Connect with us


INTERVIEW | President Tsuji's Insider View on Sanrio as a Global Entertainment Company

Sanrio President Tomokuni Tsuji shares exclusive insights into taking the business of kawaii global 50 years after it brought the world Hello Kitty.



Tomokuni Tsuji, President and CEO of Sanrio, during an interview at the Sanrio head office in Osaki, Tokyo. (©JAPAN Forward)

With the energetic Tomokuni Tsuji at its helm, Sanrio Company, Ltd is poised for a bigger role in the entertainment industry. After all, Sanrio is the business behind characters like Hello Kitty, Cinnamoroll, and My Melody.

Showing us the exclusive Hello Kitty-themed room with pink sofas and bow-shaped cushions, Tsuji, who is the president and CEO, sat down with JAPAN Forward to talk about Sanrio's future. 

"Our aim is to create smiles one person at a time, and foster peace in the world," says the smiling 35-year-old CEO.

Aptly, the company's motto is "Everyone Getting Along Together." Since 2021, the company's vision has been "One World, Connecting Smiles." "We want to bring smiles to as many people as possible. With those smiles connecting, we spread the circle of happiness in the world," explains the CEO.  

Various plush toy characters at the Sanrio office in Osaki, Tokyo. (©JAPAN Forward.)

A History of Spreading Happiness

At the heart of spreading the circle of happiness in the world is the vision of Shintaro Tsuji, the current CEO's grandfather, and Sanrio's honorary chairman. He founded the Yamanashi Silk Center Company in 1960. Now it is known as Sanrio.

Under the founder, the company was centered around the gift business. It marketed goods, greeting cards, and communications. "The idea was that even sharing a small gift could bring a smile to everyone in the world," Tsuji elaborates. 

In the 1970s, the company focused on the design, production, and sale of cute goods deeply tied to character design envisioned under the motto of "Everyone Getting Along Together." It has grown since then, and currently, the brand evolves around its over 450 characters.

Shintaro continued as CEO until 2020. Then, at the age of 92, he stepped down and handed the reins of the company to his grandson, Tomokuni.


Today, the youthful leader is bringing his global outlook to the company. After an initial slump in 2020, sales are now picking up and on track to keep growing. 

Characters Bridging Cultures 

Driving Sanrio's global strategy are characters such as Hello Kitty, Cinnamoroll, Pompompurin, Kuromi, and My Melody. Aggretsuko has inspired a popular Netflix series. Gudetama has over one million followers on X (formerly Twitter) and the related Netflix show was nominated for the International Emmy Awards. 

Netflix Series 'Gudetama: An Eggcellent Adventure' (2022). (©Netflix.)

In Sanrio's prolific arsenal of cuteness, Hello Kitty stands out for the universal charisma of her design. The year 2024 marks 50 years since the creation of the ubiquitous character. 

The first coin purse, released in 1975, with the design that the world knows as Hello Kitty. (©Sanrio.) 

"Hello Kitty being loved to such an extent for 50 years is because she resonates with people, and that is remarkable." President Tsuji reflects on how she walks through life with Sanrio customers and grows up together with them, before concluding: "Hello Kitty makes people really happy." 

Tomokuni Tsuji is also joined by Hello Kitty during the interview at the Sanrio office in Osaki, Tokyo. (©Sanrio.)

Coming up: Sanrio fans can look forward to happiness spreading even further with Hello Kitty's Hollywood debut. The company signed a deal with Warner Bros Entertainment Inc in 2019. Tsuji confirms that it will be a hybrid animation and live-action film. Hello Kitty and about 20 other characters are expected to appear. 

"We are very excited about this collaboration, and we are working hard to bring the film to fans as soon as possible," Tsuji enthused. 

Screenshot from the SANRIO Virtual Festival in Sanrio Puroland.

Leaping into the Digital World for Global Reach

Tsuji CEO is also expanding the company into the new digital world.

"I believe the business needs to evolve into more of an entertainment company, and that includes the digital world," he explains. 

In January 2023, the SANRIO Virtual Festival in Sanrio Puroland surpassed 1.2 million people joining online with their smartphones. "Virtual Puroland" is scheduled to open as a limited-time virtual theme park and include first-generation virtual creators. Three virtual VTubers, including Nyantasia! made their debut in December. 

Tsuji is also pursuing the idea of Sanrio becoming a digital platform where the company and its fans can easily communicate. For example, Sanrio is currently involved in the "UGX Support Project." This is a work submission service centered around character content that allows IP holders, creators, and fans to support each other and have fun while interacting.

Finally, dipping into a "fan community project," Sanrio is developing a social media service that utilizes blockchain technology. The company expects that this will be the first Web3 experience for many Sanrio fans and users.

Expanding into 'Edutainment'

Tsuji is also reaching out to people who are still not familiar with Sanrio. 

The company has come up with a new aim, and it calls it "Sanrio Time." It indicates time spent engaged in Sanrio content and character entertainment. The idea is that the more it increases, the more people are likely to smile and be happy. 


The company calculates that as of September 2023, fans have enjoyed approximately 64.8 billion hours of "Sanrio Time." Plus, it's aiming to increase happy users even further. 

Tsuji took over as CEO in July 2020. He has been bringing the entertainment and education sectors into the brand's focus, or as Sanrio puts it, "edutainment," since May 2021.

In the educational field, Sanrio is experimenting with English language learning. Centering around creativity, and developing the kawaii intellectual property, Sanrio started selling "Sanrio English Master," a set of all-English learning materials. 

On October 2, 2023, Sanrio's theme park Puroland also opened the attraction BUDDYEDDY WONDERFUL CLUB. Visitors can practice their English pronunciation while playing a cake-building game that features voice recognition as items appear on the screen. It becomes a venue for all the family to enjoy. 

Skateboarders Momiji Nishiya and Yumeka Oda are sponsored by Sanrio, and they participated in a BUDDYEDDY WONDERFUL CLUB event where they tried out the English attraction. 

Skateboarding athletes Momiji Nishiya and Yumeka Oda at the Sanrio Puroland attraction BUDDYEDDY WONDERFUL CLUB on October 26, 2023. (©JAPAN Forward.)

The Power of Sports and Brands

Sports, says the president and CEO, aligns with many of the company's values. For example, there is an educational aspect for young people. 

By collaborating with world-famous brands and sports, Sanrio is spreading happiness with the world, and bringing smiles to people's faces. 

The company's second president is using the power of entertainment first born with Tsuji's grandfather to forward the vision of "Everyone Getting Along Together." 

"There are many exciting things ahead. And we hope to deliver surprises to you all in the future." He also hopes that Sanrio can become a way to support fans, through its many modes of communication. 


"As the company continues to develop, we'd love it if all our fans around the world would keep supporting us. I think there is a lot to look forward to, so keep following us," concludes Tsuji.

Sanrio's next chapter is just at the beginning. 


This article is published in cooperation with Sanrio Company Ltd.

Author: Arielle Busetto

Our Partners