A Tour of Japanese Pop Culture, Part 7: Hello Kitty and Sanrio’s Puroland

If the Ghibli Museum is on one end of the themed attraction spectrum then Puroland is definitely on the other. Sanrio’s theme park features bright colors, dazzling lights, costumed characters, Chinese acrobats, lively music, and you can take all the pictures and video you want!

Just so you know, this sojourn to Hello Kitty’s home turf was on account of my husband, not me. Despite his indifference to real cats (he’s allergic to them), he’s a tremendous fan of fictional kitties with no mouths. So when he saw the advertisement for Puroland, he was determined to pay homage to Japan’s feline ambassador!

It was pure Sanrio sensory overload. Hello Kitty and her friends aren’t just posing for photographs with kids. We arrived as their main show “Believe” was taking place at the Wisdom Tree Stage in the center of Puroland. Just about every Sanrio character imaginable was singing and dancing accompanied by dozens of fantastically dressed performers and even several Chinese acrobats! Hello Kitty’s and Dear Daniel’s costumes were glittery with LEDs, and there were laser lights and other special effects to dazzle the crowd. I could only pick up a little of the dialogue (entirely in Japanese, no subtitles), but it was a mesmerizing start to a Wonderland-esque day.

What to expect at Puroland

Puroland is an indoor theme park, which means you don’t have to worry about snow or heatstroke. It consists of four levels: ground, top, and two lower levels.

Ground level (3F)

This is where visitors first step into Puroland. Beyond the ticketing booths is an expansive foyer with an information table. There are a couple signs in English here, but beyond the entry, signs are generally Japanese only. Puroland does provide pamphlets in various languages though.

You can also find storage lockers and a stroller parking lot (Puroland has no elevators so parents have to check in their strollers here). Puroland’s main store is also by the entrance. Other shops and merchandise booths are located throughout Puroland, but this is the biggest one, offering DVDs, clothes, plushies, and confections shaped like your favorite characters.

Top level (4F)

Go up the grand staircase from the entry, and you’ll find Cinnamon Dream Café, Food Machine Restaurant, and Restaurant Yakata. Yakata, which serves lunch and dinner, is an all-you-can-eat buffet and therefore pricier so we opted to eat at the Food Machine Restaurant. Food Machine is cafeteria-style, offering Western and Japanese fare and nikuman stamped with Hello Kitty’s face. The decor is very steampunk with whirly-gigs decorating the food line. It is also very family-friendly. Every table has a Hello Kitty highchair already in place.

Also on this level is a Vivitix boutique, where we finally found a Hello Kitty necktie for my husband. Seriously, we’ve been trying to find one for two years. (Apparently they’re only sold in Japan.) Now we’ve finally got one, though he decided to pass on the boxer shorts.

Lower level 2F

If you take the escalator down from the Puroland main entrance, you wind up on this level. The main attraction here is the Sanrio Character Boat Ride. Yes, it’s total ripoff of the “It’s a Small World” ride. But we still like it better because it didn’t have the annoying song and it’s all Sanrio characters. There’s a story and dialogue to go the ride, but it’s all in Japanese. From what I could piece together, it’s about Hello Kitty inviting all her Sanrio friends to a big shindig and them coming from around the world to join the party.

Bottom Level (1F)

If you take the grand staircase down from the boat ride, you wind up on the bottom floor, and this is where most of the action is. In addition to their main “Believe” production, the Wisdom Tree Stage presents smaller scale performances throughout the day, and additional shows take place in Puroland’s other three theaters.

The glitziest of these is the Marchen Theater where we saw Sanrio’s rendition of the Wizard of Oz. It’s a fun, slightly wacky musical with Hello Kitty in glitter sneakers, a Wicked Witch of the West who’s a junkfood junkie, and a Las Vegas style finale. Given all the running around, I’m extremely impressed by Puroland’s performers. It can’t be easy doing dance numbers in a costume with a giant cat head on. This was the one show that had the dialogue translated into Chinese and English on a side screen.

My Melody’s Legend of Flowers and Stars was the musical playing at the Fairyland Theater. The production was not as grand as the Wizard Of Oz, but it was my favorite of the shows we saw. While Wizard of Oz is family fare, Legend is geared more toward a tween/teen audience. Despite My Melody’s name in the title, the rabbit’s really just a narrator. It’s a romance about two fairy lovers played by performers who look like B-List Japanese idols. And it had two super awesome Chinese acrobats as part of the act.

By the way, the Fairyland  Theater is located in the Fairyland wing, and Sanrio went overboard in giving it an enchanted forest atmosphere. It’s kind of cool that the interior of the theater, from the stage to the audience seats and tables, makes you feel like you’re sitting amidst trees, but it’s a little odd in the bathroom. The toilet flush handle in the women’s room was shaped like a tree branch, and my husband said the urinals were shaped like trees. (Ummm… yeah, he peed into a tree at Puroland.)

In addition to the different stages and little workshop displays, this floor also features Hello Kitty’s house. Enter, and you can sit in her dining room, check out her bookshelf (apparently, she’s into Western literature), climb into her tub, and tap at her computer. And make sure you exit at the end of the house. There, you can get a picture with Hello Kitty herself before you leave her abode. Puroland staff will take one photo (and only one) with your personal camera and another on theirs (which you can buy for a fee).

I alluded to it before but just to emphasize, Puroland is extremely family-friendly. Most of the entertainment on the center stage is designed for kids, and there are changing facilities for babies. We visited on a Japanese holiday, and the majority of patrons were families with kids ranging from babies to middle school-age sons and daughters. Also in the mix were teenage girls in small groups and a few young couples. And then there were us.

What can I say? Hello Kitty attracts all sorts.

Between the shows, Hello Kitty’s house and all of Puroland’s other exhibits and entertainment, my husband was in Hello Kitty heaven. We explored most of it over the span of the day, but if we return to Japan, we will probably be making another trip to Puroland.

Going to Puroland

Getting to Hello Kitty’s house is pretty straightforward. If you’re coming straight from the airport, you can take a limousine bus. (They call it a limousine bus, but it’s really just a tour group sized bus. It is comfortable though.) Otherwise, take the train to Tama Center Station, which is what we did.

Adjacent the train station exit is a huge outdoor mall where Puroland is located. Puroland is clearly indicated on the mall map.

No reservations are necessary! Just go and buy your tickets. You’ll need to decide which type of tickets though. The cheaper option only gives access to the center stage shows. If you want access to the other theaters or attractions such as the Boat Ride and Kitty’s house, you’ll need the more expensive ticket.

If you’re visiting from abroad, I say get the more expensive ticket. You certainly won’t have the option to experience that much Sanrio goodness when you get home.


One response to “A Tour of Japanese Pop Culture, Part 7: Hello Kitty and Sanrio’s Puroland

  1. Pingback: Hello Kitty: Fashion Music Wonderland Comic Review | Keeping It In Canon ...mostly

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