Hello Kitty is one of the trendsetters of Kawaii culture. She has had a significant influence in Japan, with Tokyo being one of the best places to find Sanrio themed attractions and more.
History of Sanrio Characters
Hello Kitty made her first appearance on a coin purse sold in Japan back in 1975. Since then, the lovable cartoon cat has become a cultural icon globally, not just among the preteen girls she was originally marketed towards, but with adults and even celebrities like Mariah Carey and Paris Hilton.
The Sanrio family has grown extensively, to include a number of other highly-recognisable characters such as Cinnamoroll, Pompompurin, Kuromi and My Melody. The omnipresence of the characters shows their huge influence on Japanese pop culture. You can find the characters’ branding in the most unusual places including on the side of a shinkansen, on vending machines and on the front of juice cartons.
Sanrio Puroland is a must-visit for any Sanrio superfan. Situated in Tama, and inside an illuminated rainbow, this indoor amusement park is home to a variety of attractions, live shows, restaurants and gift shops designed for both children and adults. Visiting gives you the chance to meet Hello Kitty at her luxurious Lady Kitty house in addition to a host of other characters across the park. Other park highlights include the Wisdom Tree, Sanrio characters’ boat ride and seasonal parades. Ticket prices start from ¥2,400 for adults and go up to ¥4,900, depending on the time of day you go.
If you want to further enhance your experience and truly live the Sanrio fantasy, you could even consider staying in one of the Hello Kitty themed rooms at the Keio Plaza which is located near the amusement park. Choose from the My Melody, Lala and Kiki, or Hello Kitty rooms. Accordingly, everything in these rooms, from the tables to the wall art, are perfectly themed.
You can find a range of permanent Hello Kitty themed restaurants in Tokyo. Though it is fair to say these places tend to be on the slightly more expensive side, these restaurants offer a unique experience which any fan will want to indulge in. It is worth doing a little bit of research into when the best time to visit these restaurants is as they can get super busy and sometimes have waiting times which extend to up to an hour.
Sanrio Cafe Ikebukuro
For the ultimate Hello Kitty themed dining experience, you’ll want to visit the Sanrio cafe in Ikebukuro’s Sunshine City. As soon as you enter the cafe, you are hit with an overwhelming wave of cuteness and character goods. The menu is dream-like, with a choice of snacks such as Hello Kitty shaped donuts, mochi, and crepes, in addition to savory foods like burgers. One of the best things about this cafe is that there is also an option to take-out food from the cafe wagon corner.
There are also Sanrio cafes for specific characters. One of the most popular ones is the Pompompurin Cafe which can be found in the Cute Cube complex in Harajuku. This cafe’s interior is based on the lovable retriever’s yellow and brown colors whilst also having a homely feel to it. There is a gift shop which sells exclusive Pompompurin merch and you can even take a photo with a model of the mascot itself, the centerpiece of the restaurant.
If visiting, we highly recommend trying the ¥2,000 omelette rice set, as it is the cutest omurice you’ll ever try and it comes with a free exclusive gift. That said, there is a great choice of foods including beef stroganoff, parfaits, milk puddings and much more. These dishes all range between the ¥500 to ¥2,000 price point, with the puddings being the cheapest items on the menu.
Cinnamoroll Cafe Shinjuku
Voted as the most popular Sanrio character in 2021, Cinnamoroll is the white puppy with pink cheeks and floppy ears. Cinnamoroll has become a Sanrio icon thanks to his various cute features which include his floppy ears which function as wings and tail which resembles a cinnamon bun. Similar to Pompompurin, there is also a Cinnamoroll themed cafe which is a three minute walk from Shinjuku-Sanchome station or a six minute walk from the South-East exit of Shinjuku station.
Adopting a more natural interior and chill vibe, the Cinnamoroll cafe is the perfect place to relax whilst enjoying adorable Cinnamoroll themed omelet rice, shortcake and ice cream.
As previously mentioned, Sanrio merch is pretty easy to find. Even when going into any convenience store chain, you are likely to find at least one Hello Kitty themed item on the shelf. That said, if you are looking for a more curated range of Sanrio merchandise, these are the best places to head to:
Sanrio Gift Gate, Asakusa and Ikebukuro
Gift Gate is a true haven for Sanrio merch. If you are short on time, then this should be the place you choose. Each different character has a different section, making it more likely that you will find something you love with your favorite character on.
Sanrio Shibuya 109 Store, Shibuya
Another retail concession, Sanrio Shibuya located in Shibuya 109 is home to a small but solid collection of Hello Kitty merchandise. Although we would recommend going to one of the bigger stores, this is still a good option if you are already in the area.
Sanrio Now!!! LUMINE EST, Shinjuku
One of the bigger Sanrio stores in Tokyo, Sanrio Now!!! is a part of the LUMINE EST department store. Upon entering you are greeted by a giant Hello Kitty statue as well as a colorful display of all the different characters. Shopping here gives you the true Sanrio experience.
Sanrio World, Ginza
Similar to Sanrio Now!!! The Sanrio World store in Ginza has a wide variety of Sanrio goods as well as statues of Hello Kitty and My Melody greeting you as you enter the store.
Hello Kitty Japan, Tokyo Skytree Town Solamachi
Why not cross off two activities at once and see the view from Tokyo Skytree as well as get your hands on Sanrio souvenirs. A great place to get last minute gifts and exclusive Sanrio Skytree merchandise.
Kiddy Land, Harajuku
There is a whole section on the fourth floor dedicated to the Sanrio family. This is the best choice if you want to scope out other character goods as well.
Keep in mind that other stores like Don Quijote also stock a range of Sanrio merchandise and certain brands do special character collaborations from time to time!
If you are planning to venture out of Tokyo for a while, you may also want to visit Sanrio’s other theme park, Harmonyland. Located in Kyushu, this outdoor theme park has a fairytale and storybook feel to it alongside twelve different attractions. Filled with a number of attractions like the Rhythmic Rollercoaster and Harmony Train, you can easily spend the whole day here. There are also a number of live shows and parades to watch and enjoy. Even though some say that the theme park is looking slightly outdated, we think this only adds to the charm.