Pink Globalization

Hello Kitty's Trek across the Pacific

Pink Globalization

Book Pages: 336 Illustrations: 16 illustrations, 1 table Published: April 2013

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Asian Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies

In Pink Globalization, Christine R. Yano examines the creation and rise of Hello Kitty as a part of Japanese Cute-Cool culture. Yano argues that the international popularity of Hello Kitty is one aspect of what she calls pink globalization—the spread of goods and images labeled cute (kawaii) from Japan to other parts of the industrial world. The concept of pink globalization connects the expansion of Japanese companies to overseas markets, the enhanced distribution of Japanese products, and the rise of Japan's national cool as suggested by the spread of manga and anime. Yano analyzes the changing complex of relations and identities surrounding the global reach of Hello Kitty's cute culture, discussing the responses of both ardent fans and virulent detractors. Through interviews, Yano shows how consumers use this iconic cat to negotiate gender, nostalgia, and national identity. She demonstrates that pink globalization allows the foreign to become familiar as it brings together the intimacy of cute and the distance of cool. Hello Kitty and her entourage of marketers and consumers wink, giddily suggesting innocence, sexuality, irony, sophistication, and even sheer happiness. Yano reveals the edgy power in this wink and the ways it can overturn, or at least challenge, power structures.


Pink Globalization isn’t a primer for Hello Kitty lovers, it’s a deep dive into the tale of the small feline that has dominated culture from East to West—all without saying a word or making a sound. Not every icon can make that claim, but, then again, not every icon is Hello Kitty.” — Scott Elingburg, Popmatters

“Many feminists find Hello Kitty to be an example of a submissive, infantile undercurrent of Japanese culture. Other detractors see her simply as an example of manufactured corporate sweetness. Perhaps the best explanation for her popularity, however, was inadvertently provided by an overheated religious website called Hell of Kitty, which warned that the cat ‘invades children's vulnerable hearts exactly through the weaponry of cuteness.’ And who can resist that?” — Meghan Keane, Wall Street Journal

Pink Globalization follows the rise of Hello Kitty in both its early domestic evolution and its international expansion. Author Christine Yano compellingly recounts the progress from the brand’s mid-seventies birth to its gradual permeation of ‘cute-culture’ to become a predominant symbol of femininity avidly embraced by Japanese girls. . . . . Though there is an extensive amount of information covered in this progression, the narrative maintains its engaging tone, and episodes flow seamlessly together.” — Seamus Mullarkey, Foreword Reviews

Pink Globalization is a very accessible discussion of Hello Kitty as an archetype, symbol, and phenomenon. Detailed, thoughtful and entertaining (and with some stunning images of her multitude of mainstream and niche appearances alike), this is a new look at how Japanese pop culture spreads, shifts, and changes in unexpected ways." — Jessica Sattell, JQ Magazine

“Required reading for anyone interested in contemporary Asian studies, American studies, globalization, popular culture, and cultural studies.” — L. Miller, Choice

“I highly recommend this book for those interested in Japanese consumer culture, global capitalism, cute culture, or girlhood studies. I learned a ton not only about kawaii and Hello Kitty but also about research methodology and how much potential there is in excellent analysis of pop-cultural objects. I was really impressed by how in-depth and far-reaching Yano’s study was. This one’s going in my growing collection of academic books that are teaching me how to write better." — Kasey, Ph.D.s and Pigtails blog

“Featuring one-on-one interviews with Hello Kitty fans and detractors alike, it offers readers a rare insight into the iconic cat’s influence on gender, nostalgia and national identity. By the book’s end, you should understand Kitty-chan’s journey from innocent kitten to sophisticated global superstar — even if you still don’t quite get her overall appeal.”  — Elliott Samuels, Japan Times

“If you’ve ever thought about or explained cool Japan, feminized consumerism, feminist reinterpretations, high art versus low art, Christine R. Yano’s Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek Across the Pacific is the book for you. . . . Highly recommended for its careful and detailed analysis of the complete Hello Kitty phenomenon.” — Raizel Liebler, The Learned Fangirl

“Yano’s most impressive accomplishment with Pink Globalization is the way that she arranges the little details in such a way as to suggest the big picture without ever slipping into didacticism or the rhetorical register of narcissism. Tackling Sanrio, even in part, is no small task, but Pink Globalization manages it with honesty, empathy, and intelligence.” — Ben Gabriel, The New Inquiry

“The only scholarly book devoted to Hello Kitty published to date, it is also an excellent contribution to scholarships on globalisation, consumer culture, design, marketing, fandom, gender and national identity. . . . [F]ull of thorough observations and brilliant opinions, the book is anticipated to be of great use for many.” — SooJin Lee, Intersections

Pink Globalization is an ambitious undertaking that deftly lays out many of the fascinating contradictions behind the Hello Kitty icon and its meanings. . . .Yano opens up the important question of how to re-think the political economy of gifting in late capitalist globalization, and the ways in which affect and money operate in this new order of emotional engineering.” — Sayumi Takahashi Harb, Mechademia

"Yano has tied together in one package a number of disparate themes that share the common denominator of Hello Kitty. She artfully demonstrates that this well-traveled feline figure is not a flash-in-the-pan craze  . . .  Her book is an invaluable contribution to the study of transnational flows of culture." — Brian McVeigh, Journal of Japanese Studies

“…[F]ew are as proficient as Christine Yano in articulating in the thickest of descriptions its various meanings, guises, and affective reverberations. Undergraduate students, and Yano’s colleagues alike, will surely find the work as useful as Hello Kitty herself in thinking through the complex evolving forms of today’s global commodity flows.” — Daniel White, Social Science Japan Journal

"This contribution... will be a benchmark against which future research and publications will be measured. It is also a welcome pedagogic resource and a valuable addition to undergraduate courses on cultural studies." — Artur Lozano-Mendez, American Anthropologist

"A well-inflected look at the Hello Kitty phenomenon. The writing is assured and theoretically rich yet quite accessible to a general readership."  — Marvin Sterling, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Pink Globalization represents a well-inflected look at the Hello Kitty phenomenon. The writing is assured and theoretically rich yet quite accessible to a general readership, including undergraduates. Despite this theoretical richness, it also manages throughout the light, humorous touches one would hope for from a book on this topic…. Pink Globalization is a valuable contribution to the anthropological, Japanese studies, gender studies, and other literature on the internationalization of Japanese popular culture.” — Marvin D. Sterling, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

“Yano’s book is an engaging and interesting read and will appeal to a wide readership—ranging from business history, to Japanese studies, to popular culture studies, as well as marketing and consumerism. … [A] rich and sophisticated portrayal of a seemingly cute but, in reality, complex commodity.” — Helen Macnaughtan, Business History Review

“Obviously, Japan specialists and symbolic anthropologists will love this book. But this is one of those anthropology books that you can actually give to someone outside the tribe without fear of them looking at you askance or with polite boredom—it will be anything but. And this book is going to make a fine text next semester when I teach Japanese popular culture.” — James Stanlaw, American Ethnologist

Pink Globalization, the first book-length anthropological study of Hello Kitty available in English, is a thorough, succinct and highly readable book. It opens up an intellectual dialogue for both scholars and students interested in not only the character and other globalised Japanese cultural artifacts but also in larger topics such as sexuality, gender, exoticism, consumer cultures and globalisation, with which the book efficiently engages through the lens of Sanrio’s cat.” — Iori Hamada, The Australian Journal of Anthropology

“This study deftly interweaves the micro and the macro: Yano draws her careful arguments from the rich and untidy voices from the ground—in this case, Hello Kitty fans, collectors, critics, as well as literary, visual, and performance artists who use Hello Kitty in diverse ways—as well as the official and personal communications with representatives of Sanrio Company in Japan and the United States, while placing them in the larger historical, political, economic currents. Yano demonstrates that, even as Hello Kitty as a character has a rather expressionless appearance that has stayed the same over the decades, the meanings of the cat is far from flat or uniform.” — Mari Yoshihara, Women's Studies

“Yano’s book, which includes a Sanrio and Hello Kitty timeline, black and white images, and an extensive bibliography, provides a comprehensive study of how one of the most famous examples of ‘Japanese Cute-Cool’ spread throughout the world; it is a fascinating read for the popular culture scholar.” — Kathy Merlock Jackson, Journal of American Culture

"Christine R. Yano's deep meditations on Hello Kitty provide us with dizzying detail while simultaneously explaining the allure of what is ostensibly only a childish character. Most studies on the circulation of Japanese popular culture take a macro view, looking at a spectrum of manga and anime as aspects of a cool culture flow. Yano's achievement is to explore a specific commodity and its image, following the trajectory of Hello Kitty from Japan to the United States as she is created, produced, consumed and endlessly discussed." — Laura Miller, author of Beauty Up: Exploring Contemporary Japanese Body Aesthetics

"This is another absorbing study by one of our most accomplished anthropologists of Japan. Christine R. Yano's sophisticated formulation of Hello Kitty's pink globalization significantly advances our understanding of transnational popular culture flows. And it is great fun to read!" — William W. Kelly, editor of Fanning the Flames: Fans and Consumer Culture in Contemporary Japan


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Price: $27.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Christine Yano is Professor and Chair of Anthropology at the University of Hawaii. She is the author of Airborne Dreams: "Nisei" Stewardesses and Pan American World Airways, also published by Duke University Press, Crowning the Nice Girl: Gender, Ethnicity, and Culture in Hawai’i’s Cherry Blossom Festival, and Tears of Longing: Nostalgia and the Nation in Japanese Popular Song.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface and Acknowledgments. Grabbing the Cat by Its Tail, or How the Cat Grabbed Me

Introduction. Kitty—Japan—Global

1. Kitty at Home: Kawaii Culture and the Kyarakuta Business

2. Marketing Global Kitty: Strategies to Sell Friendship and "Happiness"

3. Global Kitty: Here, There, and Nearly Everywhere

4. Kitty Backlash: What's Wrong with Cute?

5. Kitty Subversions: Pink as the New Black

6. Playing with Kitty: Serious Art in Surprising Places

7. Japan's Cute-Cool as Global Wink

Appendix 1. Sanrio and Hello Kitty Timeline

Appendix 2. Artists in Sanrio's Hello Kitty Thirtieth Anniversary Exhibit and Catalogue



Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5363-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5351-5
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