During this past holiday season, a handful of my friends asked me if I was aware of certain facts about Hello Kitty: Hello Kitty is not a cat, but a girl. Hello Kitty was born in London and is 100% British. Am I known merely as a Hello Kitty fanatic in the social circle? It could be my own doing as I had numerous times boast about my visits to peculiar holiday destinations such as Sanrio Puroland and Hello Kitty Sweets.
At the first ever, four-day Hello Kitty Con 2014, I was enlightened with more obscure data, including Hello Kitty’s height (five apples) and weight (three apples). Hello Kitty’s chief designer Yuko Yamaguchi shared, through an interpreter, her vision: Hello Kitty will become a famous singer, just like Lady Gaga. Hello Kitty does not have a mouth because she speaks from the heart. It seems soon she will have to sing from the heart as well.
While relishing every minute spent at the convention, I did not forget that in order to rightfully submit this post, the sighting of a tea-related object or incident must occur, and some meaningful discussion should ensue. Right in front of the Main Stage, a giant Hello Kitty rested her chin on a giant teacup’s rim. There were other teacups, mostly in pink and plastic, inside the countless display cases. I simply could not bring myself to write about any of them. At last, two tea canisters, manufactured as recently as in 2013, were spotted inside the neighboring Japanese American National Museum!
At the convention, a 3-D printer manufacturer halfheartedly marketed their state-of-art equipment. Probably because 99% of their booth visitors – including myself – inquired only about how to procure the end-products – more Hello Kitty figurines. Both the wait to get a permanent Hello Kitty tattoo (HK Ink) and to purchase the event exclusive bubble-head (Friendship Station) last about four hours. All I wanted that day was a pressed penny (Penny Stretcher), but I had to walk away because the end of the line could not be seen.
Hello Kitty, along with the genesis of an empire, was born forty years ago. One panel discussion invited the first generation of Hello Kitty sales force from Japan, who attacked the U.S. consumer market with the same perseverance as the wild west pioneers. While visiting potential clients, one salesperson dressed up as Hello Kitty, taking advantage of Hello Kitty’s kawaiiness and her not having a mouth, to minimize verbal communication, thus to overcome the tremendous language barrier. Those who attempt to decipher Sanrio’s success like to compare Hello Kitty to a canvas – forever a girl, tomorrow maybe a famous singer or a Safari conservationist. Squabbles like this cause nothing but nuisance.
Soon the first Hello Kitty Cafe in the U.S., not a food truck, and not a pop-up, will open, and I am positive that it will be in the same county, possibly in the same city, maybe even within walking distance from where I live. Tea will be served, and I’ll write another T Ching post.
Images courtesy of Ifang Hsieh.