Hello Kitty (ハローキティ Harō Kiti?) (full name Kitty White) is a fictional character produced by the Japanese company Sanrio, first designed by Yuko Shimizu. She is portrayed as a female white Japanese bobtail cat with a red bow. The character’s first appearance on an item, a vinyl coin purse, was introduced in Japan in 1974 and brought to the United States in 1976. The character is a staple of the kawaii segment of Japanese popular culture.
The Hello Kitty trademark has spread globally; Sanrio earned over $1 billion annually in sales outside of Japan, as of 2003. Although mainly aimed at the pre-adolescent female market, the Hello Kitty product range goes all the way from purses, stickers and pen sets to toasters, televisions, clothing, massagers, and computer equipment. It has a cult-like following among adults as well, especially in Asia, where Hello Kitty adorns cars, purses, jewelry and many other high-end consumer products. Several Hello Kitty TV series, targeted towards young children, have also been produced. Examples of products depicting the character include dolls, stickers, greeting cards, clothes, accessories, school supplies, dishes and home appliances. Her fame as a recurring Sanrio character has led to the creation of two officially licensed Hello Kitty theme parks, Harmonyland and the indoor Sanrio Puroland.
In 2008, a Hello Kitty-themed maternity hospital opened in Yuanlin, Taiwan. Hello Kitty is featured on the receiving blankets, room decor, bed linens, birth certificate covers, and nurses’ uniforms. The hospital’s owner explained that he hoped that the theme would help ease the stress of childbirth.