Hello, you weird, creepy Kitty.
Her blood type: A. To my surprise she was born “in the suburbs of London” on November 1st, 1974. Yes, Hello Kitty turned 36 a few months ago. And yes, her parent(s), Sanrio Co., Ltd., which in 2010 celebrated its 50th anniversary, posted this and more biographical information online, which you’ll have to visit if you want to know who “Mimmy,” “Dear Daniel,” and “Kitty White” are. Anyway, for 36 Hello Kitty’s looking pretty good, and, of course, heart-meltingly cute. To some. Well, I suppose to millions. As for what she’s worth, that goes into the billions, as in an estimated $5 Billion annually.
Hello Kitty’s real creator is Yuko Shimizu, designer and graduate of a Musashino Art University, whose main campus is located in Tokyo. Here’s a short interview with Ms. Shimizu, wherein she talks about Hello Kitty, and her newest design “Rebecca Bonbon,” in Japanese with French subtitles.
Despite her continuing — as noted, $5 billion annually — popularity, Hello Kitty’s parent company seems to be getting edgy about her star peaking and the need to come up with The Next Big Thing. Says Yuko Yamaguchi (who took over most HK’s design portfolio after Ms. Shimizu created the original Hello Kitty): “’We badly need something else. Characters take a long time to develop and introduce to different markets,’ Ms. Yamaguchi said. ‘But Kitty has been so popular it’s overshadowed all our other efforts.’” (quoted in this New York Times article). The article includes this golden sentence, combining market analysis with the beautifully, alliterative weird:
“Analysts say part of the problem is that Sanrio has oversold Hello Kitty, which appears on products as various as T-shirts, toilet paper and toasters.”
That’s a good and appropriate way to get to the fun part of this piece, examples of the strange and diverse world of Hello Kittyness, beginning with a few finds of my very own:
I’ve brought several of these back as Nara souvenirs. Here we see Hello Kitty swaddled in the comforting arms of the Great Buddha of Nara (at Todai-ji Temple) A Western equivalent would be Jesus holding Snoopy. Speaking of Temples, here’s a Hello Kitty souvenir stand assaulting Kinkaku-ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion:
Below — a Hello Kitty license plate frame. I snapped this photo in Kyoto in 2008.
As sad and poignant as it is, well, odd. Below is a photo I took in 2009, just a few steps away from Kurodani Temple in Kyoto. This is at a memorial (headstone) shop. Yes, it’s a Hello Kitty headstone, which would be used for the grave of a little girl:
I’ll be updating this piece over the coming days but for now will just let all that kind of sink in. Please come back for more and — yes, even stranger — HKness. I should sign off on a more upbeat note than cemetery-related Hello Kitty paraphernalia. How about this, Eva Air’s (<- a must-watch vid) Hello Kitty Airbus A330-200:
. . .
Post Script: I’ll go ahead and include a few weirder Hello Kittys I’ve found on or have had sent to me via the http://www. More to come. . . .
= UPDATE =
Don’t know how I missed this one: last fall a Hello Kitty Theme Park opened in Japan. Yeh, you go and enjoy that.