International pop culture celebrity Hello Kitty has taken on the position of “hometown ambassador” for the Japanese city of Kofu to publicize its many attractive spots.
Sanrio Property Co. was named to this position in part because the company’s founder, Shintaro Tsuji, is from Kofu, the capital of Yamanashi Prefecture. This is the first time the city has named a fictional character as its public relations ambassador.
Kofu still has a thriving jewelry industry, based on crystal polishing and processing techniques developed in Yamanashi Prefecture, a former rock crystal mining area. For Hello Kitty’s new role as an ambassador, she received a jeweled ribbon and a purse shaped like Mount Fuji, which is near Kofu. This illustration will be used in thank you letters to people who make “local tax” donations to the city, job fair flyers for foreign nationals, and other purposes.
To attract tourists, the Kofu municipal government held a parade that includes many Sanrio characters and produced transparent plastic shirts with a character combining Hello Kitty and the famous local feudal warlord Takeda Shingen (1521-1573) . An official from the city government’s tourism division commented, “We hope many people will get to know Kofu better by sharing the fame of Hello Kitty, which is loved around the world.”
(Japanese original by In Tanaka, Tokyo Regional News Department)