What's the story behind Hello Kitty?

Hello Kitty

Japan is known for the most kawaii characters. Sad egg yolks, edgy penguins, and magic schoolgirls alike come from Japanese imagination, but one of the country’s most iconic characters is a friendly little kitty with a red bow. Hello Kitty wasn’t given a mouth because, according to Sanrio, she "speaks from the heart … and isn't bound to any particular language." She weighs as much as three apples and is as tall as five. You can find her whiskered face on makeup, clothing, cleaning products–even on sparkling wine. But how did Japan’s most popular character come to be? Your Japanese Beauty Experts have the story.

Hello Kitty is one of Japanese company Sanrio’s first characters, first introduced in 1974. Today, Sanrio is the embodiment of Japanese kawaii culture with its wide array of apparel, toys, games, and more. When the company first began, however, founder Shintaro Tsuji only sold customized floral sandals. This all changed when designer Yuko Shimizu came on board to create characters for Sanrio products. Shimizu first placed Hello Kitty beside a bottle of milk and a fishbowl, and her design was the feature image on a little girl’s coin purse.

The character was brought to the states in 1975 and would go on to be a huge hit for Sanrio. For a company that strives to “communicate socially” and tap into the zeitgeist of Japan’s kawaii obsession, Hello Kitty became the perfect endeavor. Her name came from a desire for a sociable and friendly presence, and the “kitty” part came from Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass. Over the years, Hello Kitty has become the heart and soul of Sanrio, but she has some pretty cool friends too. The Little Twin Stars, Gudetama, Chococat, and Kero Kero Keroppi are just a few of the stars in her entourage. Withstanding the test of time, Hello Kitty has remained Sanrio’s biggest source of profit and highest selling character.