She’s run for president, touched the hearts of people around the world and can seriously rock the color pink. No, I’m not talking about Hillary Clinton. I’m talking about Hello Kitty, the adorable, fictional Japanese character created by Sanrio. She is celebrating her 45th anniversary and fans in the Seattle area can join her at the Hello Kitty Friends Around the World Tour Pop-Up in Bellevue.
Located in a former retail business in Bellevue Plaza, the 10,000-square-foot pop-up started on Dec. 7 and takes visitors on a trip to Hello Kitty’s colorful world, literally. The event is travel-themed, so fans are given a passport and boarding pass, wait at a “gate” and “fly” to five different cities. “Travelers” can also buy Hello Kitty-themed drinks, snacks and souvenirs before the trip. I was impressed with how much thought was put into making it seem like fans were at a real airport, down to the charging stations, waiting benches and airplane noises played through a speaker.
“We wanted to bring a fun and immersive experience to fans,” said Susan Tran, Sanrio’s director of brand marketing.
Before we “took off,” we were shown a safety video where we were told to keep our cameras handy and “have a super cute time.” A bubbly “flight attendant” took us throughout various cities, spewed fun facts and asked trivia questions (prizes were given for right answers!). Another staff member “stamped” everyone’s passport with a sticker and helped to take photos. Speaking of photos, if you go, be sure you have enough storage on your phone because you will want to take SO MANY.
The main attraction of the whole event are its interactive and multisensory features. I saw parents with their children, as expected, but there were also a couple Instagram boyfriends in attendance with their partners getting in on the fun as well.
The first stop on the tour is London, Hello Kitty’s hometown. There, fans sat on Hello Kitty’s and her sister Mimi’s beds, used Hello Kitty’s vanity and pretended to try on her clothes.
At the next stop, Paris, my eyes were drawn to the Eiffel Tower replica complete with sparkly lights. There, we stepped inside Hello Kitty’s bakery, took seats at a cafe table and treated ourselves to a madeleine.
The third stop of the tour was New York, featuring a giant pizza that people could flop onto. Visitors also got party poppers to celebrate after a countdown in “Times Square,” wishing Hello Kitty a happy anniversary.
Next city on the tour: a tropical getaway to Hawaii, including a pretend poké truck run by Hello Kitty’s lazy friend Gudetama. With a floor that was made to look like sand and water, coupled with the sound of crashing waves and palm trees, it really did feel like we were transported to a Hawaiian paradise.
Tokyo was the last stop of the tour. Although this room had fake cherry blossom trees, something was used to make them smell real. Here, we also got to write down a wish for the new year. This stop also included a visit from a special guest!
The tour ended at a gift shop full of Hello Kitty merchandise, including commemorative 45th-anniversary T-shirts and key chains. And they were getting snapped up quick! One superfan decked out in Hello Kitty gear walked out with three bags of products!
The last part of the experience is a Pacific Northwest-themed lodge, special to the Seattle stop. Here, fans can rest on picnic-style benches, sit on “logs” and go on a scavenger hunt. Refreshments from local businesses are also available for purchase. Bubble-tea food truck Dreamy Drinks, Herkimer Coffee and Krystel’s Confections (with its delicious macarons!) were all there. Select snacks from Asian supermarket Uwajimaya were also on sale.
Hello Kitty Pop-up, 12:30-8:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 10:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Sunday, through Dec. 29; 44 Bellevue Way N.E., Bellevue; $22-$50; hellokitty45.com