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Hello Kitty Theme Park Coming to China

9 May
Hello Kitty wedding scene

Sanrio Puroland boat ride, Tama City, Tokyo, Japan

Mr. Broke Hoedown was kind enough to tip me off to the news that Sanrio has given permission for a Hello Kitty theme park to be built in Anji, China, just about a 3-hour drive from Pudong, the site of the upcoming Shanghai Disneyland. From AFP:

The creators of Hello Kitty, Japan’s world-famous cartoon icon of cuteness, have agreed to a $230-million outdoor theme park in China, the first on foreign soil, a company spokesman said Monday.

The Hello Kitty-themed amusement park will be completed in the city of Anji, in east China’s Zhejiang province, in 2014 under an agreement between Sanrio Co. and its Chinese partner, Sanrio spokesman Kazuo Tohmatsu said.

Sounds to me like this new Hello Kitty theme park could leverage Sanrio’s experience with Sanrio Harmonyland, in Japan’s Oita prefecture. The article also mentions “another plan to build a much smaller indoor amusement park featuring Sanrio characters in Malaysia in 2012,” which sounds reminiscent of my dearly-loved Sanrio Puroland (which I visited in 2002).

I think Mr. Broke Hoedown’s just building a case for me to join him in some trans-Pacific travel once these new theme parks come online. He’s planning a trip to Mongolia in a couple years, which might well take him through Beijing en route, and while Beijing and Shanghai aren’t exactly neighboring cities, they’re a heck of a lot closer to each other than either is to Boston.

My Anime Boston 2011 Panels: Hello Kitty Theme Park, Family Geekdom

23 Feb

Dear Daniel at Sanrio Puroland

Hello Kitty's boyfriend (husband?) Dear Daniel, in the Sanrio Puroland afternoon parade

Long-term readers of this blog might just remember that my favorite non-Disney theme park is Sanrio Puroland, the five-story indoor Hello Kitty theme park I visited in 2002.

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!).

This April, at Anime Boston 2011, I’ll be presenting a session titled, “Hello Kitty Holyland: A Personal Journey.” From the not-yet-published Anime Boston 2011 program guide:

Sure, you love Hello Kitty, but did you know she has her very own fivestory indoor theme park in Tama City, a quick commute from Tokyo? And have you ever considered making the ultimate Sanrio pilgrimage? Come to this panel to hear first-hand stories of my journey to this site where gaijin rarely tread with my then-five-year-old son, and watch the super-hard-to-find Sanrio animated and live action video that inspired three generations of my family to cross the Pacific.

If you’re going to be at Anime Boston, stop by to say hello! I’m also presenting as part of The Family That Geeks Together:

Ever wonder about this anime stuff your kids are into? Worried you could never understand all these crazy shows? Wish you could clue the parents into how great your favorite shows are, or why you spend all your free time editing AMVs and haunting costume shops? An actual family – two parents & a 14-year-old – talk about their shared love of anime and cosplay, offering tips on bridging the generation gap from either side. Bring your frustrations and questions, and come away with practical ideas for how to make anime cons a new family tradition.

Detailed information about both these panels, as well as my husband‘s panel on Anime and the Japanese Experience of  War, is available on our family Facebook page.

WALL-E, Japanese Cell Phones, and Badtz-Maru Dancer

5 Sep

There’s something about this image that just screams “Blade Runner” to me…but maybe that’s because I was listening to 80’s Movie and Music Cafe chattering about that movie this morning….I think I need an evening on the couch reacquainting myself with that classic!

But I digress…this picture actually comes to us from Japan, via Pink Tentacle, which tells us about a new ad technology being tested on Japanese cell phones (which, as we all know, are frequently signs of what’s coming next, especially when those trendsetting schoolgirls get involved):

Japan’s first field test of “smart posters” using Near Field Communication (NFC) — a short-range high-frequency wireless communication technology that lets users view digital content simply by holding their compatible cellphones near the posters — is being conducted at a Chiba-area shopping mall, it was announced on September 2.

Major phone operator SoftBank Mobile, along with NTT Data, Hitachi and Dutch smart chip maker Gemalto, are testing the technology with WALL-E and Tinker Bell movie posters embedded with NFC tags.

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.

Guess I need a research trip to Japan to check out those cell phone ads, look for Tinker Bell, and check out the current version of the Sanrio Puroland 3PM parade.

Sanrio Puroland English Web Site Updated

4 May

Regular readers of my blog know that Sanrio Puroland is my absolute favorite non-Disney theme park.

Dear DanielI’ve just noticed that the Sanrio Puroland English web site has been upgraded substantially sometime in the recent past. If I’d had access to such an excellent web site when I was planning my 2002 trip to Puroland, I might not have wandered around so hopelessly in search of food, nor stumbled around so terribly confused, trying to figure out what attractions existed, and what they might be like! I might even have been able to figure out how to get there without imposing so heavily on a Japanese friend, or the kind stranger on the train who reassured me as I tried to figure out if I’d missed my stop. (Of course, in retrospect, these were some of the most wonderful things about the experience of visiting Sanrio Puroland as a hopeless, clueless, but terribly enthusiastic gaijin.)

Badtz and FriendIf you visit, I highly recommend the Food Machine restaurant, which has an excellent selection of easy-to-decipher foods. I scored a super-cool Shinkansen custard dish there! And you absolutely do not want to miss the parade. The costumes are spectacular, the atmosphere tremendous. Don’t worry about the fact that you won’t understand a word, it doesn’t matter.

And of course, the Sanrio Character Boat Ride is a must-see. A separate charge applies, but what’s another 900 yen once you’ve traveled all the way to Tama City, Japan, in the first place?

 

My Fairy Tale Wedding

17 Apr

Hello Kitty wedding scene in Sanrio Character Boat RideOkay, it’s not Disney . . . but it’s cute cute cute! Sanrio is now offering Hello Kitty wedding packages.

I wonder why they’re partnering with Hankyu Dai-ichi Hotel Group, rather than simply offering them at Sanrio Puroland or Harmonyland. But hey, maybe they have the idea that a romantic wedding doesn’t include the Sanrio Character Boat Ride? Or hundreds of enthusiastic children?

All I know is, it would be easier to talk Mr Broke Hoedown into renewing our vows together in Japan than Orlando.

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?

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