The multimedia art restaurant “Hello Kitty Smile” stands along the west coast of Awaji Island. The massive, white, 120-meter long Hello Kitty is a striking work of architecture.
Towering 11 meters tall with a 14-meter diameter, the eye-catching friendly feline made of reinforced concrete is the largest of its kind. But the design has sparked questions among the public, like “why is Hello Kitty facing the sea instead of the road?” or “is the entire building cylindrical like a tube?” To discuss these and other pressing issues, we had the pleasure to talk with Mr. Noumi Kono from Kono Designs, the firm that oversaw the project’s design! (Tange Associates made the design, and the Takenaka Corporation handled construction.)
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Interview with Mr. Noumi Kono, design supervisor for Hello Kitty Smile
Q. What is the reasoning behind the building’s cylindrical shape?
There are various factors to consider, but when I first heard that Hello Kitty would be brought to Awaji Island, since the sea is so beautiful there, my first thought was to create a place where everyone could enjoy a view of the sea.
At first the plan was not to make the building in the actual shape of Hello Kitty but rather to resemble a balloon. However, since the building is specially themed around Hello Kitty, it ended up taking its current form, for greater impact. We designed a space where people of all ages could enjoy a full day with Hello Kitty including a gallery, a shop, as well as a cafe and restaurant to have a cup of coffee. Hello Kitty has a cute, round image, so rather than a square form, I wanted to produce a rounded structure, and I heard that it was technically possible as well. Although the many curves make it structurally very difficult, the lack of hard edges makes the building soft and inviting. I was sure to make the windows round as well.
Q. Hello Kitty’s face isn’t visible from the road. Why is she facing the sea?
The design is such that Hello Kitty’s face only becomes visible once you get to the second floor. The reason why the character faces the sea is to give the sense of a shared experience, as if you’re looking over the beautiful ocean and sunset alongside Hello Kitty.
Q. Was a special construction method used to make the curves of Hello Kitty’s face?
Everything was done by hand, without using molds, with each rebar bent millimeter by millimeter before applying the concrete by a special brush. We used the “truss wall construction method”.
Q. Lastly, do you have a few words to people visiting Awaji Island?
The view from the second floor balcony is breathtaking. I hope everyone has a chance to watch the sunset over the magnificent sea with Hello Kitty.
>Mr. Kono, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with us.
The world’s biggest Hello Kitty made with the Truss Wall Construction Method
In general, concrete structures are made by setting reinforcing rebars inside a mold, but it would have taken a lot of time and money to make a molded frame in the shape of a massive Hello Kitty head. So, the “truss wall construction method” was used to create this structure, shortening construction time and lowering costs.
The construction of the face was the trickiest aspect. Although the character’s face and expression is paramount, during construction the entire surface is hidden behind scaffolding – which makes judging the balance of facial features very difficult to do. Of course, measurements were carefully calculated beforehand, but the final details of the face had to be done by eye. To make sure the face was that of the Hello Kitty everyone knows and loves, the details were done in consultation with Sanrio representatives.
Kenchiku Gahou No.383 Giant Hello Kitty made with Truss Wall Construction Method ｜ HELLO KITTY SMILE
The “truss wall construction method” used in this Hello Kitty structure is a new architectural technique developed in recent years. Architecture students flock to the facility just to see how it’s implemented. These finely crafted curves are a must-see for any architecture geeks! (Photos of the truss wall internal structure can be seen in Kenchiku Gahou No. 383.)
Inside the Hello Kitty Building
Hello Kitty’s head houses the PALACE THEATER, home to Hello Kitty’s media art show where Hello Kitty becomes a princess (Otohime). After taking in both the exterior and interior of the building, stop in at one of the restaurants, cafes and shops onsite.
Enjoy a full course of authentic Chinese cuisine at the Garden Terrace (Chinese restaurant) on the first floor of the Main Building. Create your ideal meal by customizing the course to your liking. One very popular choice is the true Dim Sum, made by the chef from wrap to filling. Treat yourself to a lunch that satisfies both body and soul.
On the second floor of the main wing, “Ryugu Restaurant Tamatebako” has healthy single-serving hot pots made entirely from local, Awaji Island ingredients. Within the restaurant, the chandelier adds to an atmosphere of extravagant luxury. Fans love the Hello Kitty images found all around, even on the tableware! With seasonal courses and Otohime Hello Kitty kid’s plates, it’s fun for the whole family.
On the first floor of the annex, the “Party Terrace” restaurant serves Asian seafood dishes to enjoy while gazing at the beautiful evening view, selected as one of Japan’s top 100 sunsets. A la carte seafood dishes and brunch menus are available. At Seafood Marche, choose from various ingredients displayed in the case and have them cooked just how you like it!
In addition, on the second floor of the Annex, the “PARTY BALCONY” is a cafe where adults can enjoy HELLO KITTY SMILE latte art only available here, cake plates decorated with cute Hello Kitty ribbons, and more. Inside the cafe’s refined atmosphere, Hello Kitty fans will be delighted by the character designs, even covering the ceiling. Order the afternoon tea set and enjoy a moment of luxury!
The gift shop offers a variety of character goods, many of which are only available at this location. For details on operating hours and access, please check the following pages.
©2022 SANRIO CO., LTD. APPROVAL NO. L630788
|Location||HELLO KITTY SMILE|
|Address||985-1 Nojimahikinoura, Awaji City, Hyogo Pref. 656-1721|
|Access||10 minutes by car from Awaji IC or Hokudan IC on Awaji-Kobe-Naruto Expressway.|
|Parking||Free parking available|
|Operating Hours||Weekdays 11:00~19:00
Sat., Sun, & Public Holidays 10:00~19:00
Please note that each restaurant/café has different operating hours.