A Girl Scout’s Tribute to Hello Kitty

16-year-old Senior Girl Scout and Los Angeles resident Elizabeth Keller participated in JANM’s first Hello Kitty Girl Scout Program on November 22, 2014. She graciously agreed to share her thoughts on her experience. Thank you, Elizabeth! The essay is accompanied by photos taken at the most recent Girl Scout workshop, held on February 7.

Girl Scouts visit JANM for a special Hello Kitty workshop, February 7, 2015. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.
Girl Scouts visit JANM for a special Hello Kitty workshop.
Photo: Russell Kitagawa. All photos taken on February 7, 2015.

 

To me and many other girls, Hello Kitty is the ultimate symbol of femininity. Her lovely, bubbly, adorable little world full of flowers and hair bows is enchanting. And in a world where being “girly” is frowned upon, Hello Kitty reminds us not to be afraid to be our fabulous selves.

The Scouts get their own private viewing of Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty. Photo: Steve Fujimoto.
The Scouts got their own private viewing of Hello! Exploring the
Supercute World of Hello Kitty
. Photo: Steve Fujimoto.

 

I had never considered the other aspects of Hello Kitty, however, until my Girl Scout troop visited the Japanese American National Museum’s Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty. The exhibition was educational and heartwarming. I learned that Hello Kitty is five apples tall and that her full name is Kitty White. I found that I could have Hello Kitty on everything that I own—my lunchbox, my roller skates, my rice cooker, and even the braces on my teeth.

JANM staff then helped the Scouts to make their own Hello Kitty-inspired artwork. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.
The Scouts making their own Hello Kitty-
inspired artwork. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.

 

After viewing the exhibition, all the Girl Scouts completed a craft. I doodled small pictures of Hello Kitty and watched girls as young as five make beautiful art out of a character that had inspired their creativity.

Photo: Russell Kitagawa.
Photo: Russell Kitagawa.

 

Looking around at more cute, pink, or otherwise charming household objects than I thought I would ever see—everything from clothes to food to headstones—it dawned on me that Hello Kitty is more than a simple little icon splashed on some toys. She represents the idea that we not only own our femininity, but that we also have the right to display it as we please.

A Scout shows off her creation. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.
A Scout shows off her creation. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.

 

Everything a girl does—from wearing makeup to playing video games—is seen as a call for attention, especially male attention. Hello Kitty recognizes no presence or agency except her own. She doesn’t ask anyone’s permission to be her lovely pink self; she simply is.

Photo: Russell Kitagawa.
Photo: Russell Kitagawa.

 

During the Hello Kitty Girl Scout Program, I saw little girls—young Scouts who are still learning about what it means to be a girl—exploring concepts presented in the exhibition, like business, foreign relations, and fashion. They learned about these things in the context of their beloved Hello Kitty. They discovered—and I was reminded—that they can do anything with their own power. And if they want to rule the world in a pretty pink dress, well, nothing can stop them.

Scouts and their troop leaders pause to savor a great day at JANM. Photo: Steve Fujimoto.
Scouts and their troop leaders pause to savor a
great day at JANM. Photo: Stephen Fujimoto.

Enhance Your Visit with Guide by Cell

 

Martin Hsu stands next to his painting Hello Kitty Transcendence, on view now as part of Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty at JANM.
Martin Hsu stands next to his painting Hello Kitty Transcendence, on view now as part of Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty at JANM.

 

Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Kitty has finally arrived at JANM, and people can’t stop talking about it. Check the museum’s Facebook page for links to the latest press coverage of the exhibition, including stunning photos from the exhibition’s first week. If you haven’t seen the show yet, be sure to buy your advance tickets online.

Eimi Takano sits in front of her plush sculpture, Ribbon Camp.
Eimi Takano sits in front of her plush sculpture, Ribbon Camp.

While in the gallery, you can enhance your experience of this multifaceted exhibition with our exclusive Guide by Cell audio tours, available free of charge (except those that may be associated with your cell phone plan). The tours feature curator Christine Yano and several of the exhibiting artists offering their unique perspectives on the exhibition. Simply look for the cell phone logo on selected labels in the exhibition and dial 213.455.2924 to access the tours. Follow the prompts and enter the numbers given on the labels.

Still thinking about the exhibition after your visit? Or, not in Los Angeles but still curious to learn more? The great thing about these tours is that they are accessible from anywhere. Just visit our Hello! Extras page to access the phone number and the complete list of prompts.

The Hello! audio tours are available through April 26, 2015.

 

Legends of Hello Kitty

This replica of the first-ever Hello Kitty product, a 1975 coin purse, will be on view at JANM as part of Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty.
This replica of the first-ever Hello Kitty product, a 1975 coin purse, will be on view at JANM as part of Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty.

There is more to Hello Kitty than cute stuff. An entire body of lore lies behind the origins and development of this global phenomenon and her parent company, Sanrio. These stories are familiar to devoted Sanrio enthusiasts, but if you are a relative newcomer to this world, read on to learn some fascinating, and surprising, tidbits.

1) Sanrio Started Out as a Silk Manufacturer
The globally known maker of cute products began its life as Yamanashi Silk Center Co., Ltd., founded in 1960 by Shintaro Tsuji. Its direction began to change due to the popularity of a simple rubber beach sandal decorated with a flower. Tsuji realized that the addition of a decorative element like a flower or strawberry could transform a simple dry good into a value-added, branded product. Sanrio—whose pleasant-sounding name was inspired by the Spanish words for “pure river”—was born soon thereafter.

In honor of Sanrio’s origins, Shibori Girl Glennis Dolce will lead a one-day, Hello Kitty-themed silk-dyeing workshop at JANM on Saturday, December 6.

2) The First Hello Kitty Product Sits in a Protective Vault in Japan
The Hello Kitty character first appeared on a small, clear vinyl coin purse in 1975. The purse was priced at less than a dollar. Although many replicas have been made over the years—including a recent makeup bag by Sephora that pays homage to the iconic piece—only one of the original purses is known to exist, and it is kept in a secure vault at Sanrio’s headquarters in Japan.

This fall, Hello Kitty fans will be able to view the legendary coin purse when Sanrio flies it in for display at the first-ever official Hello Kitty Con, taking place at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA October 30 through November 2. In addition, a replica of the original purse (pictured above) is included in JANM’s Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty exhibition.

3) How Sanrio Started Giving Out Small Gifts with Purchases
During a busy holiday season in 1975, a Sanrio store clerk was wrapping a purchase for a customer when she discovered that she was out of bows. Quickly improvising, she decided to use a small bell that she picked off the store’s Christmas tree. The customer was so delighted with this little bonus that he left the store with a big smile on his face. Happy with this result, the clerk started adding bells to all wrapped gifts. When Sanrio founder Shintaro Tsuji heard about this, he made it the company’s policy to give out a small gift with every store purchase.

You can learn more about Sanrio’s “Small Gift, Big Smile” philosophy at a panel discussion with Sanrio representatives on Thursday evening, November 20.

Enjoyed these stories? More fun discoveries are coming your way beginning October 11, when JANM opens Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty. View 40 years of Hello Kitty artifacts, 40 contemporary artworks inspired by Hello Kitty, Hello Kitty outfits worn by Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, and much more. Timed entry tickets are available now!

Hello Kitty Takes Over JANM


MariAnne is ready to welcome Hello Kitty fans to JANM!
MariAnne is ready to welcome Hello Kitty fans to JANM!

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at what’s become of the JANM staff as we labor to bring you Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty. We’ve had Hello Kitty on our minds for quite some time and perhaps now, more than ever, we’re all starting to feel a bit “supercute.”

Hello Kitty desk décor, fashion, and flair are EVERYWHERE in our museum. There’s no denying that this group of hard-working professionals has caught a highly contagious case of Hello Kitty fever. We’re sure you will too when Hello! opens to the public on October 11, only four days from now!

Reserve your timed entry tickets now using our online system! We look forward to seeing you all decked out in your own Hello Kitty finery. In the meantime, we’re getting back to work—there’s still a lot to do!


Liz shares a desk with Hello Kitty while planning a full schedule of public programs for the museum.
Liz shares a desk with Hello Kitty while planning a full schedule of public programs for the museum.


Hello Kitty has managed to squeeze in to Production Manager Vicky’s busy desk. Look closely at the pen in hand!
Hello Kitty has managed to squeeze in to Communications Production Manager Vicky’s busy desk. Look closely at the pen in hand!


Lily even has a Hello Kitty clock to keep track of all those hours spent on curatorial research.
Lily even has a Hello Kitty clock to keep track of all those hours spent on curatorial research.


Leslie, Director of Marketing, demonstrates Sanrio's "small gift big smile" philosophy.
Leslie, Director of Marketing and Communications, demonstrates Sanrio’s “small gift big smile” philosophy.


That looks like Communications Writer Carol, but we can't be sure.
That looks like Communications Writer Carol, but we can’t be sure.


Even John, Director of Media Arts, can’t resist showing off a little Hello Kitty cheer on his JANM lanyard.
Even John, Director of Media Arts, can’t resist showing off a little Hello Kitty cheer on his JANM lanyard.


With Hello Kitty phone and key in hand at all times, Maggie has been working hard to make sure all the Hello Kitty art and artifacts make it to the museum safely.
With Hello Kitty phone and key in hand at all times, Maggie has been working hard to make sure all the Hello Kitty art and artifacts make it to the museum safely.


Want your own exclusive Hello Kitty gear? Store Associates Yvette and Alyctra are ready to help you with all your Hello Kitty x JANM purchases!
Want your own exclusive Hello Kitty gear? Store Associates Yvette and Alyctra are ready to help you with all your Hello Kitty x JANM purchases!

SNEAK PEEK: Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty

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JANM staff members have been working overtime to put together Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty. The 40th-anniversary exhibition will be the biggest U.S. showcase for the popular cute icon to date, with 40 works of contemporary art and over 500 Hello Kitty artifacts.

Many details of the show are top secret until the grand public unveiling on October 11, but with Sanrio’s permission, we are sharing these exclusive sneak peek photos with our loyal readers.

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Archivist Lauren Zuchowski measures the first-ever Hello Kitty phone, made in 1976. An object’s dimensions and condition have to be noted for the museum’s records before it goes on display.

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Collections Manager Maggie Wetherbee holds up a vintage Hello Kitty calculator, also from 1976. It still works!

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Sanrio has produced many Hello Kitty kitchen appliances over the years, often sized for younger cooks and diners. This Hello Kitty waffle iron makes kid-size Hello Kitty waffles in four friendly shapes.

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A Hello Kitty blueberry soda is a perfect fit for this Hello Kitty mini-fridge from 2007. Both products were made and sold in Japan.

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Here’s the first Hello Kitty artwork to be installed! Artist Nicole Maloney looks on and offers direction as a team of handlers assemble her sculptural installation, Hello Kitty All Stacked Up!, in the Weingart Foyer.

You can see these pieces and much more in person when Hello! opens on October 11. Remember, Hello! is a specially ticketed exhibition and we strongly recommend that you buy/reserve your tickets in advance by clicking here. JANM members get in FREE!

Stay tuned to our blog for more Hello Kitty news and tidbits over the next few weeks!

JANM Celebrates The Karate Kid’s 30th Anniversary with Special Guests

L to R: Aly Morita, Ralph Macchio, JANM Trustee Wendy Shiba, director John Avildsen, JANM New Leadership Advisory Council president Kira Teshima, JANM President and CEO Greg Kimura (holding "Mr. Miyagi's" WWII uniform), Billy Zabka, and Martin Kove. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.
L to R: Aly Morita, Ralph Macchio, JANM Trustee Wendy Shiba, director John Avildsen, JANM New Leadership Advisory Council president Kira Teshima, JANM President and CEO Greg Kimura (holding “Mr. Miyagi’s” WWII uniform), Billy Zabka, and Martin Kove. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.

The Tateuchi Democracy Forum welcomed a full house on Tuesday, September 9, as JANM celebrated the 30th anniversary of the beloved film The Karate Kid with a reception, screening, and panel discussion. This highly anticipated event featured live appearances by star Ralph Macchio, director John Avildsen, Aly Morita (daughter of deceased star Pat Morita), and co-stars Billy Zabka (“Johnny Lawrence”) and Martin Kove (“John Kreese”). Among the guests in the audience were Tamlyn Tomita, star of The Karate Kid II; JANM Board of Trustees member Wendy Shiba; and JANM New Leadership Advisory Council president Kira Teshima.

Many avid fans of the movie, some of whom had seen it when it first came out in 1984, were in the audience. During the screening, people clapped wildly for classic scenes, such as Mr. Miyagi protecting Daniel from the gang of teenage boys, and Daniel executing his tournament-winning crane kick.

Avildsen, Morita, and Zabka share a moment during the Karate Kid panel discussion. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.
Avildsen, Morita, and Zabka share a moment during the Karate Kid
panel discussion. Photo: Russell Kitagawa.

Jared Cowan, a photographer who recently wrote a cover story about The Karate Kid for LA Weekly, moderated a Q&A session following the film. The stars and director reminisced about the making of the film while Aly Morita shared her childhood memories of her father. The panelists also brought the film’s martial arts choreographer, Darryl Vidal, to the stage for an extended explanation of the iconic crane kick. While inspired by classic martial arts moves, the kick itself was specifically created by Vidal to heighten the drama of the climactic scene.

JANM volunteer Richard Murakami spoke for many in the audience when he offered a heartfelt thanks to the group for creating a sensitive portrayal of a Japanese American man during a time when such portrayals were rare. “It made me proud,” he said, generating a round of applause.

To see more photos from the event, visit JANM’s Facebook page.

Keep an eye on our YouTube channel for video highlights of the evening, coming soon.