Sanrio Puroland: My Favorite Non-Disney Theme Park

23 Sep

Astute readers may have noticed that I go by the name Kitty-chan, which is the way the Japanese refer to Hello Kitty. And yes, there’s a story here. In addition to being a Disney fan, I’m a bit of a Sanrio geek as well, which has also had some impact on my family travel agenda.

In June of 2002, my extended family and I spent two weeks in Japan, splitting our time between Tokyo and Kyoto. The trip was amazing, truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We visited temples, rode the bullet train, found the Toho Studios’ Godzilla statue, visited the truly amazing Arashyama Monkey Park, and visited plenty of other places both on and off the well-beaten tourist path. (Note: images below are all thumbnails — click on them for larger image.)
Night on the Ginza
My son, then five, in the Ginza

But the attraction that spurred my interest in visiting this beautiful and varied country in the first place? Sanrio Puroland, a five-story indoor theme park dedicated to Hello Kitty and her friends. I’d seen a commercial for the park at the end of a Hello Kitty video my brother-in-law had brought back from Tokyo for me, and I was hooked.
Sanrio Puroland is located in Tama City, about 30 minutes outside Tokyo. You can take the subway there, if you don’t mind traveling through a good number of stations where the signs are written only in Japanese and Chinese characters. Luckily, I had a Japanese friend in Tokyo who gave me excellent directions, and my then-five-year-old son and I found our way there with little difficulty (the rest of the family decided to spend the day in Tokyo rather than visiting Hello Kitty’s homeland . . . gee, I can’t imagine why!).

I didn’t see any signs for Sanrio Puroland when we exited the train, so we just started walking and hoped we’d see the place. I will never forget the moment we turned the corner and saw the building, coming over the horizon looking like a sickly-sweet birthday cake.

Sanrio Puroland

We stumbled around for a bit looking for the entrance, and when we finally found it, we were greeted warmly but not without confusion by the cashier, as I fumbled my way through basic Japanese to buy tickets. I understood her confusion once we entered the theme park: it was populated almost entirely by Japanese women and their very young children. My son, even at 5 years old, towered above the others, and of course we were both quite obviously gaijin. But no matter, I was entranced, and part of the appeal for me was to have a thoroughly non-American theme park experience (I was saving Tokyo Disneyland for later in the trip).

Once we’d recovered from the initial shock and excitement, we grabbed a bite to eat (no easy feat, given my lack of significant Japanese language skills), and then hit the arcade to play a few games. I was glad to see that my favorite Sanrio character, Badtz-Maru, was well-represented.

Badtz Maru Basketball

Badtz Maru and Friend

Another Badtz Game

We then moved along to the feature attraction, the Sanrio character boat ride. Oh. My. God. Every Sanrio character you can think of, and then some.

Monkichi
Monkichi!

Keroppi
Keroppi!

Purin!
Pom Pom Purin! (Surrounded by the pleasantly strong aroma of baking cake, no less!)

Bad Badtz Maru
And the infamous, the well-loved, Bad Badtz-Maru!

But was the day over? Oh no no no. It was time for the afternoon parade! Now, being an indoor theme park, Puroland can darken the room at 2PM and hve a “nighttime” parade. The costumes were stylish, the choreography strangely stunning. We sat on the floor, surrounded by people who no doubt wondered what on earth these gaijin were doing here, and watched enrapt as Hello Kitty and her various dancing friends came through.

Hello Kitty
Hello Kitty!

Dear Daniel
Dear Daniel!

Badtz and Friend
Bad Badtz-Maru, and an attractively-dressed friend!

And alas, as the parade ended, so did our energy; jet lag was taking its toll, as was the contact culture shock and excitement of visiting Japan. So, it was time to head back to the subway. But not without a hug goodbye for a new friend.

Hello Kitty's Grandfather

Now, you might think that our little adventure at Sanrio Puroland would have quenched my thirst for all things Sanrio. You, dear reader, would be wrong. I haven’t been back to Japan since that trip, but when I do return, I’ve got a new destination in mind. Sanrio Harmonyland is located in Oita prefecture, in the southern part of the country where many Japanese vacation. There’s footage of Harmonyland in that same commercial that got me hooked on Puroland in the first place. Since Japan is such a beautiful and welcoming place to visit, how can I resist?

16 Responses to “Sanrio Puroland: My Favorite Non-Disney Theme Park”

  1. laura February 15, 2007 at 5:42 pm #

    I would like to know how to get a brocher of the park, the web in english isnt all that informant. I am a 38 year old mother of four and I loved Hello Kitty since 1974. I just got my first tatto and you may have guesed it, its of Hello Kitty. My daughter even made a Hello Kitty birhtday party. If you can get an email or 800 number for the park would be great.
    Thank you

  2. Kitty-chan February 15, 2007 at 5:52 pm #

    I was never able to find an English brochure. Even once I was there, the English materials were quite sparse. And I seriously doubt they’d have an 800 number, since that’s a US thing.

    Basically, the thing to remember here is that this is a Japanese theme park, catering to Japanese guests. The staff there was very welcoming and friendly to us, but seemed a bit perplexed that we foreigners were visiting.

    Even once I was in the park, I was still confused about how to get around! I couldn’t figure out where we could eat lunch . . . on the English park map there were signs for lunch, but they didn’t distinguish between the places you could buy food, and the places you could bring your own picnic. A kind park employee helped me figure out where to go. (And I still have an excellent Hello Kitty lunchbox and Shinkansen custard cup to show for it!)

    For this foreigner at least, part of the joy of visiting Puroland was exploring something outside my usual experience, where I had to relax and just go with the flow, despite not understanding everything. I’d suggest that unless you can bring along a friend who is fluent in Japanese, you’ll need to bring a sense of humor, plenty of patience, and a willingness to stumble around looking like, well, a foreigner!

  3. Sandra June 7, 2007 at 7:58 pm #

    Hi, I read your info and it’s very insightful.

    I will be coming in to a settlement, hopefully before the end of the summer. I have loved Kitty Chan since 72′ when I would save just to get an eraser. I plan to attend with my 10 year old. Is she too old? How much is it in dollars?

    Thanks for your help.

    Sandra

  4. Kitty-chan June 8, 2007 at 11:49 am #

    If your 10-year-old loves Kitty-chan, she won’t be too old for Sanrio Puroland. In fact, there were a few things that we had to skip when we were there in 2002, because my son was only 5 and too young for some of the shows and activities.

    There’s a great currency conversion site at http://www.xe.com/ that you can use to calculate the cost in US dollars. I believe the Sanrio Puroland web site has information on ticket prices.

  5. Sana chan June 21, 2007 at 12:41 pm #

    Hi

    I was just wondering what other things there are there apart from the boat ride and parade? I would be dragging my boyfriend there, who, being a bloke, is not into Sanrio, so am concerned he would be bored. He likes arcades though (I read what you said above about the Sanrio games they have). Mainly I’d be going for the gift store as I’ve heard it’s amazing (I love Sanrio merchandise) and the boat ride sounds great. Do you think it’s worth it for me to go?

  6. AshleY June 28, 2007 at 1:10 am #

    can u send me info on the park like how much and stuff

  7. Kitty-chan June 28, 2007 at 9:42 am #

    Ashley, thanks for stopping by.

    The Sanrio Puroland English web site was updated recently, and has the basic info you’ll need.

  8. james January 22, 2008 at 12:57 am #

    i am going to tokyo in may and have been trying to figure out how to get to puroland . . .could you pass on the directions your japanese friend gave you? I have figured out how to get to shinjuku, but thats about it . . .

  9. Jennifer January 23, 2008 at 1:56 pm #

    Here’s the weird thing . . . I thought for sure I wouldn’t have those directions anymore, but I found them! These directions got me to Sanrio Puroland from the Ginza, so you’ll need to adapt them based on your own starting point (I don’t know Tokyo well enough to help you there).

    Here’s what my friend sent me, reprinted without any comment or annotation because it’s all pretty fuzzy in my memory now:

    Higashi-ginza to Sanrio-Puroland

    Higashi-ginza
    |
    | (Eidan) Hibiya line
    |
    Kasumigaseki
    |
    | (Eidan) Chiyoda line
    |
    (Yoyogi-uehara) (You might not get off).
    |
    | (Odakyu) Odawara line
    |
    (Shin-yurigaoka) (You might not get off).
    |
    | (Odakyu) Tama line
    |
    Odakyu-tama-center

  10. Marie February 24, 2008 at 12:00 pm #

    Oh my goodness… sounds like there’s a lot of transfer needed… I’ll b gng frm Higashi-ginza too….

    Jennifer, was it a ‘turbulent’ trip for you? :p n how long did u take? Thanks!

  11. Jennifer February 25, 2008 at 11:37 am #

    It was a very smooth trip to Sanrio Puroland on the subway . . . about half an hour, including the various transfers if I recall correctly. The subways in Tokyo (and Osaka, for that matter) are incredibly clean, efficient, and punctual.

  12. Cinnamoroll October 4, 2008 at 7:36 pm #

    I love Sanrio.
    Hope to go there soon. By the way nice blog post.

  13. Katy July 1, 2009 at 6:29 pm #

    We are going to Japan with a tour group this summer. Thinking of staying an extra day to go to Puroland with my 13-yr-old daughter. I’ve been a Hello Kitty fan since the 70s! How many hours would you say it would take to go through the whole place? Did you think it was worth it?
    Thanks.

  14. Jennifer July 2, 2009 at 12:11 pm #

    Hi Katy,

    We were there for the better part of a day, and we didn’t go to every attraction. There were some that were too intense for my then-5-year-old kid, and some that we weren’t interested in. If we had done everything, it probably would have taken the full day.

    It was definitely worth it to me, both for the fun of seeing all the Hello Kitty stuff, and also for the joy of seeing a very different sort of theme park experience, and the challenge of navigating a theme park that’s not expressly set up for English speakers.

    I hope that someday I can visit the other Sanrio theme park in Japan, Sanrio Harmonyland in Oita Prefecture!

  15. paul August 8, 2010 at 5:25 pm #

    Hey thanks for your wonderful post. Liked that it was a five-story indoor theme park dedicated to Hello Kitty and her friends. Wow!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. WALL-E, Japanese Cell Phones, and Badtz-Maru Dancer « Broke Hoedown - September 5, 2008

    [...] Strangely enough, when I did a google image search for “softbank mobile tinker bell,” an unrelated image from my very own blog showed up. I guess I’m tired and spacey from too much fun last night (belly dancers! sword fights! all-girl Queen tribute band Gunpowder Gelatine!), but this picture makes me smile so much I just have to share it with you…it is a treasured memory from my 2002 trip to Sanrio Puroland. [...]

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