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Hello Kitty quintuples attendance at Japanese American National Museum

KISS-themed dolls on display as part of the Hello Kitty retrospective at Los Angeles' Japanese American National Museum, because too much Hello Kitty is never enough.
(Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)

On a normal weekend, from 400 to 500 people walk through the doors of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. But with a hyped exhibition about Hello Kitty opening to the public at the museum this past Saturday, the museum more than quintupled its usual attendance figures.

“Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty”, an exhibition showing several decades’ worth of Hello Kitty merchandise, fashion and art, helped draw more than 2,500 visitors to the small, downtown institution Saturday and Sunday. At the opening-night members’ party Friday evening about 500 people showed up, many of them clad in bows, jewelry, T-shirts, printed skirts and Harajuku-style fashions all bearing some element of Hello Kitty.

The most commonly heard expression was, “Omigod, this is so cute!”

For anyone expecting a profound examination of what Hello Kitty might mean within the larger scope of Japanese design and popular culture, let it be said: This is not your show. Sanrio, the company that brought Hello Kitty to the world, is a sponsor of the exhibition and supplied a good number of the objects on display. Which means that the story is relentlessly positive.

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But, if you’re like me, and you grew up with an inexplicable fondness for everything Hello Kitty — miniature stationery sets, erasers, pencils, mirrors, cups and combs (the latter of which never worked on my frizzy hair) — the exhibition is a bonanza, from the super adorbz rice bowls to the bananas plushie dress worn by Lady Gaga.

The show won’t change your life, but you might find yourself on your smartphone, trying to find a Hello Kitty sake set for sale online...

“Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty” continues through April 26 at the Japanese American National Museum, 100 N. Central Ave., Los Angeles, janm.org.

Find me on the Twitterz @cmonstah.

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