Aurora Magazine

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All aboard the Hello Kitty train!

Published Aug 02, 2018 12:05pm
West Japan Railway Co. unveils Hello Kitty-themed Shinkansen bullet train to boost intercity travel.

Do you want to take a ride on the Hello Kitty train? Of course you do!

But before I answer the ‘What, now?’ and the ‘What the Heck?!’, let’s start with where this squishy thing came from and how it become a global phenomenon.

To clarify, she is not so much a cat as a Gijinka; the personification of a cat. Yeah, I’ll be throwing lots of Japanese terms around, deal with it!

From the land of the rising sun where we got such gems of mistranslations as “My tummy is crying” and “Let’s wellness”, we also got a character named “Hello Kitty” – the Gijinka’s name! Does no one else find that weird?!

Okay, moving on. Hello Kitty had her humble beginnings as an adorable drawing that went from adorning blank stationery paper for Sanrio, a merchandising company, to generating seven billion dollars, 40 years later. It’s officially listed as being “five apples tall”… is this how Japanese people measure things? I love it and I’m adopting it immediately!

So, why is this character so popular? There are a few factors that explain her popularity and prevalence across Japan and around the world. In Japan, kawaii or cute culture reigns supreme, where happy, child-like, soft, rounded characters attract, engage and set the tone of a product.


Well, Hello Kitty was the hipster who did it before everyone else was doing it. In the 1990’s she was rebranded as a ‘retro’ brand and under the label Vivitix, marketed to people in their late teens and early twenties.


Did you know that the Thai police punish their officers for transgressions such as bad parking by handing down the sentence of wearing a bright pink Hello Kitty armband for a few days?

Apart from being a cute little bundle of joy, Hello Kitty’s could also be due to the fact that she has no mouth. While the official company explanation for this is because she speaks from the heart, the creator has a more interesting explanation. Without a mouth to express the emotion she feels, people are free to project their own emotions, so that in a way Hello Kitty she feels whatever you feel; there is so much solidarity in that, it’s kind of poetic. “Kitty looks happy when people are happy. She looks sad when they are sad,” said her designer, Yuko Yamaguchi.

She’s also pretty popular with the female demographic because she symbolises the innocence and childhood – and doesn’t want to go back to those wonderful days and hold on to them for as long as possible?

These factors explain why Hello Kitty is so ubiquitous. Everywhere you look, there she is! From fashion to stationery, from makeup to kitchen utensils and hundreds of other generic products. Her image transcends most icons, so much so that she can be found on Kikkoman Soy Sauce bottles and a Taiwanese airline has a Hello Kitty-themed flight with every imaginable object stamped with her face. It is also why hundreds of people in Singapore queued for hours overnight for limited editions of Hello Kitty branded bus passes. Commercial collaborations are as varied as they get, with Swarovski Crystals producing Hello Kitty sold for eight thousand dollars. DC Comics have produced Hello Kitty cum Wonder Woman dolls and she has even appeared in the Simpsons. This is not to mention the unlicensed products like Hello Kitty ecstasy tablets!


Travellers can buy souvenirs to remember their train trip and every region the train passed through.To this end eight Hello Kitty designs have been unveiled, each one featuring Hello Kitty holding a regional souvenir.


Nostalgia is really big right now with Millennials and every film franchise and merchandising company is banking on this trend. All your favourite shows from the past are being given gritty reboots (not always a good thing, Michael Bay needs to leave the Turtles the heck alone)! Point being, why shouldn’t Hello Kitty get in on this revival act?! Well, Hello Kitty was the hipster who did it before everyone else was doing it. In the 1990’s she was rebranded as a ‘retro’ brand and under the label Vivitix, marketed to people in their late teens and early twenties, who remembered having Hello Kitty on their pencil cases and backpacks when they were in school.

Now let’s talk about what Hello Kitty has in store for the future. West Japan Railway Co. has unveiled a Hello Kitty-themed Shinkansen bullet train, which debuted on June 30 and will to run for the next three months. The idea is to breathe new life into intercity travel.

Another train, dubbed “Hello Plaza” is dedicated to exhibiting regional products with a special touch. Travellers can buy souvenirs to remember their train trip and every region the train passed through.To this end eight Hello Kitty designs have been unveiled, each one featuring Hello Kitty holding a regional souvenir.

In case you are interested in travelling on one of these trains, you can find the timetable on their website. Happy travelling!

Nyda Ahmad is Creative Manager, Fourays Advertising. nyda.ahmad@fourays.pk