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About The Asian reporter. (Portland, Or.) 1991-current | View Entire Issue (Nov. 17, 2014)
November 17, 2014
ASIA / PACIFIC
THE ASIAN REPORTER n Page 3
Hello Kitty’s 40 years
of cuteness and cool
Continued from page one
two dots for eyes, a tiny circle for a nose and no mouth —
Hello Kitty was largely for little girls at the start. Her
stationery became a staple gift for schoolgirls. Hello Kitty
made her overseas debut in the United States in 1976
before heading to Europe and the rest of Asia. She posed
piloting an airplane in 1978 for the opening of Tokyo’s
Narita International Airport, symbolizing her dream of
The ’80s: Kids Stuff No More
Hello Kitty began shaking off her purely childish image
and attracting adults. Her outfits and background shifted
from bold red, blue, and yellow to hues of pink and blue. A
black and white Hello Kitty reflected a monotone boom led
by Japanese fashion brand Comme des Garcons. Kitty’s
third and current designer, Yuko Yamaguchi, took the
bold step of removing the black outline around the
character. Hello Kitty decorated the popular items of the
day, including pagers and handheld game machines.
The ’90s: Like Mother, Like Daughter
WORLD RECORDS DAY. Chandra Dangi, left, who is 21.5” tall,
stands by Sultan Kösen, who is 8’3” tall, at a photocall to celebrate the
10th annual Guinness World Records Day in Westminster, London. In
February 2012, Nepalese Dangi officially became the world’s shortest liv-
ing man. Chandra was given the title when it was discovered that he was
shorter than Junrey Balawing of the Philippines, who in June 2011 was
23.5” tall. The same year, Dangi was confirmed as the shortest adult hu-
man to ever have their height verified by Guinness World Records, beat-
ing a benchmark set by Gul Mohammed (1957-1997) of New Delhi,
India, who was 22.5” tall. Sultan, from Ankara, Turkey, first became the
world’s tallest living man in 2009, when he was 8’1”. He took the title
from China’s Xi Shun, who in 2005 was 7’8.95”. (AP Photo/PA, John
Some of her original fans started having children, a
potential second generation of fans. Sanrio Puroland, a
theme park targeting families, opened in the Tokyo
suburbs. Designer Yamaguchi created a baby Kitty in
1999 at the request of young mothers. “Kitty-lers,” a new
breed of grown-ups devoted to the character, became a
national phenomenon. A Hello Kitty laptop went on sale,
as did a portable karaoke machine amid a karaoke boom.
“I’m her peer, and I’ve been her fan since kindergarten,”
said 40-year-old Yuko Ishikawa, who gave a big hug to
Hello Kitty at Sanrio Puroland on a visit with her
three-year-old daughter, Hina. “Happy birthday!”
The 2000s: The Cool Factor
The growing worldwide popularity of Japanese
animation and comics helped Hello Kitty become cool, not
just cute — or “cute-cool” as Yano puts it. A new wink gave
her greater semantic presence, she said. “It can be taken
straight, or ironically, or it can be taken humorously.”
Sanrio reached out to fans of different fashion tastes, from
MIDDLE-AGED ICON. A model dressing as Japanese character
Hello Kitty gestures to show the number “40” to 40-year-old Yuko Ishi-
kawa at Sanrio Puroland, a Tokyo theme park featuring Hello Kitty. When
she came to life in 1974, she did not have a name, sitting sideways in
blue overalls and a big red bow, on a coin purse for Japanese girls.
On the first Saturday this month, fans around the world celebrated the
40th anniversary of the global icon of “cute-cool.” That is, Hello Kitty.
(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
girly to street and designer brands. In 2008 Hello Kitty
donned a Dior collection in Vogue magazine. She also
co-branded with Diesel, A Bathing Ape, Undercover,
Reebok, and Vans, as well as cosmetics makers Crabtree
& Evelyn and MAC.
The Future: Lady Gaga, Swarovski, What’s Next?
Hello Kitty is featured on about 50,000 items in some
130 countries. Lady Gaga has performed in Hello Kitty
costumes, and rock band Kiss produced t-shirts last year
featuring Hello Kitty in its trademark-Kiss makeup and
costumes. A sitting Kitty decorated with 14,000
Swarovski stones sells for 476,280 yen ($470) in Japan.
Taiwan’s EVA Air launched a Kitty-inspired Airbus
A330-300 flight between Taipei and Sapporo in 2011, and
Kitty-themed luxury spas have opened in Bangkok and
Her future? There will be some ups and downs ahead,
Yano says, but “I think it has a presence, a long-lasting
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