Hello Kitty is a famous trademark, adored by children and adults alike, but do you know the history of Japan’s most famous cat? Let’s take a look at the origins of this famous feline.
Hello Kitty (Harōkiti – ハローキティ) was created by the Sanrio company in 1975. Her design is modelled on the Japanese bobtail cat (a type of cat with an unusually short tail, which looks more like a rabbit’s tail) and a red hair bow. She is a typical example of the kawaii (cute) culture of Japan – she is popular not just with children, but also grown adults. Hello Kitty first went to America the year after she was created, and has been a global success ever since.
Here are 10 surprising facts about Hello Kitty that you might not know:
- She may be Japanese created, but the character Hello Kitty is actually British.
- Her birthday is November 1st. She was born in London, England.
- She has a twin sister called Mimmy.
- She is ‘five apples’ tall.
- Her weight is ‘three apples’.
- Her surname is White, stemming from her original trademark name of ‘the white kitten with no name’.
- She likes baking cookies and eating apple pie, whereas her sister prefers sewing and dreaming of marriage.
- She wears a red bow on her left ear, whereas her sister wears a yellow bow on her right ear.
- Her best friend is Dear Daniel.
- She has two pets – a cat called Charmmy and a hamster called Sugar.
Have you ever noticed that Hello Kitty does not have a mouth? This is not an artistic mistake – several reasons are given as to why she is without a mouth. One reason is that the company Sanrio wants people to project their own emotions onto Hello Kitty, so that she can be happy or sad along with you and mimic your own feelings. Another reason is that Hello Kitty ‘speaks from the heart’ and has no need for a mouth. A third reason is because Hello Kitty has no one particular language – she is a spokesperson for the Sanrio company, encouraging friendship between people across the world. In my opinion these reasons are all a bit lame… but the lack of mouth is a stylistic feature that makes Hello Kitty who she is.
While originally marketed towards children, Hello Kitty soon became a popular symbol for girls of all ages. Products were later marketed at both pre-teen and teen demographics, and finally at adults as a ‘retro’ product. Hello Kitty products are wide ranging – you can buy anything from stationery, toys and electronic decorations to clothes, snacks and accessories.
As well as these trinkets, there are high-end products representing Hello Kitty too, such as electric guitars, wine and jet planes. In 2005, the high-end jewellers Simmons Jewellery Co. started producing Hello Kitty fashion items, with product prices going as high as $5,000 (£3,000 or 600,000 Yen).
Hello Kitty establishments are popular all over the world. In Taiwan, there is a Hello Kitty sweet shop and a Hello Kitty maternity hospital (designed in the hope that the cute symbol of Hello Kitty will ease the stress of childbirth). Japan has two theme parks where Hello Kitty is a major attraction, and there are Hello Kitty Cafes in South Korea and Thailand.
Despite her popularity and innocence, there are several black marks against Hello Kitty’s snow white name. First, it has been claimed that the design of Hello Kitty is a copy of similar products – the rip off being all the more poignant because Hello Kitty is now so popular. ‘Miffy’ (created by Dutch artist Dick Bruna) and ‘Musti’ (created by Belgian cartoonist Ray Goossens) are two such characters who claim to be the original inspiration for Hello Kitty.
Despite this, Hello Kitty is still a popular trademark and is worth about $7 billion a year. She is loved by children and adults all over the world, particularly in Japan where you can’t walk down the street without seeing a kid wearing Hello Kitty socks, a girl with a Hello Kitty hair clip or a fashionable mom with a Hello Kitty tote bag.