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Special Feature: Pilgrimage to Kitty-chan Land

So why does anyone come to Japan? To be reborn into the manga world? To experience how high tech it is (then realise they still use fax machines)? To dress up in a kimono and call yourself a geisha?

None of the above.

They come to meet Hello Kitty of course! OK so I’m now officially out of the Kawaii Kloset. I was definitely not in there alone, so all you Sanrio lovers come out and show your red bow-wearing selves.

It wasn’t hard to track down Hello Kitty aka Kitty Chan. She lives in an obscure part of Tokyo with all her other furry friends, all of which I grew up with; it was like being raised alongside animals with strangely large heads, quite possibly due to myxomatosis.

The lead up to the all indoor land was almost as traumatically exciting as the place itself. The building is this huge, pastel coloured castle that emerges from the dull landscape of Tama New Town. Totally out of place, it looked like it should be on top of a cloud in a Kiki Lala scene. The grand, rainbow-arch entrance sits at the end of a foot bridge with uninterested traffic flowing beneath; acting as a moat for the wondrous fortress of Kitty Chan.

It’s not a secret that in Japan, kawaii has no age limit; I am not the oldest one in the staffroom to own a Hello Kitty lunch bag, or stamp set, or post-its, or calendar (ok so I might be the only one with a calendar) but in a true non-ageist way, I was welcomed with warm, open, Dear Daniel arms into Sanrio Puroland.

You’d expect Puro Village would look like something Tinkerbell spewed up but it’s far(ish) from it. It’s actually a dimly lit indoor forest with a huge tree dominating the centre, a very natural setting, well, as natural as plastic foliage can get.   No pink anywhere, yet.

When the Sugar Bunnies’ clock struck twelve, we, along with a crowd of elementary school children in matching pink hats, headed to the Gourmet Bazaar, one of the three restaurants in the park (and the only one open on this pleasant Friday day), for lunch. It was set out like a food hall serving almost everything in Sanrio souvenirs. The clear choice was a Kitty Chan bento box with a My Melody mini-mug full of ice cream. Twenty minutes was spent being truly Asian – taking photos of the food. Aesthetics were definitely the best part of that meal; let’s just say Hello Kitty’s face does not taste good (like that’s much of a surprise).

Raring as ever after only being semi satisfied by what may as well have been cat food; it was time to explore the land. It would have been rude not to show your face at Miss Kitty’s house. She’s a somewhat international sensation and boy does she know it. Parked outside her all pink home was herself reincarnated as a convertible. Her multibillion yen enterprise sure has not kept her grounded. Almost everything found in her oh-so-humble abode is in the shape of her face, including her tub. When we finally got a peek at the Queen of the castle, the cutest Japanese toddler I have ever seen was busy being entranced by her. Mesmerized by the cupcake dress and fur, she didn’t want to release from their hug.

Kitty gave us a cheeky snap and we were off again.

By 2pm a group had formed around the Wisdom Tree: Show time. Lights, camera (sumimasen – no flash), action! A parade of all the Sanrio characters imaginable flooded the floors and of course Kitty Chan had to make her show stopping entrance via the roof. Lots of singing and dancing was highlighted by the mecha kawaii school kids all trying so hard to remember the dance routine rehearsed only minutes before. The over enthused dancers and poor, stuffy characters were outshone by the skills of the ‘oh-my-god-how-young’ acrobats. What a way to steal the Believe show. That, followed by twenty minutes of milking the ‘Bye Bye’ was the show in all.

Exhausted from watching the show, a well-deserved browse of the shops was in order. An over whelming amount of merchandise towers over you in the store. It’s safe to put out there that Hello Kitty has really whored herself out. Yes, I’m her biggest fan, but she is on everything. There is nothing those Sanrio lot can’t turn her into – she’s even been transformed into a nikuman!

You only need half a day in Sanrio Puroland to supply you with your kawaii fix for a lifetime. It’s a place to get dragged round by your crazed girlfriend or enjoyed with a bunch of Kitty Klones like yourself, or for you closet fans, I’d advise you to borrow a toddler to hide your shame. For me, it was Mecca.

Ticket Prices

Ticket Type Adult (18+) Youth (12-17) Junior (4-11)
Welcome \3000 \2700 \2000
Passport \4400 \3700 \3000
Advanced Passport \4000 \4000 \3300

Opening Times

Varies weekly, check website for details

Generally around 10:00-17:00

For more information (in English) visit www.puroland.co.jp/english

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