Sunday, October 15, 2006

Japan is Hello Kitty land

UPDATE: This is not a post about Sanrio Puroland. There is no such place as "Hello Kitty Land" in Tokyo - that was just a pithy title I came up with for this blog post. If you're looking for the Hello Kitty-themed amusement park, you are looking for Sanrio Puroland.

One of the first things you notice when you step off the plane in Japan (and I mean anywhere in Japan) is probably going to be one of these:

Yeah, Japan is a Hello Kitty nation. It sounds kinda obvious but it's really impossible to overstate this - even if you're expecting it, it's just unbelievable when you see it. You think Hello Kitty's popular in the US. You think Sanrio's gone out of their gourd with some of their wacky products here. Well, there's nothing that hasn't been Hello Kitty-ized in Japan, and literally no store in existence that does not carry some kind of Hello Kitty swag. You could probably walk into Givenchy in Ginza and find a Hello Kitty pant suit.

Don't even ask.

Part of Sanrio's genius is in producing merchandise "exclusive" to various areas and attractions. There are Hello Kitty cell phone straps for every individual ward in Tokyo, for example - from Ueno to Shinjuku to Ikebukuro. There are Hello Kitty keychains exclusive to the Meiji Shrine. There are Hello Kitty shinkansen bento boxes. There are even Hello Kitty cakes tied to specific areas. These tchotschkes - sold along with more expensive merchandise nearby - mean tourists from all over Japan are constantly buying new Hello Kitty trinkets as souvenirs and "omiyage" (little gifts passed between friends and family on various small occasions).

By the way, the Japanese call Hello Kitty "Kitty-chan". They rarely actually refer to "Hello Kitty". Makes sense if you think about it ("Kitty" is the actual name, "Hello" is just a greeting!).

Even as a tourist you will probably start to think it's all a little too much. You just cannot escape Kitty-chan's grasp, no matter where you go. Eventually, no matter how much you resist, you will be swept up in the tsunami of Kitty-chan goods - no use trying to hold back the tide with your bare hands.

Top to bottom and left to right, we have a package of Hello Kitty band-aids, a blinged-out Hello Kitty purse of some sort (bought as a gift), a Hello Kitty Meiji Shrine keychain, and a Hello Kitty Tokyo Tower cell phone strap.

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About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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