You may have noticed them on children’s lunchboxes, totebags and even pillowcases- a little frog with huge eyes, a white kitten with a bow on one ear or a puppy in a striped shirt.
Welcome to the world of Sanrio. Keroppi the frog, Hello Kitty and Pochacco are just three of the many warm, friendly animals and occasional human characters created by Japan’s Sanrio Company.
Established in 1960, Sanrio is, according to President and CEO Shintaro Tsuji, a “social communication” business. These cute little note books, pager holders and wrist-sized purses are known in Japan as social communication gifts. Sanrio’s tagline is Small Gift, Big Smile. The gifts are designed to bring a smile to the face of someone who is sad or to elevate the joy of a happy occasion. In fact, anytime could be a good time for a Sanrio gift. Tsuji says that the expression of respect and love is the basis of Sanrio’s business philosophy. It’s flower-power thinking, Japanese style. Tsuji explains the exchanging of Sanrio’s gifts by stating, “The common thread running through all our various businesses is the idea of giving from the heart and of the heart.”
Sanrio has its own monthly news- paper called The Strawberry News. There is also an internet home page, weekly television cartoons, a women’s clothing line and a theme park called PuroLand with 400 host robots. Located just outside Tokyo, PuroLand is described as “a communication space full of joy, caring and wonder.”
Recently, the rave youth culture in North America has embraced the Sanrio characters. Young trendsetters are wearing Hello Kitty Baby T’s and Little Twin Stars hair barrettes at rave parties, along with a tiny Keroppi backpack to accommodate an energy drink, lip balm and candy.
In Vancouver, Sanrio merchandise can be found in several gift stores in Metrotown Mall, Lansdowne Mall and Chinatown. The Mecca of all North American Sanrio followers is the Sanrio department store in San Francisco.