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Hello Kitty to represent Japan in China
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Japan's tourism ministry on Monday named global marketing phenom Hello Kitty as its choice to represent the country in Chinese mainland and Hong Kong where she is extremely popular among children and young women.

A performer dressed as a Hello Kitty masot wearing a kimono performs a classical Japanese dance at a event named "Let's learn Japanese culture with Hello Kitty" at Tamagawa Takashimaya shopping center in Tokyo September 2, 2007.(Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

Officials hope attracting that fan base will lead to a bigger flow of tourists into Japan, and closer to their goal of attracting 10 million overseas visitors every year under the "Visit Japan" campaign.

Last year the number of foreign tourists traveling to Japan hit a record high of 8.35 million, up 60 percent since the government began the marketing effort in 2003.

Arrivals from Chinese mainland and Hong Kong, who accounted for 16.5 percent of visitors to Japan last year, are poised this year to become the second-largest group of tourists after South Koreans.

At a press conference, Sanrio Co. President Shintaro Tsuji called Hello Kitty's new appointment "an honor" and pledged to "work hard to attract many visitors."

Designed in 1974 by Sanrio, Hello Kitty first appeared on a plastic coin purse. Her image today has become one of the most powerful brands in the world, adorning some 50,000 products in 60 countries.

In China, Kitty-fever has already broken out.

A multi-million-dollar musical featuring Hello Kitty opened earlier this year in Beijing and is in the midst of a national tour. "Hello Kitty's Dream Light Fantasy" is then scheduled to travel to Malaysia, Singapore and the U.S. over its three-year run.

(Xinhua News Agency via agencies May 22, 2008)

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