Sanrio / Hello Kitty
A pack of tiny pencils, no bigger than a matchbook; gummy erasers that smell like bubble gum; glitter pens with floating stars: nothing brings a big smile like a small gift. Hello Kitty and friends from the Sanrio company taught kids the joy of giving and sharing, and Sanrio’s “small gift, big smile” message spread friendship to schoolgirls across the world. Sanrio was to school supplies like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory was to sweets: the mother lode.
Mr. Shantaro Tsuji masterminded the colorful line of gifts back in 1960. Tsuju named his enterprise of stationery and supplies ‘Sanrio’ after the conjunction of the Japanese ‘san,’ meaning three, and the Spanish ‘rio,’ for river. Mythically, that’s three energies joining together to create one powerful and abundant river, a symbol of the international language that Sanrio, and Hello Kitty, would become.
Tsuji was successful with Sanrio in Japan, and when he brought the wide-eyed kitten with the bow by its ear to the U.S. in 1976, the kids went crazy. The first specialty boutique opened in San Jose, CA, and Hello Kitty and her friends joined together to create a world of colorful school supplies and gifts. Printed stationary, smelly pens and pencils, rubber erasers, stickers, and all sorts of fun supplies were (and still are) the heart of Sanrio. But the Sanrio/Hello Kitty megalopolis soon plastered the sweet little kitty face on products for just about all facets of life. Hello Kitty became the biggest fashion statement for preteens and teens on backpacks, cell phone covers, scooters, lunchboxes, plush dolls, and even clothes.
Hello Kitty’s charm lay in the international language of cuteness, understood by kids in Japan, the U.S., and anywhere else in the world. Sanrio is about sharing, and the tiny-size products are perfect for trading with friends or giving as gifts. Hello Kitty is the star of Sanrio, and its corporate symbol, but the company’s cast of characters also includes Pochacco, Keroppi, Badtz Maru and many others.
The kitty remains as popular as ever, especially in her Japanese homeland, where Sanrio has three theme parks. Who’d have thought that the little kitty with the face full of whiskers and the red bow at her ear would become the symbol for peace and friendship? Hello Kitty is the official Ambassador of UNICEF in the U.S., and she spreads her friendly smile across the world.
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