Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek Across the Pacific by Christine Yano: The Spread of Japanese Culture Overseas
In her book, Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek Across the Pacific, Christine Yano
manages to assemble a very effective ethnography, first by providing in depth context into the spread of not only the Hello Kitty franchise but also what Yano calls Japan’s ‘cute-cool’ culture, and then following that with its reasons for success and effects, both positive and negative,
Hello Kitty was initially started as a branding method for which its creator, Yuko Shimizu, was hired to create cute characters to better sell sandals in 1974. Since then, they became a marketing success, transcending their original target audience of young Japanese youth, and making its way to consumers of all ages and countries. Along with Hello Kitty, japanese culture of many different forms, including manga and anime, has made its way into overseas culture. Yano’s ethnography details the spread of this through in depth details and interviews, and how this has affected Japanese culture as well.
Yano began her book by explaining the ‘kawaii’ culture in Japan, but not just in terms of products, but even down to how it affects gender and sexuality and the meaning of ‘shojo’, which has been altered over time through popular media like manga. She then describes the processes of marketing and how this can cause artificial “happiness” created by the company, through changing aspects of their products to appeal to different demographics. After that, Yano picks apart different ways in which japanese products and culture have been given wide appeal outside of Japan, through interviews of consumers and previously mentioned marketing schemes. Finally, Yano sums up the ethnography by explaining the effects, both positive and negative, that the spread of japanese popular culture has had both overseas and the effect it has had in Japan.
I believe that Yano’s ethnography was very in depth and seemed to gather details from every angle. Often in ethnographies, the author tends to approach it from one perspective,
leaving a somewhat biased piece. However, Yano chose to include the negative effects as well,
and even though the book focused on the spread of Japanese products, she did not forget to show its effects in its country of origin. The ethnography left little to be desired, and left very few unanswered questions, if any at all. I often found myself relating to certain aspects of the book, especially when it mentioned that the goal was to make something like Hello Kitty recognizable even from minor aspects like just the ears and bow, and I realized that it has spread to my culture so much that I would also recognize that.
In conclusion, Christine Yano put together a very well researched and all encompassing ethnography, through her use of detailed interviews, incredibly detailed research, and ability to capture multiple angles of the spread of japanese culture overseas.
Yano, Christine Reiko. Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek across the Pacific. N.p.: Duke UP,