Hello Kitty spa in Dubai

We meet Miyuki Okumura, head designer for Hello Kitty creators Sanrio

Interview, Health

So, a Hello Kitty spa, eh? Are there many in Japan?
Actually no. This is a world first. We thought we’d done everything we could possibly do with Hello Kitty in terms of accessories and theme parks and so on – but the idea for this came from the local sponsors in Dubai.

Tell us something we don’t know about Hello Kitty.
Well, she’s 38 years old. She’ll be 40 in 2014, and that will be a huge party! She is still looking very kittenish for her age too. She also has a twin sister called Mimmi (she has a yellow bow, and she wears it on her right ear – not her left, like Kitty does).

What’s the very first thing Kitty appeared on?
The very first Hello Kitty item was a red coin purse brought out in 1974. The original ones are collectors’ items now, as they are no longer produced. However, eight years ago, for Kitty’s 30th birthday, Sanrio released a limited edition, so there are some reproductions out there now of the classic design.

As the head designer, have you ever considered diversifying the range – say to Hello Goldfish, or Hello Hamster perhaps?
Believe it or not, there are actually more than 400 characters in the Hello Kitty range, but because they aren’t really seen outside of Japan, people only know about Kitty, who has always been the number one selling character.

What’s your favourite out of all of them?
I joined Sanrio straight from college 13 years ago. And when I’d been with them two years, I designed a new character called Cinnamon Roll. He’s a cute white creature with a curly tail and blue eyes. Amazingly, he is now the fourth best-selling character from the entire range in Japan, so I’m really proud of that achievement. He’s definitely my favourite, but he’s not available in Dubai yet. Hopefully he’ll be here soon.

Do you ever get sick of the colour pink?
Honestly? Never! All girls in Japan love the colour pink – and I’m no exception. I really enjoy working with it. It’s wonderful.

We all know little girls – and big girls – can go crazy for Hello Kitty. But the boys are a bit left out. Is Sanrio addressing that?
Actually, in Japan the range is already very much for both boys and girls. Obviously all the pink stuff is for the girls, but for boys, there is a Sanrio car character collection, and a Bullet Train one too, and it’s proving just as popular with the boys now.

So, even though we have the world’s first Hello Kitty spa, we still need to up our Hello Kitty game in Dubai?
Yes. The range in Dubai is pretty limited compared to everything you can get in Japan. But that could easily change soon. The thing I’m most looking forward to is Kitty’s 40th birthday. That’s going to be really special. Watch this space.

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