Tuesday, April 26, 2005

What will they think of next...

Sometimes I am simply astounded at what the the Asunaro-sha folks will come up with interms of Kitty White's next appearance in their regional/limited series. Okay, I wasn't suprised by the "underpants" series -- seems to be in line with traditional, cutesy Hello Kitty fare, but when I saw the "Kazuko Hosoki" series, I had to get up and leave the computer for a few minutes. Outside of Japan, Hosoki is known as one of the tart-tongued judges on "Iron Chef" and from what I understand, she is spicier in her many appearances on japanese television.

Other recent and fanciful additions to the "you're kidding me" guises:

  • Kitty as a Sumo wrestler. It's both funny and disturbing to see that cute white face on that body.
  • Kitty as Papaya Suzuki (Japanese TV comic pop star)
  • Last but not least (and I should mention, this is one of my favorite Kitty themes) The Four Ramen Devas (page relisting pending...)

There's something about the food-thingie and Kitty that always makes me both happy and hungry. Two of my latest additions to my regional collection are food-thingies:

Kitty White pops out of a bag of Shingenmochi -- a treat said to be a favorite of Samurai Shingen Takeda. To find out more about this fabulous treat, I highly recommend Chika's blog on the subject

Kitty prepares and eats a Kanto region specialty -- kind of a japanese pancake/omelette. To find a better description of the dish and its preparation, try this site.

These additions are not currently available as plushes so I must be content with their miniature netsuke forms. Maybe they are more charming in micro... they still make me hungry, that's for sure.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

New Additions

April has been a good month for Regional Kitties -- lots of new and interesting additions to the Asunaro website, lots of older, hard-to-find plushes turning up on the auction sites.

My collection has grown (bloated) over the past year so "trading was been light" up until recent months. Normally I am adding one new plush mascot or "nuigurumi" to my collection every other month. However, last month I hit the jackpot thanks to the help of one my regular "kitty dealers." A nice, big package was delivered on Friday and despite it being late in April, it felt like Christmas.

A few of the newest plushes

"Kagawa Kukai" aka Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Esoborder="0"gion: Shikoku, Kagawa Prefecture

"Nozawana" -- Kitty White enjoys green tea and some nozawana, a turnip green that is grown in the mountains of Japan
Region: Koshinetsu

Hard-to-find plushes ---at least for me

"Michinoku Kokeshi" -- In this version, Kitty White appears as the traditional wooden doll from the general area of Tohoku. This is a "Genyo" era item from 2002.
Region: Tohoku

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Genyo to Asunaro-sha

Kitty White in a bowl of Sanuki Udon, one of my favorite types of noodles. Udon are the wonderful, thick and hearty white noodles and Sanuki (a city in Kagawa, Japan) is where the noodles are said to be the best

For over a year, I’ve been collecting Japanese Regional Hello Kitty items, mainly the small keychain plushes. Yes, they are too cute but at the same time, they are wonderfully detailed and teach me something about the country and culture my parents came from. They also have the added benefit of making me forget job-related stress so I'm wondering if the IRS would allow me to use my kitty purchases as a medical deduction -- hey, I can dream can't I?

The sordid story behind my collection
Regional Hello Kitties first appeared in Japan in 1997. A company called Genyo made a licensing deal with Sanrio which allowed them to create and market (in addition to their infamous vibrator) a line of stuffed animals, stationary, towels, etc., with a "regional theme." Each kitty was presented as a food, animal, historic figure or tourist attraction from that region. No surprise that within Japan, these little regional items became wildly popular when they first came out. Genyo had a hard time keeping up with the demand.

However, like all good things rich and powerful, Kitty White's reputation was tarnished on her way to the Top Ten Toys list. To start with, Sanrio was not happy about the whole vibrator debacle, but things went from uncomfortable to down-right ugly when three of Genyo's top executives were charged with tax evasion. It was reported that some 400 million yen of corporate taxes was creatively missing. As the news spread, some gasped at the thought of Kitty White being "soiled by corporate greed." Others snickered. I, on the other hand worried that there would never be another regional Kitty once the Genyo website when down.

Thankfully, saner heads prevailed and the Regional Hello Kitty series not only still exists, but is still going strong!