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How Did Sanrio Start?

Hello Kitty is one of the world’s most recognizable and enduring cartoon characters, but even the most devoted fans have a lot to learn about the adorable icon. Did you know how the founding company Sanrio started? 

Sanrio, the company behind the Hello Kitty brand, began selling silk in the 1960s. When they first started selling sandals, the founder noticed that sandals with more attractive designs sold better. As a result, he hired cartoonists to create adorable characters for his company.

The Pre-Hello Kitty Era of Sanrio

Sanrio’s story begins in 1960. Shintaro Tsuji established a company in Nihonbashi, Tokyo’s bustling business district. This company was called the Yamanashi Silk Center, and it sold silks, as the name implies. 

As the company grew, plans were made to expand and pivot it once more. Sanrio Greetings was founded in 1969. This company began by incorporating the characters and designs into inexpensive but adorable gift items. Sanrio’s original business model was very similar to the one used by Hallmark in the United States.

Yamanashi Silk Center renamed itself Sanrio, relocated its headquarters to Gotanda, and opened its first restaurant in 1973. Sanrio Greetings was absorbed into the new company, and the company established a film production arm. (Source: CBR

What is the Meaning of Sanrio? 

The company provides two explanations for the name Sanrio. According to Sanrio’s European marketing materials, the name is derived from the Spanish words San and Rio, which translates to Saintly River

However, according to the company’s Japanese marketing materials, the name is based on a on’yomi reading of its original company name’s kanji. This reading renders Yamanashi as Sanri, and the company then added an O to the name to reflect the sound a person makes when they are excited. (Source: CBR

The Birth of Hello Kitty

Sanrio released a clear plastic coin purse in 1975. The word hello was written beneath a large-headed cat on this coin purse. This was Hello Kitty’s first appearance, and she went on to become Sanrio’s signature mascot. Yuko Shimizu created the character, Kitty White, in 1974. Kitty White was said to be from London due to the popularity of British imports and culture.

As a result, the brand became extremely popular in both Japan and the United States. In the United States, celebrities such as Mariah Carey, Paris Hilton, and Britney Spears have been spotted wearing Hello Kitty merchandise. This, combined with the Cool Japan craze of the late 1990s and early 2000s, meant that the brand quickly gained a following in the United States, appealing to both children and adults.

 By 2008, Hello Kitty products were expected to account for half of Sanrio’s $1 billion revenue, and by 2014, there were said to be over 50,000 Hello Kitty product lines in production. This surge in popularity boosted the popularity of other Sanrio characters, making them even more recognizable around the world.

Sanrio is now a global brand that shows no signs of slowing down. The high demand for Amiibo cards demonstrates how popular the brand’s characters are with so many people. Hello Kitty has come a long way since she was a single cat on a coin purse. Her image is now available on everything from cheap stationery to high-end jewelry. (Source: CBR)

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