Last week was my birthday, and to celebrate, my youngest host sister took my American housemate, Betrice, and me to Sanrio Puroland. Our host mom, Okaasan, knew how much I love pink, Hello Kitty, and the general Sanrio conglomeration, so she told me about this theme park that was close to our house. She also said that if we went there during the month of my birthday, I would get a discount and some special treatment. So as a present, she bought Betrice and me tickets to go last Sunday!
Sanrio, if you are unfamiliar, is the brand that Hello Kitty is part of. There are many other characters under the brand also, such as Cinnamoroll, My Melody, and PomPomPurin. They are all extremely kawaii (cute), and are a large part of kawaii culture in Japan. Since Hello Kitty and these other characters are so popular, they built a theme park that people, mostly young girls, can go visit. At this park, there aren’t any roller coasters or other huge rides, as you may imagine would be at a theme park. Instead, they hold several spectacular shows a day that each feature different Sanrio characters, as well as human performers. There is also a short boat ride much like the “It’s a Small World” boat ride in Disneyland/world. The costumes for the characters are adorable, and the costumes for the humans are all very kawaii and colorful, as well. The performances are mostly musical, involving a lot of dancing and singing. There are also talented acrobats in many of the shows. Some shows are interactive, asking the audience to dance, sing, or clap along. The kids love it. (And me, too.)
Our 10 year-old host sister was our guide through this magical land. She was very eager and kept exclaiming “Kawaii!” at almost everything we saw. We arrived at the park early in the morning so that we could get in line to get in. There were a ton of people waiting to get into the park, mostly families with little girls, but other types of people as well, including a few young people like Betrice and I. We spent the hour waiting studying the park maps and guides, deciding which shows to go to at what time, figuring out the most efficient way to utilize our time at Sanrio Puroland, and subsequently practicing our Japanese a little. We were so excited to do everything, and I thought it was really funny when I realized Betrice and I had the same level of excitement towards Hello Kitty as a 10-year-old Japanese girl.
Once we got into the park, we never stopped running around, trying to get good seats at shows and taking pictures with all the costumed characters. The shopping was also amazing (for people like like us, anyway). There was so much exclusive Hello Kitty merchandise; I just couldn’t get enough of it! Luckily the shops never ended. We all brought back a considerable amount of souvenirs, including folders, stickers, bags- anything with a Sanrio character on it. I’d say it was a birthday celebration well spent. Maybe it isn’t what a typical American would do on their 21st birthday, but I’m proud to say my 10-year-old host sister took me to Hello Kitty World!