TOKYO — Japan will on Monday appoint the mouthless feline cartoon character Hello Kitty as a goodwill tourism ambassador in China and Hong Kong, with the aim of promoting visits here, Kyodo News has reported.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism will announce the appointment on Monday, Kyodo said at the weekend, quoting ministry officials.
It will mark the first time a cartoon character has become a goodwill ambassador for Japan under the government’s campaign launched in 2003 to promote visits to the country, it said.
Under its “Visit Japan Campaign” to attract foreigners, the government hopes to attract 10 million overseas tourists annually by 2010, up from 8.35 million last year.
The ministry, which has so far appointed 11 people as goodwill tourism ambassadors, said the global icon was “qualified” for the job due to its popularity among Chinese people, it said.
A Hello Kitty blog will start around late June on the Chinese language page of the campaign website to introduce tourist attractions in Japan, including historic and popular sites, Kyodo said.
Hello Kitty, which started in 1974 in Japan as a moon-faced cartoon cat on a coin purse, has developed into a global phenomenon, with more than 50,000 different products on sale in 60 nations.
In March, the foreign ministry appointed the nation’s beloved cartoon robo-cat Doraemon as a charm ambassador in a bid to promote the nation’s culture and win the hearts of future world leaders.