Harokiti (ハローキティ) or Hello Kitty is a world renown cartoon icon that made her debut in the U.S. in 1976. However, she began life in Japan as a character on a coin purse back in 1974 and this year will mark her 40th anniversary! Kiti-chan has been featured on countless toys, not to mention bowling balls, motor oil, a Fender Stratocaster, men’s undies, a Visa card and even a dress worn by Lady Gaga! From that humble coin purse, Hello Kitty has helped spawn an $8 billion enterprise. It is fair to say that she has truly become a part of global culture.
Consequently, in honor of her 40th anniversary, there are a number of activities devoted to Hello Kitty taking place in Los Angeles. An exhibition called “Hello! Exploring the Super Cute World of Hello Kitty,” which offers a full blown retrospective of the character opened at the Japanese American National Museum (100 N Central Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012) on October 11th and includes such rare items on display as the first plush doll from 1976 and the dress made famous by Lady Gaga. The exhibition is scheduled to run through April 2015!
Starting October 30th and running through November 2nd, the first ever Hello Kitty Convention was held at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) in Downtown L.A.’s Little Tokyo district. The sold out event featured interactive experiences and events for fans of all ages, including activities, art, exhibits, live performances, workshops, lectures, panels, tattoos, food and much more! It was estimated that over 25,000 fans attended the event. The main exhibit hall was divided into a main stage area, the Hello Kitty Friendship Village, Art School, Sanrio Vintage Shop, Vintage Village, Art Corner, Hello Kitty Tattoo Shop as well as a Zen Garden and a Super Supermarket (which featured a signing booth where Yuko Yamaguchi, Hello Kitty’s lead designer from Tokyo signed autographs). Outside, various food trucks, a temporary tattoo booth, a nail art station and a face painting/ caricature booth were featured. Even on the last day of the event which concluded at 7:00PM, the lines circled around the block as fans from not only California but from all over the U.S. poured in to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their beloved kiti-chan.
Yoshiki, the leader of XJapan who has his own version of Hello Kitty called Yoshikitty made a special appearance at the opening party on October 29th performing two compositions, the first of which was dedicated to Kunihiko Tsuji, the deceased son of Sanrio’s founder, Shintaro Tsuji and the senior operating officer and executive vice president of Sanrio Co. Ltd. It was Kunihiko who brought the character of Hello Kitty to the rest of the world. He passed away in November of last year due to acute heart failure. He was only 62 years old. Yoshiki told the audience how he knew Kunihiko and had spoken with him before his passing about creating the second song he performed, the Hello Kitty Anniversary song.
For food lovers, there is a special Hello Kitty Hungry Hunt (http://www.sanrio.com/hungryhunt/ ) taking place from October 24th through November 21st, where fans can visit some of the hottest restaurants in LA to pick up limited Hello Kitty themed food and a souvenir pin at every stop. Participating locations include: Cafe Dulce, Chado Tea Room, Charm City Cakes West, Daikokuya Sawtelle, and Dylan’s Candy Bar just to name a few.
But Los Angeles is not the only city devoted to the super cute character. Not surprisingly, there is Sanrio theme park in Tokyo called Puroland (https://traveldreamscapes.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/japan-tokyo-tama-city-sanrio-puroland-hello-kitty-theme-park/) and a Sanrio Café in Honolulu! From all of this activity it is evident that Hello Kitty’s popularity continues to grow strong and shows no sign of abating anytime in the future. Interesting Hello Kitty Trivia:
- Hello Kitty is not a cat according to a recent revelation by Sanrio, the Japanese company that designs, licenses and produces Hello Kitty products. “She’s a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She’s never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature. She does have a pet cat of her own, however, and it’s called Charmmy Kitty.”
- Kitty is actually named Kitty White and she has a full back story.
- She is a Scorpio.
- She loves apple pie.
- She is the daughter of George and Mary White.