If you are allergic to the ubiquitous mouthless cat, this post is probably not the best read for you, but still, I assure you that you are still able to pick up something useful, if Japan in general is a topic on your list of interest.
For people who have followed me long enough, you probably know that I have an insane collection of Gotochi Kitty. For people who don’t, here’s what Gotochi Kitty is:
(photo taken by Junya)
Gotochi in Japanese is 御当地, meaning “local” (in a very polite, probably respectful way) in English. Kitty is of course, short for the most famous feline character that has turned into a multi-million business by Sanrio – Hello Kitty.
So basically Gotochi Kitty is a line of Hello Kitty merchandise in collaboration with local authorities of different prefectures all over Japan, and it comes in a plethora of assorted goods including plushies, stationery, accessories, etc, typically sold in souvenir shops of various tourist destinations in Japan.
In the beginning, I did not actually consciously make Gotochi Kitty a massive collection of mine. In fact I don’t even remember clearly what was the first Gotochi Kitty I bought. I probably did during one of my early trips since 2008 and misplaced it. I only started to actively amass a big collection in recent years – when I was set to complete my #47PrefectureMission – as it serves as an adorable evidence of me setting foot on a new prefecture. And soon it became an obsession and a compulsory hunt in my venturing into every new city of Japan.
Honestly while I think Hello Kitty could be very cute (though sometimes disfigured taobao version really spoils the mood completely), I’m actually not so much a crazy fan of her. But among all other characters that have regional gotochi versions including other Sanrio pals, Sumikkogurashi and the latest trending plushie thingie with long hands and legs (what are they even called?!), I find HK’s collection the most extensive and suits a collector’s interest best.
Here’s my very own rules of Gotochi Kitty purchase:
1. I buy only the Netsuke (根付け) version. There are actually different kinds of Gotochi Kitty, including decorative pen and pendant versions. To standardize my collection, I found the braided kumihimo straps the most likely to be found at major souvenir shops.
2.I buy only locally. I don’t buy the ones I missed online. That’s a bit like cheating to me.
3.I try to buy only versions which places I have been, unless the new prefecture I visit has no other options. (For example, if I have not been to Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, I would buy a general version that says Kyoto instead of the place I did not visit, unless that’s the only version available.)
4. I don’t buy Gotochi Kitty of prefectures I have not been, unless it is gifted to me, but now this won’t be a concern anymore.
5. I do have Gotochi Kitty of places I have not been before, and the places are all on my lists now.
6. Okay I guess I can make the exception that I am allowed purchase rare, discontinued version if I come across any online…
6. You know what these rules don’t even matter and it’s up to me to change them whenever it fits my convenience HAHAHAH.
Many people have asked me what’s the best place to spot these kawaii straps, and I’d say your best bet is in souvenir shops at
1.Expressway service area (SA)
4.Tourist shopping streets
Sometimes you can even spot it in convenient stores (but pretty rare).
Also, Gotochi Kitty strap is actually not cheap: it typically cost JPY540 (before tax) for one tiny little plastic figure with strap, and depending on the version and places selling it, some could fetch over JPY700 before tax.
I currently have 108 Gotochi Kitty in my collection (actually rather small amount in my opinion, considering there are over 3000 versions to date T____T). It would sound nice if there’s a Gotochi specialty store where you can just go berserk bulk-purchasing every single kitty in sight, but that would defeat the whole point – traveling to places and earn a collection as a reward – and Sanrio’s original idea was exactly that – to boost tourism and revitalize each town of a prefecture – and in that it is so much more joyful when you finally discover your desired version of Gotochi Kitty in a small local village, the exhilaration – a feeling I can vow for as I have personally experienced it, well, about 108 times.
So, imagine my utter disappointment and shock when I came across a colorful corner of a souvenir shop in Tokyo Tower, selling a massive collection of Gotochi Kitty from Hokkaido to Okinawa. I felt so betrayed I was almost in rage because it was like my entire collection was a lie T__T. I walked away and did not purchase anything there (but later secretly returned and bought the Tokyo Tower version HAHHAHAHAH).
But I’m glad that the shop was since closed and I have not encounter another shop that sells that many foreign Gotochi Kitty of different region. Outrageous! (If you ever come across one, don’t tell me.)
Anyway, to me, Gotochi Kitty is more than just a uber cute plastic collection of travel memories to remember by. It actually helps me understand a lot about a region’s tradition, specialty, culture and events, which many I did not know before. It is a great, great way for one to start getting know more about the place they visit. I think Gotochi Kitty, successfully marketed, is one of the cleverest regional promotions to shoutout a local’s appeal to visitors I’ve yet seen.
So yes, let’s support tourism by joining the Gotochi Kitty cult!
Wow I cannot believe that was a 1000 words of an intro to this article. I originally planned to just slam all the photos here for those who are curious. Guess I old habits never die lol.
Ok here goes. I am categorizing my Gotochi Kitty according to regions for easy reference, and they are further split into each prefecture.
Hokkaido is my largest collection of one single prefecture (9!!), but it’s also the most vague. For example most prefectures have very location-specific or attraction-specific kitty, but Hokkaido’s Gotochi Kitty are usually just very generally labelled “Hokkaido limited”.
Here I have lavender, winter (a kitty sleeping in a snow-covered log?!), Hokkaido Shinkansen, snow crab, sea urchin, and the only location-specific version is Hakodate’s Hoshi ika (squid). There’s a kitty that doesn’t even has any explanation on it but I grouped it under Hokkaido because I bought it in Hokkaido and it’s just damn bloody cute – a snowman kitty with a snowy pompom attached.
Oma Maguro version. Aomori is famous for its pole-and-line fishing style for Oma tuna. Although I have not actually tasted it.
Wanko soba and Morioka Reimen (cold noodle) version. We need a Jajamen version to complete the 3 Big Noodle of Iwate.
Yamagata & Miyagi
The reason I group Yamagata and Miyagi prefectures together is that some versions are kind of overlapped. For example the Zao-limited Kitty. Mt Zao sits on the boarder of Yamagata and Miyagi.
Dadacha-Mame version for Yamagata and Zunda-mochi version for Miyagi. Both look so similar as they are both green soy bean! In Tsuruoka of Yamagata, dadacha-mame is a famous brand of green soy bean (like edamame!), while as you probably have known already, Sendai is very famous for zunda – crushed edamame paste. And note that the Sendai kitty is dressed as Date Masamune, who really loved zunda-mochi and some said that it was his favorite treat before going to a battle.
Miyagi is also famous for Kokeshi doll so this is the kitty kokeshi version.
Fukushima’s Akabeko, a traditional wooden toy inspired from the legendary Akabeko cow in the Aizu region, as well as Peach Fairy version, as Fukushima is also most well-known for its quality peach production.
I actually kept this kitty aside as I had no idea where it is from. After some reading up I found out that it is an Iwate Gotochi Kitty.
Hiraizumi is known to be the “Kyoto of the North” in Iwate prefecture and I am assuming that this kitty represents the World Heritage Sites of Hiraizumi with tribute to warrior Minamoto no Yoshitsune, although I have no idea why he is dressed in a purple dress and veil.
This is Sanriku Tetsudo, a railway in Iwate Prefecture that suffered huge damage in the 2011 earthquake. This special edition is to support the revitalizing of Sanriku railway, so I’m assuming by buying this I’m contributing a little to the project ^^
Team Kanto (except Tokyo. You already know that I’m unapologetically partial to the megapolis.)
I bought these during my first visit to Gunma – to see for myself Kusatsu Onsen which inspired the great Ghibli anime. I also bought an Ikaho Onsen version and Takasaki Daruma version out of greed that time. But guess what? I visited both Takasaki and Ikaho a couple of months back. All works out perfectly.
From left: Nikko Toshogu Sleeping Cat version, Utsunomiya Gyoza version, and Nasu Alpaca version (there’s an alpaca farm in Nasu!)
I’m a little disappointed with the varieties I found in Chiba because I have been to Chiba countless of times! Most of the time you just find Tokyo versions lol #identitycrisis
But look! that’s Chibakun version and Boso peanut version.
I’m also disappointed at my own collection of Kanagawa. I mean, I have been all over Kanagawa – Hakone, Kamakura, Miura, Kawasaki, Yokosuka… etc. But I only have two from Yokohama China town (golden pig and xiao long bao version), Yokohama Marine Tower and Enoshima kitty (which glows in the dark, apparently!)
What’s more disappointing, I just realized I don’t even have collections from Ibaraki and Saitama, as if out of sarcasm as these two prefectures always rank the lowest of all prefectures in terms of tourism appeal.
For Tokyo, there’s of course the Tokyo Tower (normal version), Tokyo Tower in blue, Asakusa and Akihabara Maid Cafe version.
Chubu (Central Japan) is a large region that consists of 9 prefectures so I’m breaking them down.
Shizuoka (perhaps Yamanashi too?)
I surprisingly have a large collection of Shizuoka (or Yamanashi?) Kitty, mainly because most of the Kitty I collected from Hakone only says “Mt Fuji”. While the 3 prefectures (Kanagawa, Yamanashi & Shizuoka) can continue to friendly-battle over their claim to the mountain, seeing how the Gotochi Kitty wikipedia site has most Mt Fuji versions listed under Yamanashi, I’m grouping them under Yamanashi for now.
We have the very greedy “Green Tea, Japan No.1 and Mt Fuji Shizuoka-limited” version (claim as much as you can lol), Shizuoka Mikan version, Kakegawa Green Tea version, Izu Kapibara version (from Izu Shaboten Zoo), and two ambiguous Mt Fuji version.
Another two which I am unsure where to group under. Techically I bought them in Ebina service area of Kanagawa prefecture on the way to Shizuoka.
On the left is a Mt Fuji Melon Pan version and the right is a standard Melon Pan version (although in the illustration it insists that it is a “premium melon pan”. Melon pan is a famous treat in Ebina SA!
Next up we are coming to Nagano! I also just realized I made a mistake which is too late to fix – the kitty on the leftmost is a Le Lectier Pear (pronounced “Lu Rekku-che” in Japanese), which belongs to Niigata. Just do me a favor by mentally dragging it below to Niigata in your mind lol.
The other two are from Nagano: Shinshu canned apricot. This was also my first “cheating” Gotochi Kitty. If you look at the sticker on the label, I actually bought it in Kusatsu of Gunma prefecture back in 2013. It was too cute to pass. So…
And also Matsumoto Castle version.
(Please visualize Le Lectier Gotochi Kitty in this photo).
There’s Yuzawa Onsen version, Sasadango version and Kakinotane version (yes it’s Niigata-made!).
Since I have been to Sado twice, here are my Sado kitties, both featuring Toki – Japanese crested ibis. You can read my Sado blog post for more stories.
My Gifu kitties are Gero Onsen version (been twice) Hidaji version, and Shirakawago version (I have actually not been to Shirakawago yet, only its twin – Gokayama).
Aichi is probably one of my least explored prefectures. Haven’t been anywhere other than Nagoya. Also I have no idea why but the Nagoya kitties are larger than most other Gotochi Kitty!
Here’s Tenmusubi version and Ogura Toast (with butter and azuki beans).
I’m grouping the 3 prefectures of Hokuriku Sanken – Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui.
Here’s a Hokuriku-limited – Kani Tsukushi version – “tsukushi” means “give it all”, or like “all kinds of”, or “full of”. In this context, I guess “Eat allllll the crab” will translate well.
From left: Himi Buri version (Himi is a city of Toyama famous for seafood and Buri is yellow tail), Konbumaki Kamaboko version, a specialty of Toyama, and Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route version.
From left: Kenrokuen Garden version, Noto Peninsula Wajima Morning Market (read my blog post on Wajima here), and Kanazawa Kitty.
This is a special gold-leaf edition with real gold leaf in it. I think it also cost slightly more.
Sauce Katsudon served by Kitty in a dino costume. The only Gotochi Kitty I have of Fukui. And I didn’t even buy it from Fukui lol.
Left: Iseshima Ama diver version – the amachan is holding a lobster in her tub! Read my blog post about amachan in Mie.
Right: Ise Jingu Shrine version. This is one of my fav GK. It’s also slightly different from the rest as it doesn’t come with a fancy paper label. That’s what I love about Ise Jingu, super minimalist everything. Their Goshuin stamp is also the simplest I ever had in my collection, and even the name of the shrine is sometimes just referred to as “jingu” – even though there are many other jingu (the highest ranked of shrine) in Japan such as Meiji jingu. But it is widely understood that “jingu” automatically refers to the only one jingu in Ise.
Left: Otsue Fuji Musume – a traditional folk art/performance? in Shiga
Right: Michigan Cruise of Shiga prefecture. (Trivia: Shiga Prefecture and Michigan of USA are sister states.)
How much takoyaki is too much takoyaki???
This basically sums up Osaka lol.
From left: Kinkakuji version, Hanami dango version (one of my favorite of all!!!) and Fushimi Inari version.
Rickshaw version. Kitty dressed as a deer.
Wakayama mikan version and panda+sour plum version.
Kobe Venus Bridge version and Himeji Castle version.
Love all my Ehime kitties!
From left: Uwajima Pearl version (read my blog post on Uwajima), Pon-Juice version, Dogo Onsen version and Hakata Salt version (this is also one of my favorite!!!). Hakata salt is probably the most ubiquitous table salt in Japan. Not to be confused with Hakata of Fukuoka, different kanji, same prononciation.
Kochi was my last prefecture conquered so imagine my excitement when I spotted these kitties.
From left: Yosakoi dance version, Tosa (old name of Kochi) version and Sakamoto Ryoma version.
Awa Odori dance version.
Sanuki Udon version. Read my blog posts on Kagawa here.
Team Chugoku region!
Hiroshima’s kitties are so autumn!
From left: Paper crane Kitty (representing the Peace Memorial Park I assume), two of Itsukushima Shrine’s floating torii version, and Momiji Manju version.
When it comes to Okayama, peach.
I got this at Izumo Taisha of Shimane, a shrine that’s famous for romance, hence the rare cameo of Dear Daniel.
From left: Yamaguchi Fugu (puffer fish) version and a citrus version, which I’m not sure exactly what it is. Lime? Yuzu? Mikan?
This is one of my earliest collection (back in 2011), and I think this was probably the catalyst of my GK obsession because WOULD YOU LOOK AT HOW KAWAII THE FAT MANTAIKO SACS ARE?! SLEEPING IN A BOX?!
From left: Beppu Onsen version, Yufuin version and Kabosu – Oita’s famed citrus. Each prefecture has their own special citrus fruit and I only know because, well, it says Kabosu, right there.
Oh man I struggled with this one. I had been to Saga for only a short day trip and GK was nowhere to be found. I even called several souvenir shops. T_T
In the end I found this at the expressway service area on the way from Saga to Nagasaki and technically we were already in Nagasaki.
Saga holds an annual hot air balloon festival which is super duper instagenic. Do check it out!
I have been to Nagasaki for probably over 10 times now but here are the only versions I could fine: Nagasaki stained glass (Nagasaki has the most Catholic churches in the whole of Japan), Tulip Version (for Huis Ten Bosch), Bidoro (taken from the word Vidro in Spanish, which means “glass”) version, and Nagasaki Castella Cake version.
Shiro Kuma shaved ice version!
The one in the middle and on the right was GK I bought back in 2012, the first time I visited Okinawa.
I recently visited Okinawa again (read my blog post here), and I searched high and low for new versions, unfortunately the vendors all told me that they have less and less versions these days. I only managed to find one – the one on the left. The rest are discontinued. 🙁
From left: Kokusaidori Hanakasa version, Chinsuko biscuit version (I looooooove this.), and bitter gourd version.
Outside of Japan
Did you know that there are also Gotochi Kitty outside of Japan?
Yeap! Especially for countries that are popular tourist destinations to the Japanese such as USA, Taiwan, Korea, etc, it seems like there are non-Japan version of GK too!
So far I have only spotted foreign GK in Hawaii before during my trip to Honolulu in 2015 and here they are:
Pineapple version, Hula dance version and turtle version.
The last one is a spam musubi version, also one of my favorite ^^.
That’s all for today about my Gotochi Kitty collection!
Right now I’m actually still missing 6 prefecture’s Kitty – Akita, Ibaraki, Saitama, Yamanashi (yet to collect one that actually says “Yamanashi”), Tottori, and Miyazaki.
Hopefully I will have them in my collection soon enough!
Here’s the official Gotochi Kitty website if you are interested: