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Tokyo Dancing Storm Trooper

5 Sep

This is why I need to move to Tokyo. Akihabara, to be more specific. Now.

Hat tip to Silent Kimbly, yay!

Video of Chinese Fake Disney Park

10 May

Have any doubts about whether Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park is a Disneyland knockoff? Just watch this:

Man, seeing those beloved characters represented through ill-fitting, cheaply-made fur costumes . . . and when they take their heads off in front of Guests . . . I can’t help but shudder.

But does anybody else find this all a bit amusing, especially in the context of the Mickey Mouse Protection Act? And the fact that many of Disney’s best-loved classic characters are based on public-domain folklore?

And there’s more on the Beijing Shijingshan Amusement Park situation today from DIS News:

Disney bosses are in crisis talks with the owners of a ‘fake’ Chinese version of the famous amusement park.

The Shijingshan Amusement Park included a raven-haired woman with seven men in elf suits, a ‘Mickey’ mouse and other Disney-style characters.

Deputy general manager, Yin Zhiqiang, said: “The characters in our park just look a little bit similar to theirs. But the faces, clothes, sizes and appearances are different.”

“We do not have any agreements with Disney.”

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?


Need a New Tattoo for Star Wars Weekends?

20 Apr

Here’s some wonderful inspiration: A Hello Kitty storm trooper tattoo, posted here courtesy of the Hello Kitty Hell blog.

I do indeed feel a great disturbance in the Force.

And hey, while we’re talking about Hello Kitty . . . if you’re in the Boston area, you might want to think about dropping into Anime Boston this weekend. It’s just like an awesome anime convention, but with the extra Mouse-tastic geeky goodness of stopping by to meet Dan Hess from, who’ll be there staffing the WirePop table in Artists’ Alley. Word is that he might be wearing his MouseGuest shirt on Saturday, all the better to recognize him.

If you see somebody’s mom running around wearing a Totoro backpack and purple kitty ears, that just might be me. Come say hello.

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.



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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