Recently, thanks to pair of free tickets, I found myself heading to an amusement park named “Sanrio Puroland”, with expectations of thrilling roller-coasters and ferris wheels. Upon arrival, I was disappointed to discover that there were no such exciting attractions, and the whole place was a small, indoor fun-park aimed squarely at three-year-olds. Everything inside was painted bright pink, irritating jingles were blasting out of loudspeakers, and impish toddlers were scurrying around everywhere. It was like Dante’s “Inferno” as envisaged by an infant on hallucinogens. To make matters worse, I spent the day being stalked by a costumed character which looked like a gingerbread man, who mimicked my every action, like a mime.
Sanrio is a popular Japanese company which created a host of popular kids’ characters, including Kerropi the frog and, most famously, Hello Kitty. In Puroland, Kitty is inescapable. The walls are plastered with images of the anthropomorphic cat, there are musical dance numbers by kitty-costumed performers, and you can get your photograph taken with a person dressed as a cat for one thousand yen.
The whole place is a vast shrine to Hello Kitty. In fact, there actually is a shrine, where you can bow down before the cute white one, and write your prayers on pieces of wood which you tie to a plastic tree. This was a little tasteless (even for me!)
I’ve heard of “worshipping false idols”, but this was ridiculous! I’m sure John Waters would approve. The Kitty shrine is pictured below:
There is a certain amount of fun to be had in Sanrio Puroland. There’s a rather trippy boat ride, featuring robotic characters singing and dancing, and you can pose for fantastical pictures, wearing surreal animal costumes.
The highlight of Sanrio Puroland, for me, was the toilets. This is where the psychedelic tastelessness of the place reached its peak. Toilets and urinals are surrounded by leering toads, gargoyles and trees with eyes. I opened the door to a cubicle, and there was an animatronic grizzly bear sitting on the toilet, taking a dump, and it roared at me for intruding.
Sanrio Puroland is, of course, a fine place to take young kids, and is also fun for adults with a taste for the surreal and absurd. After about an hour, however, the overwhelming visual stimuli, repetitive songs, and artificial lights, start to make you feel like you’re descending into madness, like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.”
Here is the Sanrio Puroland Website in English.