision making. I hope one of his decisions is to reopen Hello Kitty Land. I will be so sad if I never get to visit.
There are also a few HK themed restaurants and cafes that have popped up. There is a Hello Kitty Sweets shop in Taiwan. The restaurant’s decor and many of its dishes are patterned after the Hello Kitty characters. Hello Kitty Diner opened Sydney, Australia and a Hello Kitty Dim Sum restaurant is said to be somewhere in Sydney Australia. How cute would those dim sum be? I would hope they are in the shape of Hello Kitty heads. LOL I heard from one of my friends that a Hello Kitty café have opened up in different areas of South Korea including Seoul. I am hoping one will still be open by the time I make my trip next year. I think California may have a couple of Hello Kitty cafes as well.
One of my favorite things about HK is that she does not have a mouth. She is so kawaii and can express herself without a single word. She appeals to a wide audience. Maybe at first she was for kids but I know full grown Asian men who owns things with her character emblazoned on them. There are purses, laptops, fashion and more than 50,000 products in more than 60 countries. If you are emo or goth there are even black and stark HK images – you know for the cool kids. LOL
The strangest thing I read about was a Hello Kitty-themed maternity hospital opened that opened in Yanlin, Taiwan in 2008. Hello Kitty was featured on the receiving blankets, room decor, bed linens, birth certificate covers, and nurses’ uniforms. That was a little TOO OBSESSED. You can add cute to a lot of things but childbirth is so serious, I’m not sure how safe I would feel in a cartoon themed ward. So maybe it is more correct to say I have a love of Hello Kitty and that it is not a true obsession. Whatever you want to call it, I love Hello Kitty!