Cheeky Parade interviews celebrities! Vol.1 Yuko Yamaguchi edition

The 9 girl idol group, Cheeky Parade will hold the last show of their Japan tour in New York in October. 
Chikipa is going overseas to hold the final show of their tour in New York. Before they took such an unprecedented step as an idol group, an interview project was launched, “Before the NY show, let’s learn the secret of overseas expansion from people who work all over the world!!! Cheeky Parade, learn about Japanese culture!”
The members of Cheeky Parade then became journalists and interviewed celebrities who play an active role globally in their own field while representing Japan.

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Their first opportunity is to interview Yuko Yamaguchi, the designer of Hello Kitty. Cheeky Parade leader Sekine together with Yurina and Marina Suzuki went to interview Yamaguchi.

Sekine: We Cheeky Parade will be holding a live show in New York in October. We started the project to talk with people who play an active role globally! We would like to interview you and learn from you today! Nice to meet you. Thank you for your time. 

Yamaguchi: Nice to meet you too. Thank you for having me. 

Sekine: What was the reason you became a designer?

Yamaguchi: When I was in 8th grade, my teacher told me “Do what you like to do.” I always liked design so I decided to become a designer. 

Sekine: How many design drawings have you done since you became a designer?

Yamaguchi: I’ve drawn so many. I don’t even know how many. Lol. I think autographing is the way to communicate with fans, so, I’ve done so many. I might set a Guinness world record. I meet so many people through Kitty and that helps to me to be a designer. 

Yuriya: What was the most challenging design for you. 

Yamaguchi: I think the leopard and skull patterns. They were not so popular in the 80s and I was told that they wouldn’t go well with Kitty. But fans wanted them so I designed them to commercialize. 

Sekine: Hello Kitty has been such as big part of Japanese culture that there are even local kitty designs. How do you feel when you see your Kitty designs on the street?

Yamaguchi: Hello Kitty used to be recognized as something only girls have. But it has spread gradually and now the formula, Hello Kitty = girls only, is fading. So, I am planning to expand “Men’s Kitty.” It’s time to evolve Hello Kitty.  It’s important to keep taking on a challenge. I think the same thing in the show business. 

Sekine: I see. That is a good lesson. We have a mascot called Cheekiss. Can you tell us the secret to make Cheekiss popular?

Yamaguchi: It needs a body first. So make a body and put soul to it. Then come up with its background story. It needs to be as detailed as possible, even its blood type. After that, you should come up with ideas with your fans. Hello Kitty was completed by fans’ opinions and ideas too. 

Mariya: What was the most difficult experience in your carrier?

Yamaguchi: At first, Kitty didn’t sell well at all. So we held autograph sessions and shake hand sessions over and over again for about 5 years similar to promotion campaigns for new artists. 

Mariya: Did you ever wanted to quit?

Yamaguchi: I was struggling and desperate, so I couldn’t give up. Trying so hard didn’t even let me fell alone.

Chikipa members: “That’s amazing!”

Sekine: We have become Japan pop culture Okaimono goodwill ambassadors. We think Hello Kitty takes on that role, too. There are many Kittys that collaborate with Japanese culture, which one is your favorite?

Yamaguchi: My favorites are Kitty with kimono and yukata. They are great gifts. Because kimono and yukata are uniquely Japanese. 

Yuriya: What is it that makes Hello Kitty so special?

Yamaguchi: You can make Kitty your own color. Kitty is like a white canvas. You can pick your favorite Kitty.

Yuriya: I want to collaborate with Kitty someday! I will work hard until that day!

Yamaguchi: Looking forward to seeing you put the characteristics of Yuriya into Kitty one day. 

Sekine: Lastly, what is the secret to become active globally?

Yamguchi: I’m not so active globally yet. I’m thinking to start out by handing out flyers as if I’m standing at the starting line. 


■Biography of Hello Kitty Designer Yuko Yamaguchi

Born in Kochi City, Kochi Prefecture.
Graduate of Joshibi University of Art and Design.
Entering Sanrio Company out of University, Ms. Yamaguchi took over as the
3rd Hello Kitty designer in 1980. In the thirty years since, she has guided
Hello Kitty through various transformations and nurtured her into the
global star she is today—currently 50,000 varieties of Hello Kitty
merchandise are sold every year in 130 countries.
Ms. Yamaguchi is also behind Kitty’s boyfriend Dear Daniel (1999) and her
pet cat Charmmy Kitty (2004), both popular characters in their own right.
At her own suggestion, Ms. Yamaguchi conducts signings in which she visits
Sanrio stores and personally draws, signs and distributes pictures to fans,
something she has now done over a thousand times around the world.
Recently she has been actively pursuing new inspiration through
collaboration with designers and artists both in Japan and abroad.