Sanrio Company, Ltd. (株式会社サンリオ, Kabushikigaisha Sanrio)[4] is a Japanese company that designs, licenses, and produces products focusing on the kawaii ("cute") segment of Japanese popular culture. Their products include stationery, school supplies, gifts, and accessories which are sold worldwide, including at specialty brand retail stores in Japan. Sanrio's best-known character is Hello Kitty, a little cartoon girl cat[5][6][7] and one of the most successful marketing brands in the world.[8]

Sanrio Company, Ltd.
Native name
TYO: 8136
Founded10 August 1960; 62 years ago (1960-08-10) (as Yamanashi Silk Company)
FounderShintaro Tsuji
Key people
Shintaro Tsuji (former President & CEO)
Tomokuni Tsuji (President)
  • Fashion
  • Accessories
  • Gifts
  • Entertainment
  • Video games
RevenueDecrease ¥74,233 million (FY2012)[2]
Increase ¥20,198 million (FY2012)[2]
Decrease ¥12,536 million (FY2012)[2]
Total assetsIncrease ¥97,425 million (FY2012)[2]
Total equityIncrease ¥48,982 million (FY2012)[2]
Number of employees
759 (Mar. 2017)[3]

Besides selling character goods, Sanrio takes part in film production and publishing. They own the rights to the Mr. Men characters and Japanese licensing rights to the Peanuts characters. Their animatronics branch, called Kokoro Company, Ltd. (kokoro being Japanese for 'heart') is best known for the Actroid android. The company also runs a franchise of KFC in Saitama Prefecture.


Sanrio store in Den-en-chōfu, Ōta, Tokyo

Shintaro Tsuji founded Sanrio on August 10, 1960, then known as the Yamanashi Silk Company using ¥1,000,000 in capital.[a] In 1962, Tsuji expanded his enterprise from silk to rubber sandals with flowers painted on them.[10] Tsuji noticed his success gained by merely adding a cute design to the sandals. He hired cartoonists to design cute characters for his merchandise in response to demand.[10]

In 1973 the company was officially established under the name Sanrio. In the book Kore ga Sanrio no Himitsu Desu (これがサンリオの秘密です) or These are Sanrio's Secrets Tsuji, Sanrio's founder, said that Yamanashi (山梨), part of the company's former name, has an alternative on'yomi reading of Sanri. The remaining o was added from the ou (オウ) sound people make when they are excited.[11] The company's European website gives another origin of the name, saying the name comes from the Spanish words san ('holy') and río ('river').[12]

Hello Kitty was added to the lineup of early Sanrio characters in 1974 and the first related merchandise was released the following year. The popular feline whose mouth is usually invisible has had both peaks and drops in sales over the years, but always has been the highest contributor to Sanrio's sales. Sanrio constantly adds new characters to its lineup. Specific characters are rotated in and out of active production.[13] For a short time, Osamu Tezuka's baby unicorn character Unico, who starred in two feature-length anime movies in the early 1980s, was also part of the Sanrio's lineup; however the rights to Unico shifted to Osamu Tezuka's own company after Tezuka's death in 1989.

In late 2003, Sanrio won the "Top Brand with a Conscience" award from the Medinge Group of Sweden for its communication principles.[14] The company has partnered with UNICEF since 1984. In 2006, Sanrio launched Sanrio Digital together with Typhoon Games to expand to the Internet, online games, and mobile services. 2010 was Sanrio's 50th anniversary. In conjunction with this, Build-A-Bear Workshop released limited edition stuffed toys of several Sanrio characters, including Hello Kitty, Chococat, My Melody and Keroppi.[15]

Hello Kitty is alleged to be drawn in a similar style to the rabbit Miffy. On August 26, 2010, Mercis BV, representing Miffy's creator Dick Bruna brought suit against Sanrio. They claimed that one of Hello Kitty's companion characters, a rabbit named Cathy, infringes on the copyright and trademark of Miffy.[16] On November 2, 2010, a Dutch court ruled against Sanrio and ordered the company to stop marketing Cathy products in Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.[16][17][18] Following the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Sanrio and Mercis reached an out-of-court settlement on June 7, 2011, for Sanrio to halt production worldwide of merchandise that feature Cathy. They also jointly announced a €150,000 donation to earthquake victims.[19]

In December 2011, Sanrio Global acquired the rights to the Mr. Men characters, which includes the subsidiary Mr Men Films Ltd, taking over Chorion's THOIP company.[20][21][22]

In 2019 the European Commission fined Sanrio 6.2 million euros (approx. 6.9 million US dollars) for blocking cross-border sales of its licensed products.[23][24]

In June 2020, it was announced that the company's founder and President, Shintaro Tsuji would step down from the role and hand control of the company to his grandson, Tomokuni Tsuji. Shintaro Tsuji ran the company for 60 years.[25]


Sanrio Inc. headquarters in South San Francisco

Sanrio Inc. is Sanrio's American subsidiary. Sanrio Inc. has offices in South San Francisco, California, and Torrance, California. Sanrio's first Western Hemisphere store opened in San Jose's Eastridge Mall. In 2008, Sanrio opened its high-end boutique called Sanrio Luxe in New York City's Times Square. In the Western Hemisphere, Sanrio character-branded products are sold in upwards of 13,000 locations including department, specialty, national chain stores and over 85 Sanrio boutiques. In April 2010, the first and only Sanrio-licensed eatery (Sanrio Cafe) in the U.S. opened at Pearlridge's Downtown phase in Aiea, Hawaii.

In 2004, Sanrio Co. Ltd., expanded its license to one of its major licensee and plush suppliers Nakajima USA to include the owning and operating of all Sanrio branded stores in the US, overseeing the relationships between individual licensed stores and supplying all categories of products for the retail stores in the US and wholesale accounts.

Sanrio hosts two theme parks in Japan, Sanrio Puroland in Tama, Tokyo, and Harmonyland[26][27] in Hiji, Ōita, Kyūshū.


Sanrio has created a large number of characters, the best known of which is Hello Kitty. Other well known characters include My Melody, Keroppi, Bad Badtz-Maru, Cinnamoroll, Jewelpet, Gudetama, and Aggressive Retsuko.



From 1977 to 1985, Sanrio produced movies through their Sanrio Films label. After A Journey Through Fairyland, Sanrio switched gears and started doing short films, OAVs, and TV shows based on their characters. In 2006, Sanrio announced they are again going to do feature-length films.

Title (English and Japanese) Release Date Miscellanea
Joe and the Rose (バラの花とジョー/ Bara no Hana to Joe) March 7, 1977 (Japan) Animated short film
Little Jumbo (小さなジャンボ/ Chiisana Jumbo) September 10, 1977 (Japan) Animated short film
Who Are the DeBolts? And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids? September 10, 1977 (Japan)

December 7, 1977 (USA)

Live-action documentary,

Co-Produced with Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates and Korty Films

The Mouse and His Child (親子ねずみの不思議な旅/Oyaro nezumi no fushingina tabi) November 18, 1977 (USA)

March 11, 1978 (Japan)

Co-Produced with Murakami Wolf,

Based on the children's book by Russell Hoban

Ringing Bell (チリンの鈴/Chirin no Suzu) March 11, 1978 (Japan)

April 8, 1983 (USA; Direct to Video)

Animated short film;

Based on the children's book by Takashi Yanase

Olly Olly Oxen Free (also released as The Great Balloon Adventure) May 13, 1978 (Japan)

c. August 1978 (USA)

Live-action film
Orpheus of the Stars/Metamorphoses/Winds of Change (星のオルフェウス/Hoshi no Orufeusu) May 26, 1978 (USA; as Metamorphoses)

May 3, 1979 (USA; as Winds of Change)

October 27, 1979 (Japan; as Orpheus of the Stars)

Animated film;

Based on the poem, Metamorphoses, by Ovid Co-produced with Columbia Pictures

The Glacier Fox[28](キタキツネ物語/Kita-kitsune monogatari) July 15, 1978 (Japan)

January 5, 1979 (USA)

Live-action Documentary
Nutcracker Fantasy (くるみ割り人形/Kurumiwari Ningyō) March 3, 1979 (Japan)

July 6, 1979 (USA)

Stop-motion animated film;

Based on The Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Unico: Black Cloud, White Feather (ユニコ 黒い雲と白い羽/Kuroi Kumo Shiroi Hane) April 1979 (Japan)[29] Rejected animated pilot;

Based on the manga by Osamu Tezuka

A Tale of Africa/The Green Horizon (アフリカ物語/Afurika Monogatari) July 19, 1980 (Japan)

c. 1981 (USA; Released as The Green Horizon on television)

Live-action film
The Fantastic Adventures of Unico (ユニコ) March 14, 1981 (Japan)

May 12, 1983 (USA; Released Direct-to-Video)

Animated film;

Co-production with Tezuka Productions & Madhouse; Based on the manga by Osamu Tezuka

The Sea Prince and the Fire Child (シリウスの伝説/The Legend of Sirius) July 18, 1981 (Japan)

September 8, 1982 (USA; Released Direct to Video)

Animated film
The Ideon: A Contact (伝説巨神イデオン 接触篇/Densetsu-kyoshin ideon: Sesshoku-hen) July 10, 1982 (Japan) Animated film (compilation film based on Space Runaway Ideon)

Co-produced with Sunrise/Co-distributed by Shochiku

The Ideon: Be Invoked (伝説巨神イデオン 発動篇/Densetsu kyojin ideon: Hatsudou-hen) July 10, 1982 (Japan) Animated film (Alternate ending of the television series: Space Runaway Ideon)

Co-produced with Sunrise

Don't Cry, It's Only Thunder November 5, 1982 (USA) Live-action film
Unico in the Island of Magic (ユニコ 魔法の島へ) July 16, 1983 (Japan)

November 10, 1983 (USA; Released Direct to Video)

Animated film;

Based on the manga by Osamu Tezuka

Oshin (おしん) March 17, 1984 (Japan) Animated film;

Based on the Japanese television drama of the same name

Fairy Florence/A Journey Through Fairyland (妖精フローレンス/Yosei Florence) October 19, 1985 (Japan)

November 4, 1985 (USA; Released Direct to Video)

Animated film
Mouse Story: George and Gerald's Adventure (ねずみ物語 ジョージとジェラルドの冒険) December 22, 2007 (Japan) Animated film;

Co-produced with Madhouse; Released in a double bill with Cinnamoroll the Movie[30]

Cinnamoroll the Movie (シナモン the Movie) December 22, 2007 (Japan) Animated film;

Co-produced with Madhouse; Released in a double bill with Mouse Story: George and Gerald's Adventure[31]

Jewelpet the Movie: Sweets Dance Princess (映画ジュエルペット スウィーツダンスプリンセス) August 11, 2012 (Japan) Animated film;

Co-produced with Sega Toys & Studio Comet

Onegai My Melody: Yū & Ai (おねがいマイメロディ) August 11, 2012 (Japan) Animated film;

Co-produced with Studio Comet

Gō-chan and his Forest Friends Moko & Marvelous Creatures May 3, 2017 (Japan) Animated film;

Co-produced with TV Asahi & Shin-Ei Animation

Gō-chan ~Moco and the Promise Made on the Ice~ March 18, 2018 (Japan) Animated film;

Co-produced with TV Asahi & Shin-Ei Animation

Jewelepet Attack Travel! May 14, 2022 Animated short film;

Co-produced with Ashi Productions

Untitled Hello Kitty film TBA Animated film;

Co-produced with Warner Bros. Pictures & New Line Cinema

TV animationEdit

Sanrio began its involvement in production of TV animation during the late 1980s and early 1990s, starting with the US-made Hello Kitty's Furry Tale Theater in 1987. The character My Melody got her first starring role in an animated series in the anime television series, Onegai My Melody, which first aired on TV Osaka on April 3, 2005, and was produced by Studio Comet. The Sugarbunnies franchise was later adapted into a 7-minute short series in 2007, and was popular enough to gain two sequels.

Jewelpet was also adapted into an anime metaseries in 2009, which was also produced by Studio Comet, spanning 6 official seasons and one theatrical movie, making it the longest running anime adaptation of a Sanrio franchise in history.

Show by Rock!!, a game by Sanrio and Geechs got an anime adaptation produced by Bones in 2015 - and was licensed in the United States by Funimation. Aggretsuko also get three animated adaptations by Fanworks, one aired on Tokyo Broadcasting System and the later two were released officially on Netflix.

Video gamesEdit

Sanrio Digital produces and publishes digital content based on globally famous Sanrio intellectual property assets like Hello Kitty, My Melody, Badtz Maru and many others. Among the games are: The Adventures of Hello Kitty & Friends, Hello Kitty: Roller Rescue, Hello Kitty: Birthday Adventures and Hello Kitty Seasons.


Sanrio publishes many books featuring its own characters. It also publishes art books (for instance, those by Keibun Ōta). Sanrio publishes books in many languages, including Japanese and English. Sanrio published video games in the early 1990s under the name Character Soft.



  1. ^ ¥250,000 of the capital came from Tsuji's former government colleagues, while the rest came from his government pension and personal savings.[9]


  1. ^ "サンリオ[8136]の株価・株主優待など。". Archived from the original on 2016-12-05.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Summary of Financial Results for the Fiscal Year Ended March 31, 2013 (FY2012)" (PDF). Sanrio Co., Ltd. May 15, 2013. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
  3. ^ "Company Profile | About Sanrio | Sanrio". Sanrio Co., Ltd. Retrieved June 3, 2016.
  4. ^ サンリオ
  5. ^ Ashcroft, Brian (28 August 2014). "Don't Be Silly, Hello Kitty Is a Cat". Retrieved 29 August 2014.
  6. ^ Allen, Sarah (29 August 2014). "Is Hello Kitty A Cat? Sanrio Doesn't Know". Retrieved 29 August 2014.
  7. ^ "Hello Kitty isn't a cat!? We called Sanrio to find out!". 28 August 2014. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
  8. ^ Michael Kanellos, Hello Kitty's guide to business success
  9. ^ Belson & Bremner 2004, p. 38.
  10. ^ a b "The cat who turned kawaii into cash". Asia Times. 2003-12-13. Archived from the original on 2005-02-10. Retrieved 2020-05-27.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  11. ^ Tsuji 2000.
  12. ^ "Sanrio Europe". Archived from the original on October 1, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-14.
  13. ^ Characters Archived 2010-12-23 at the Wayback Machine -
  14. ^ The Medinge Group - Brands with a Conscience Past winners 2004 Archived 2010-12-17 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Hello Kitty and Sanrio Friends Celebrate Sanrio's 50th Anniversary at Build-A-Bear Workshop
  16. ^ a b "Announcement of Provisional Disposition Order Against Sanrio" (PDF) (Press release). Sanrio Company, Ltd. November 4, 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 30, 2011. Retrieved July 25, 2011.
  17. ^ Kollewe, Julia (November 4, 2010). "Miffy biffs Cathy in Kitty copycat case". The Guardian. London. Retrieved May 16, 2011.
  18. ^ Dawson, Chester; Kanna Takeuchi (November 4, 2010). "Miffy, Hello Kitty Take Bunny Beef to Court". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved May 16, 2011.
  19. ^ "Japan's Hello Kitty resolves bunny battle with Miffy". Radio Netherlands Worldwide. Archived from the original on June 23, 2011. Retrieved June 16, 2011.
  20. ^ Mark Sweney (6 December 2011). "Mr Men bought by Hello Kitty owner". The Guardian. UK.
  21. ^ "'I asked my dad what a tickle looked like'". 16 November 2021. Archived from the original on 2021-11-16.
  22. ^ "Company Profile | Sanrio".
  23. ^ Abdul, Geneva (10 July 2019). "Hello Kitty's Parent Company Fined $6.9 Million by E.U." The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2019-07-10.
  24. ^ "Press corner European Commission". Archived from the original on 2020-05-16.
  25. ^ France-Presse, Agence (13 June 2020). "Hello Kitty gets a new boss after 60 years". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 June 2020.
  26. ^ "Attractions".
  27. ^ Harmonyland Archived 2006-12-01 at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ "The Glacier Fox (1978) - IMDb". IMDb.
  29. ^ Ettinger, Benjamin. " | Masami Hata Filmography > 20". Anipages.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  30. ^ "Mouse Story: The Adventures of George & Gerald (2007) - Trivia". IMDb.
  31. ^ "Mouse Story: The Adventures of George and Gerald (2007) - Trivia". IMDb.
  32. ^ "Sanrio's Show by Rock!! Mobile Rhythm Game Gets TV Anime in 2015".


  • Belson, Ken; Bremner, Brian (2004). Hello Kitty: The Remarkable Story of Sanrio and the Billion Dollar Feline Phenomenon.
  • Tsuji, Shintaro (2000). Kore ga Sanrio no Himitsu desu これがサンリオの秘密です [These are Sanrio's Secrets] (in Japanese). Fusosha.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit