There is a Hello Kitty Show taking place right now in Taipei at the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park. I am a Hello Kitty fan, so I wanted to see the show. We decided to go in the afternoon, as it would be air conditioned and cool inside at the show. So I put on my Hello Kitty sundress, and we went to see the show.
The show was taking place to celebrate Hello Kitty’s 40th anniversary! Hello Kitty is produced by the Japanese company Sanrio. She is a female white Japanese bobtail cat with a red bow, first designed by Yuko Shimizu.
She first appeared on an a vinyl coin purse in Japan in 1974, sitting between a bottle of milk and a goldfish bowl. Hello Kitty was brought to the United States for the first time in 1976. By 2014, Hello Kitty was bringing Sanrio $7 billion a year in revenue. That’s a lot of Hello Kitty fans! And there were many of them at the show. It was crowded, with people of all ages trying to pose for photos with Hello Kitty.
There was a poster with a drawing of Hello Kitty for every year between 1974 and 2014. Her appearance did change over the years, according to popular cultural trends. I did take a photo of every year of Hello Kitty, but I will restrain myself from including them all in this blog!
Spokespeople for Sanrio have said that Hello Kitty does not have a mouth because they want people to “project their feelings onto the character” and “be happy or sad together with Hello Kitty.” Another explanation Sanrio has given for her lack of a mouth is that she “speaks from the heart. She’s Sanrio’s ambassador to the world and isn’t bound to any particular language”. From Wikipedia
According to Sanrio, in 1999 Hello Kitty appeared on 12,000 different products yearly. By 2008, Hello Kitty was responsible for half of Sanrio’s $1 billion revenue and there were over 50,000 different Hello Kitty branded products in more than 60 countries. From Wikipedia
Can you imagine the Hello Kitty incarnation of the movie “The Seven Year Itch” in the style of sex goddess Marilyn Monroe? I couldn’t, but apparently somebody thought this was a good idea. I refused to pose next to this Hello Kitty because it did not look enough like the Hello Kitty that I love.
There was also a “Breakfast at Tiffany” edition of Hello Kitty. Hello Kitty does not have the grace and elegance of Audrey Hepburn.
There is also a Charlie Chaplin edition of Hello Kitty. Fortunately, the artists got over their fascination with Hollywood movie Hello Kitties after a while, and moved on to other ideas.
Thus came about “Skateboarding KT”, wearing a loose T-shirt and baggy hip pants, gold chains, and a hat with a red bow on it. (I did not say that they moved on to better ideas!)
Hello Kitty has no “street cred”, no matter how hard they tried to project this image! This was so unlikely that it was very funny!
But it was a good, uncrowded photo spot, as it was hard to pose beside “Skateboarding KT” hanging from the ceiling! There were lots and lots of people of all ages, waiting in long lines to pose next to the various Hello Kitty statues. I did not want to wait in many lines, so I am posing with Hello Kitty in only a few of the photos. (Jeff did not want to pose with Hello Kitty, so I am in all of these photos.)
After we left the Hello Kitty Show, we explored the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park where the show was being held. This was the location of the “Taiwan Sotokufu Tobacco Monopoly Bureau” from 1937 until 1945 during the Japanese colonial period. It was a large plant for manufacturing cigarettes. After the war, it was taken over by the Taiwan Monopoly Bureau and renamed the “Taiwanese Provincial Tobacco and Alcohol Monopoly Bureau Songshan Plant”. In 2001, it was declared a cultural heritage site of Taipei. It was renovated and reopened in 2011 as the “Songshan Cultural and Creative Park”.
In 2012, the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park was positioned by the Taipei City Government as the “Creative Hub of Taipei”. Although they did a nice job of converting an old tobacco factory into a show venue, it was not the most interesting part of the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park.
The Eslite hotel, located across from the renovated factory building, was more interesting.
In 2013, Eslite brought its long experience in the cultural and creative performing arts to Taipei’s Songshan Cultural Park.From its traditional base of operations in the cultural bookstore and retail industry, Eslite expanded its business scope to hotels, performance venues, and art movie houses—the goal being an integration of innovative sources that draw from a wide range of industries and countries. From the Eslite Website
The bottom four floors of the Eslite Hotel were amazing. It was a large bookstore, combined with many cafes, and intermixed with small studios where artists were at work making everything from paper to guitars. So you could browse through books, and records (they had a vinyl record album section with records for sale!) They were coffee shops, tea shops, soda shops, and other cafes tucked into many spots among the books and artist studios, where you could get a snack or drink. And you could watch the artists at work.
It was a combination of craft fair and demonstrations of different artistic techniques.
And you could buy (if you had a lot of money) many of the things being made by the artists. Jeff thought that the bags (made from paper) in the photo below were amazing!