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Sanrio President: Hello Kitty Isn't a Cat, She's an Idol

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Oh boy, here we go again.

Last week, there was an L.A. Times article stating that Hello Kitty was not a cat. When asked for clarification, Sanrio told Kotaku that Hello Kitty was anthropomorphic cat. Later, the Japanese character goods maker gave a similar explanation to The Wall Street Journal.

A Sanrio spokesperson told Kotaku, "Hello Kitty was done in the motif of a cat. It's going too far to say that Hello Kitty is not a cat. Hello Kitty is a personification of a cat."


The specific word that the Sanrio spokesperson used to describe Hello Kitty was "gijinka" (擬人化), which means "anthropomorphization" or "personification."

However, Yahoo! Japan reports that yesterday, at a press event for the new Hello Kitty anime, Sanrio's 86-year-old president and founder Shintaro Tsuji was asked if Hello Kitty was a cat, to which he replied:

"Hello Kitty is not a cat. If Hello Kitty is a cat, then Mickey is a mouse. That's not how it's said, as Kitty is Kitty, and Mickey is Mickey. It's funny saying it, but the reason is because both Kitty and Mickey are idols. If you say 'mouse' or 'cat,' then that rationale cannot be understood."


Sigh. Once again, there seems to be confusion (and contradictions), even among the people running Sanrio, between house cats and cartoon personifications of animals. Disney, however, has been pretty clear that its characters are anthropomorphic. And last week, so was Sanrio.

The president's recent statement appeared on one of Japan's largest nationwide morning shows. And online in Japan, people appear both baffled, and at this point, indifferent. Yahoo! Japan has over one thousand comments on the statement. Let's have a look at some of them:

"Nope, looks like a cat..."

"She's not a cat. But she's done in the motif of a cat."

"If you asked anyone if Mickey was a mouse, they'd reply he was a mouse. So, is it taboo to ask that about Hello Kitty?"

"She's a goblin cat."

"How can the president even say that, he didn't create this character."

"Who cares."

"But, Mickey is a mouse."

"I thought she was a hamster."

"So, is Miffy a rabbit...?"

"But last year, they released all those goods for cats."

"She has ears like cat ears. She has whiskers. Anyone who sees her will think she's a cat, right?"

"This is such a farce."

"Okay, then she's a dog."

"Maybe this president doesn't understand English. 'Kitty' means 'koneko' in Japanese or 'kitten' in English."

"People should decide for themselves."

"Kitty is Kitty. (But she looks like a cat.)"

"Is this like a horror movie?"

"I can't help but think that since they were sued for ripping off Miffy, that they can't say Hello Kitty is a cat..."

"Cat motif."

"Saying stuff like this is going to decrease the number of fans."

"Mickey is Mickey Mouse, because...he's a mouse, but Kitty is Kitty...because she's not a cat."

"I think it's time they let a younger person run Sanrio."

"No, no, no. I thought she was a weasel."

"She's not a cat? Whatever, she's a cat."

"Who cares, because real cats are a million times cuter."

サンリオ社長が断言「キティちゃんは猫じゃない」[Yahoo! Japan]

To contact the author of this post, write to or find him on Twitter @Brian_Ashcraft.


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