Hello Kitty is known all over the world. She is practically the symbol of Japan but has a different name in her home country. She is actually know as Kitty Chan in Japan. Despite her slightly different name, she is still a massively mechanized character in Japan and is on everything from backpacks to bullet trains.
That's right. Hello Kitty is such a popular character here that she gets her own bullet train, as I discovered when I accidentally rode it.
I had not planned to ride the Hello Kitty bullet train, I just wanted to get to Hakata station and it happened to be the most convenient train. I was pretty surprised when it pulled in as no where on my ticket did it indicate I would be traveling in bright pink. If you do your research beforehand you can find out the Hello Kitty train’s schedule but for me–and many others that day I’m sure–it was a total bonus. Whilst I’m not a big Hello Kitty fan I decided it was ultimately a good thing and I had a lot of fun exploring the carriages.
This train may look like just a normal bullet train with Hello Kitty stickers slapped on it but the detail actually goes much further.
The first carriage of the bullet train is dedicated to the Kitty Chan store. Here you can buy all sorts of Hello Kitty merchandise along with a few other Sanrio characters. They mostly specialize in stationary but there are also sweets, toys, and more.
As well as housing a shop, this carriage has a photo spot. You can take your photo with a massive plastic Hello Kitty and pose in front of a colorful backdrop.
In the next carriage, I found a similar area but this one had a soft play space for little kids who might enjoy being close to their feline idol. Along the wall of the carriage you'll also find Hello Kitty showing her love for each and every prefecture of Japan.
Through all of the other carriages you can see images of Hello Kitty surrounded by prefectural specific knick-knacks located in all of the regions she passes through, along with a few that she just aspires to visit.
The Hello Kitty train was put into action on June 30th, 2018. It was originally supposed to be a limited time sponsor but the train has kept running due to its popularity. Until last year the train was themed after the famous anime Evangelion and had been since 2015. When the sponsorship finally ran out, Hello Kitty swooped in and took over the train.
She also took over the Evangelion cafe that was in Fukuoka station in Hakata. The once robotic and purple cafe has now been transformed into a pink and cute little cake shop. You can try all of Hello Kitty’s favorite foods such as a curry that features her face made out of rice.
But one shop is not enough for Kitty Chan. As well as the cafe, there is also a Hello Kitty and Sanrio shop in Hakata station. Mostly this shop sells omiyage (little Japanese present for when you have traveled) but they also have all of the classic key-rings and small figures you would expect to find in a gift shop.
The Hello Kitty bullet train is a fun and cool quirk of Japan to stumble upon exploring the different carriages made for an interesting train ride and would be sure to entertain kids who couldn’t sit still for three hours. I wouldn’t recommend booking your ticket to deliberately ride this train unless you’re a Hello Kitty super fan, but I will say that it was a very pleasant and unique train ride.