Thursday, March 21, 2013

Around The World In 80 Cats #27: Japan

Me and Hello Kitty, Sanrio Puroland, Tokyo, Japan , 2010

"Stephanie Harwin, who writes the cat-obsessed blog Catsparella, will go to great lengths to get her feline fix. On her quest to fulfill a lifelong dream—visiting Japan’s Hello Kitty theme park—Harwin endured a bout of severe food poisoning, a language barrier, and a long journey to reach her happy place." - Emma Sloley, Travel + Leisure

Hello Kitty Bus 

I was recently interviewed by Emma Sloley for a Travel + Leisure article about the "Craziest places for cat lovers." Our contact came about through  "Around the World in 80 Cats," my column dedicated to compiling all of the coolest cat-themed travel destinations in the world. 

The column started as a way for me to research places I was interested in traveling to, 
although I've put off writing about the one cat-related destination I've actually visited, because of the overwhelming amount of kitty culture the country has to offer. 

Sanrio Puroland

I've been thinking a lot lately about that aforementioned trip to Japan (March 15 - 31, 2010), and the enormous impact it had on my life. In the early days of Catsparella I wrote about my experience going to the Hello Kitty theme park, Sanrio Puroland, but conveniently left out the trip to the emergency room that preceded it.

Read More: Sanrio Puroland: Mecca For Hello Kitty Lovers

Street sign outside Puroland

Within hours of arriving after arriving in Tokyo, I came down with a case of food poisoning so bad, that I had to go to the hospital for treatment. To make matters worse, I was jet-lagged and all alone in an unfamiliar country, debilitated by a constant stream of vomit, dizziness, and unrelenting nausea.

Sanrio Character Boatride

I was in Japan on vacation as part of a group tour, but had arrived a few days ahead of everyone else so I could spend extra time exploring my own interests, which included a trip to the Hello Kitty theme park. Unfortunately, two of those "free" days were spent stuck, sick in my hotel room, leaving only one day, and a final opportunity to travel to the park that I had already come so far to experience.

Inside the Sanrio Character Ride at Puroland

Although I had barely eaten for days and was still extremely weak, I dragged myself out of bed to go. My amazing tour guide, Mya, gave me a map with directions to the park, which was well over an hour away, and involved taking a bus and two trains to get to. 

"Believe" Parade at Puroland

Once I finally (and miraculously) arrived, I stuck out among the crowd which was comprised mostly of young, Japanese families. Still, someone was always nice enough to offer to snap a photo of me, and as soon as I had my picture taken with Hello Kitty, I knew that everything was going to be OK. 

Maneki Neko Stand, Nakamise-dori, Tokyo

Hello Kitty with lucky black egg at Owakudani Natural Hot Springs, Hakone

I started Catsparella in earnest four months after returning from my trip, and haven't looked back since. What I like to describe as my "Lost in Translation" moment, opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities outside of a cubicle, and inspired me to live a more passion driven life.

Maneki Neko sign, Takeshita-Dori, Harajuku District, Tokyo

Philosopher's Path, Kyoto

While traveling across the country, I experienced the wonders of Mt. Fuji, cherry blossoms in bloom in Kyoto, and walked the streets of Harajuku's famous fashion district. I went to Nara park where you can feed the roaming deer, visited the world's largest bronze Buddha statue in Tōdai-ji
, and can tell you firsthand that there's nothing more liberating in the world than getting buck-naked in an onsen (hot springs), thousands of miles away from home, with a bunch of people you've just met. 

Store sign on Philosopher's Path, Kyoto

Cats in Kyoto

If I ever get the opportunity to return to Japan (and hope I do), my updated itinerary would include more Hello Kitty attractions, cat cafés, and a visit to Stationmaster Tama at Kishigawa Line in Wakayama. I also hope to someday make a pilgrimage to the famous Tashirojima (Cat Island), where the feline population outnumbers the human one.

Know of any cat-themed travel destinations, or have any cool kitty vacation pics to share? Drop me a line at!



Brian's Home Blog said...

WOW! You suremget around! That was amazing!

Georgia said...

Thanks for sharing your adventure with us. I love your photo with Hello Kitty. I would love to visit Cat Island also.

Unknown said...

What a *great* story. I'm so glad that you recovered (enough) to be able to go to the Hello Kitty theme park (which I didn't even know existed). Andy has been to Japan and concurs that it's very disorienting.

Unknown said...

What a *great* story. I'm so glad that you recovered (enough) to be able to go to the Hello Kitty theme park (which I didn't even know existed). Andy has been to Japan and concurs that it's very disorienting.

Sparkle said...

Wow! What an amazing trip! My human is totally envious. She went to Tokyo once as part of press junket. She was only there for a couple of days and just barely stole enough time to hunt down a Maneki Neko!

Katie Isabella said...

I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this. I am so so sorry you were so sick but thank heaven you got better. Xo

Catsparella said...

Brian, Georgia, Janna, Sparke, Katie Isabella - Thank you so much for your sweet comments!

Jeremy Norton said...

These are amazing photos. One of my life long dream also is to visit Hello Kitty theme park. She is just so cute I can't get enough of her.

meowmeowmans said...

I love Japan, and the obvious affection the country as a whole has for cats. I SO want to see Stationmaster Tama the next time I go. :)

MaeveBe said...

thank you for the amazing post!

Anonymous said...

Namja town in Tokyo also has a bunch of cat stuff! Super cute.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for visiting Japan. Next time, you should visit cat cafes where you can see and pet many cats while having coffee.

Anonymous said...

neko caffe

Anonymous said...

Next time you should visit Yanaka the most cat friendly area in Tokyo. You can meet many many cats.

Sango said...

Hi, I am Japanese your blog was introduced in. I am glad you enjoyed Japan travel, I also enjoyed your blog (introduced in Japanese..), too. I also love cats. Please try `Cat Cafe` next time. (Pls forgive my poor English).

【統一協会と安倍晋三】2020年現在、7000人超の日本人慰安婦が韓国に誘拐され強制出産 said...

Let's dance together!

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