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The various Disney-operated theme parks scattered throughout the world have brought joy to children (and grown-ups!) for decades. Disney’s major character contribution is none other than Mickey Mouse, who has grown to become one of the most recognizable cultural icons on the world scene. But how about a famous cultural export from Japan? Why, that would be Hello Kitty, of course!

Sanrio’s darling may be celebrating her 40th birthday this month, but she’s showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, her birthday celebration comes along with a recent announcement that a new “Hello Kitty Park” will open in China early next year! Along with plans for the upcoming Shanghai Disneyland, China sure seems to be on a roll these days making children’s dreams come true. More details about the park after the jump.

A Chinese Hello Kitty theme park was first rumored to be in the works back in 2009, but after a series of misreported information, many crestfallen people put the park out of their minds completely. However, a recent press release stated that Sanrio was actually able to seal the deal with China in 2011, meaning that those rumors are no longer mere speculation. It’s not just a hoax this time around, people–China’s “Hello Kitty Park” really is supposed to open for business on January 1, 2015!

When the park opens its doors on New Year’s Day, it will become the largest Hello Kitty Park in all of Asia, trumping even Japan’s own Sanrio Puroland. Just check out some of the awesome conceptual designs:

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▼This promotional video gives the park’s opening as July 2014, but those plans have obviously changed.

http://player.lstat.youku.com/go.gif?t=3&a=5&emb=MTM0LjE0MC44OC4xODACMTU1NzQzMDg1AndwY29td2lkZ2V0cy5jb20CLw==&url=http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XNjIyOTcyMzQw.html

Hopefully, there won’t be any more embarrassing mix-ups rendering Hello Kitty’s name in English from Chinese characters.

According to the park’s official website, the grounds will be divided into six different zones, which boast over 10 types of attractions and other forms of entertainment for visitors to enjoy. Each of the six zones will feature a famous Sanrio character “host,” including Hello Kitty (Hello Kitty’s Home/凯蒂猫小院), My Melody (Melody Village/音之村), Keroppi (Happy Harbor/欢乐港湾), Badtz-Maru (Steam Kingdom/蒸汽王国), and Monkichi (Spirit Forest/精灵森林). The sixth zone will be a comprehensive Friendship Plaza (友谊广场) where, presumably, several of the characters mingle together. You can get a sneak peak at each of the areas here.

▼Artwork for the layout of Melody Village, hosted by My Melody

3Things just keep getting better and better, because the park isn’t the only highlight to look forward to–the official hotel on the premises seems to be just as, if not more, exciting! Featuring a variety of character-themed rooms, hallways, and other common areas packed with Sanrio goods, the hotel promises to immerse you even further into the world of Hello Kitty.

▼The hotel of dreams for diehard Hello Kitty fans. That’s a whole lotta pink…

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Perhaps the only drawback of the park is its relatively off-the-beaten path location in Anji County of Huzhou City, Zhejiang Province. While the area is well-known for its scenic beauty and for being home to over 40 species of bamboo, it takes approximately three hours by car from Shanghai Pudong International Airport to get to the park.

Visitors using public transportation are possibly in for an even more arduous trek. The official site says that a shuttle bus will run from the Anji County Bus Terminal to the park, but even getting to the bus terminal is problematic in itself. To get there, you must first take a bus for an hour or so from Huzhou Station, the closest high-speed railway stop, or from a station in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province. In other words, those travelers who are flying in from other parts of Asia are probably looking at a minimum two-night stay in China due to logistics alone.

▼Anji County’s relative location within China

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Ticket prices on the website are listed as follows: adult weekday tickets are 260 yuan (US$42.35) and adult holiday tickets are 320 yuan ($52.13). Children’s tickets are 200 yuan ($32.58) and 260 yuan ($42.35) on weekdays and holidays respectively.

It will be interesting to see if the Hello Kitty Park will become rivals in business with Shanghai’s Disneyland. While the Hello Kitty Park has the advantage of opening its doors earlier, Shanghai Disneyland will be much easier to get to, located only 30 minutes by car from the Shanghai Pudong International Airport.

On a final note, even if you can’t read Chinese be sure to check out the links below, which are loaded with additional gorgeous conceptual art. Happy browsing!

Original article by Meg Sawai
Sources/Images: Hello Kitty Park Official Site (Chinese), Wzppt.gx (Chinese), Sanrio Press Release (Japanese) 
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