Japan has a well deserved reputation as the world capital of cute, but if you hop off a plane at Narita Airport you may find yourself lost, asking yourself, where can I go to get as much Hello Kitty merchandise as I can in the shortest amount of time?
The answer to that question and, really, to most others is this: Kiddyland
Get on the train from Narita to Nippori, then take the Yamanote line from there all the way down to Harajuku. Get off, go out the Omote Sando exit, walk down that big tree-lined street, walk down the right hand side. And you find yourself at Kiddyland, a store devoted entirely to novelties and all things cute. If it's stuffed, emblazoned on a pencil case, or meant for the under 7 crowd but really bought by the over 20 crowd, you can find it here.
Let's take a look at what's on each floor. This changes from time to time and store to store, but here's an idea of you might find in the Harajuku Kiddyland. (It has 7 floors.)
Basement: In my opinion, this floor wins as most interesting. It has cute school supplies, such as pencil cases with little flying strawberries on them. Also, this floor is home to lots of character goods. For example, Nyan Nyan Nyanko, little kitties that are half food, such as a cat peaking out of a stuffed bowl of ice cream. Kogepan, the burned piece of bread who feels lonely and inadequate. Tarepanda, the glassy-eyed panda bear who seems to be often drunk, dazed, or enjoying any number of traditional Japanese pastimes, such as bathing in a hot spring. Cinnamaroll, the dog that uses his ears to fly around and who has a cinnamon roll shaped tail. And there's a new product: Wanroom, a series of stuffed dogs shaped like living room furniture.
Main floor: This floor rotates its merchandise a lot, especially seasonally. You can find anything here, from character goods to umbrellas. This floor seems to be the permanent home of the cellular phone goods, which are in the back and range from cute cell phone straps to jeweled stickers you can decorate your phone with.
Going on up: As you work your way up through the building you will come across one floor devoted entirely to Barbie and other 12 inch dolls, a floor devoted to toys targeted at boys, and also a floor taken up mainly by Hello Kitty merchandise. If you can think of it, and it's Hello Kitty, they have it here. Hello Kitty T-shirts, toasters, air conditioners, and of course stuffed toys of all kinds.
And Kiddyland doesn't just stock a mind boggling array of cute goods. They also host in-store events. You might just be lucky enough to visit on a day when a one hit wonder girl group is signing autographs at a store and have a chance to be far closer then you ever wanted to be to a thirteen year old girl wearing more makeup than you will in your whole life.
So when you're feeling down and need something cute, hop on a plane to Tokyo and stop by Kiddyland. Don't worry if you think you're too old, people of all ages shop that this fantastic store. And even if you think you don't like the cute, spend enough time in here and you will.
If you're interested, here are some links:
The Kiddyland website, http://www.kiddyland.co.jp/
San-x, maker of Nyan Nyan Nyanko, Kogepan, Wanroom, Tarepanda, Nagomimakuri, and Afroken, http://www.san-x.co.jp/
Sanrio, home of Hello Kitty and Cinnamaroll, http://www.sanrio.co.jp/