Hello Kitty is a trademark of the Sanrio company in Tokyo. Created in 1974, she’s become internationally popular. She is also deeply associated with a girlish culture of a very traditional sort.
Hello Kitty is pretty cute; she shows up on laptops
And on bags
Her face is a part of some pretty expensive jewelry:
Today the head of Sanrio, who developed the line, has announced that it is seeking larger markets.
“Young men these days grew up with character goods. That generation feels no embarrassment about wearing Hello Kitty.”
Sanrio Co spokesman Kazuo Tohmatsu, announcing that Hello Kitty products for men, such as T-shirts and watches, will go on sale in Japan, other Asian countries and the U.S. next year.
In addition to the fascinating idea of marketing a product, one deeply embedded in a traditionally understood ultra-feminine context, to young men, there is the discussion of it in Japan Today. One thread in the discussion concerns questions about Western views of Asia, and who speaks for whom, but another addresses the question of whether joung Japanese men are becoming more feminine.
Though it is so easy to miss the cultural subtleties in a discussion like this, it looks as though the association with young men becoming more feminine is their being childish. Another factor that complicates understanding the discussion is that it looks as at least some Japanese are very sensitive about a Western stereotype of the Japanese as childish.
Since it is hard to tell from a short newspaper article what is really going on culturally in another country, let me just suggest readers have a look for themselves. It may be a case where market forces actually work to make girls’ things more acceptable to boys. Or not.