What Dark Secrets Has Hello Kitty Been Hiding?

Illustration for article titled What Dark Secrets Has Hello Kitty Been Hiding?

She may look innocent, but Hello Kitty could be a lot sneakier than we could have ever dreamed. The tiny white cat—whose iconic cheerful face is plastered on everything from notebooks to vibrators—has invaded our consciousness to such an extent that we accept her unquestioningly.

Well, we should have known that no one can be that happy all the time. It seems, according to a new book, that friendly face might be hiding some very dark truths. The clumsily titled Hello Kitty's Guide to Japan in English and Japanese has called into question everything we thought we knew about Kitty. In case you need a refresher about what exactly we do know about Kitty, here's an excerpt from her official Sanrio bio:

Hello Kitty was born on November 1st and she lives in London, England with her parents and her twin sister, Mimmy.


The trouble is that the book, published by Natsume Publications, purports that Hello Kitty is introducing her American boyfriend, Dear Daniel, to Japan, which seems strange because she doesn't live there. Even weirder, it is a guide that is meant for use by Japanese people to, as the Atlantic Wire puts it, "explain their ancient culture to the barbarians." Ahh, yes, Hello Kitty the one figure who can speak to everyone, despite the fact that she doesn't actually have a mouth.

Anyway, the book begins with Daniel coming to visit Kitty in Japan. He finds her living there with her entire family—with no explanation offered as to why they're there. They're all fluent and seem to know things about Japan that only people who were raised there would know. But how can this be if Kitty was born and raised in England?!

You might not think it matters much where Hello Kitty is from, but does it ever. Hello Kitty is a point of national pride for Japan, which even claimed her as the Tourism Ambassador to China and Hong Kong. Most Japanese people already believe Hello Kitty is from there, despite the official story that she's English. If it does turns out she is legitimately Japanese, it would be vindication for Japan. But if it turns out she is, in fact, English, it could shake many of her most rabid fans to their very cores.

What's more is that lying about her true nationality for the past 38 years might not be Kitty's worst crime. The book starts out with Kitty showing Dear Daniel around her "adopted" homeland, but the last time we see him is when he's walking into Kitty's house. After that there's a wedding, which he has no part in, and then a funeral, but no Daniel in sight. Is Dear Daniel the dead one? Kitty's comment about the funeral does seem awfully suspicious: "I'm terribly sorry about what happened." Are you really, Kitty?


But for now, even though Daniel's murder seems like a far more upsetting revelation, Kitty's followers are focusing on what her possession of a Japanese passport could mean for the fragile Hello Kitty-based fantasy worlds they have created in their minds. A Sanrio spokesperson "did not have an immediate explanation for which Hello Kitty history was correct." So it seems there is only one way to settle this international issue once and for all: the Sanrio corporation must produce a copy of Hello Kitty's long form birth certificate. And only then can she be considered the legitimate President of Japan's Heart.

Kitten-Sized Controversy: Is Hello Kitty from London or Japan? [Atlantic Wire]

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Ari Schwartz: Dark Lord of the Snark

Oh God, Sanrio.

Sanrio pisses me off to no extent, if only because it's the vanguard for the kawaisa (cute) industry of Japan, something that I believe has damaged Japan's national cultural foundation in a meaningful way.

Everywhere you go in Japan, cuteness is used to sell. You are literally surrounded by forced cuteness everywhere you go. Men and women sport obnoxiously cute shit that would make most children blush in nearly every other society.

It has damaged their aesthetic sense. Once a country that treasured the zen sense of minimalism and natural harmony, many aesthetics are now focused on impossible cuteness to no real end.

I know I sound awfully ranty right now, but the vapidness of modern Japanese popular culture, with a good deal of kawaisa at the core, irritates me to no end.