Hello Kitty peace treaty

By: Violet Hirman & Ren King

Image taken from: https://pacifichistoricpark

During World War II, many war atrocities occurred between the United States and Japan, those of which killed thousands of innocent citizens on both sides. Despite this, Japan is now an indispensable ally to the United States, strengthening the security of the economy, human rights, and trade relations between both countries. How did the two go from mortal enemies to close allies? The short answer: Hello Kitty.

First, a little background. During the Second World War, Japan and the United States were on opposite sides. Their specific relationship was tense, to say the least, but the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 solidified the animosity between them.

As the war ramped up and the German Nazis were defeated, Japan refused to back down. By this time, the US had been finalizing their plans for nuclear weapons, and decided to end the war and exact revenge simultaneously. But in doing so, they flattened two cities in Japan full of innocent people. During the dates of August 6th and August 9th of 1945, Hiroshima and Nagasaki became dust.

But how did the relationship between these two recover from this bloodshed?

It actually happened only a few years after; during the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union. Japan and the US were no longer enemies, but instead had something in common: they did not want communism to enter their countries.

They formed an alliance, but this didn’t stop the remaining fear from WWII to plague the citizens of both nations. The question is, how did the two governments resolve this issue? How could they possibly erase years of history from their hands?

A uniting force was implemented: consumerism.

The Hello Kitty brand was launched on storefronts in America in hopes to have Americans associate Japan with the cute cat while also making the Japanese feel like they had something in common with Americans. It also helped that at the time Hello Kitty was launched, foreign countries were “trendy”.

The first Hello Kitty store in America was opened on the coast of San Francisco, California and quickly expanded across the shoreline as it gained popularity. Soon, a store was opened in Pearl Harbor with exclusive merchandise from Japan to advertise to tourists the new friendship between the two countries.

While originally marketed towards young girls, as the brand spread, they found that there was a large audience of adults as well. As the 90’s approached, the popularity of Hello Kitty declined in Japan, yet increased almost tenfold internationally. The faster the consumers of other countries picked up, the more Japan became a hot tourist spot just for this brand, especially so with Americans. As a result, Japan became Hello-Kitty-centered.

In 2010, the New York Times called Hello Kitty a “global marketing phenomenon”, and it has not stopped speeding up since. Today, you can find almost every kind of Hello Kitty attraction in Japan, and over 100 thousand Americans travel to Japan with no hesitancy despite the relatively-recent war.

The brand, now “Sanrio” has expanded from just Hello Kitty. There are many different characters to appeal to more people, including Keroppi, My Melody, Kuromi, Badtz Maru, Pochacco, Cinnamoroll, Tuxedo Sam, and Chococat. There are hundreds if not thousands of Sanrio-themed buildings, amusement parks, stores, and more over the world at this moment. Most of the biggest being in Japan and the United States.

The two countries have come a very long way since the Second World War, and although not very well known, a lot of this is due to the genius marketing project called Hello Kitty.

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