The Hello Kitty Craze

Growing up, I always had two fictional characters that kept resurfacing as different objects in various stages of my life. They were Mickey Mouse and Hello Kitty. Now, I still find myself wearing Mickey Mouse T-shirts and scribbling on a Hello Kitty paper pad. Mickey Mouse and Hello Kitty have evolved into timeless characters that have touched the lives of people from one generation to the next.

Hello Kitty for president.| tedeytan

Hello Kitty (Harō Kiti) is a fictional character initially designed by Yuko Shimizu and produced by Sanrio, a Japanese company. It was first introduced in Japan in 1974. Images of the Japanese bobtail cat adorned with a red bow can be found on almost anything—fashion accessories, school supplies, food décor, electronic gadgets. Numerous Hello Kitty TV series have aired, and Hello Kitty is the main character of two popular theme parks in Japan: Sanrio Puroland and Harmonyland.  It is also the ideal symbol for kawaii (cuteness) in Japan.  Since 2010, Hello Kitty has become a global phenomenon worth $5 billion a year!

Hello Kitty sewing machine. | Cláudia Assad

Hello Kitty’s real name is Kitty White. She was born in London on November 1. Her height is five apples tall and she is as heavy as three apples. Hello Kitty has a twin sister named Mimmy. Both Kitty and Mimmy have their own personal profiles describing their own distinct characteristics. They even have other family members such as Papa George, Mama Mary, and Grandpa Anthony, all with their own personal profiles.

Hello Kitty cupcakes. | machechyp

Hello Kitty’s British nationality was a strategic marketing move by Sanrio because during the time of her creation, foreign countries (especially the UK) were popular in Japan. The very first product that featured Hello Kitty was a vinyl coin purse.

According to Helen McCarthy, an author and expert on Japanese animation and comics, “Hello Kitty stands for the innocence and sincerity of childhood and the simplicity of the world. Women and girls all over the world are happy to buy in to the image of the trusting, loving childhood in a safe neighborhood that Hello Kitty represents. They don’t want to let go of that image, so as they grow up, they hang onto Hello Kitty out of nostalgic longing – as if by keeping a symbolic object, they can somehow keep hold of a fragment of their childhood selves.”

Hello Kitty was first introduced to the U.S. in 1976, and the rest is history!

Hello Kitty bus in Shinjuku.  photo Jessica Dales | KCP Flickr