Why are Hello Kitty fans in Taiwan happy? Because rail operators have launched a new train featuring the cute cartoon cat. Why does Hello Kitty look happy? According to a fan, it's because she has no mouth.
Fans gathered in Taiwan as the Taroko Express made its maiden journey from Shulin to Taitung, travelling along the most scenic vacation spots on the country's eastern coast.
Taiwanese officials thought the cat could be a good way of attracting tourists and restoring the idea of rail travel as a luxurious mode of transportation, Reuters news agency reported.
"From today on, taking a train is no longer just taking a train, but we will let this kind of new train fleet in Taiwan be seen within all of railway tourism and travel. We welcome everyone to come to Taiwan to have fun especially Taiwan's railway tourism is worth trusting and [can make travelers feel] at ease. We hope that we can bring joy to everyone," Joe Y. Chou, director of Taiwan Railway Administration, told reporters.
Hello Kitty fan skips work
The flagging off at Shulin station attracted many fans, including Wendy Chang, who thought a Hello Kitty train was a good excuse to skip work.
"I probably count as an experienced fan, because from childhood on, my mom would always give me Hello Kitty things, so I grew up with Hello Kitty. But I am younger than her. She is 40 years old. I have a lot of Hello Kitty things and I really love visiting Japan. So each time I go to Japan I buy a lot of their things. At home a lot of my appliances, my rice cooker and music player, are all from Hello Kitty. I am very happy that I see her each day," Wendy said, unable to stay away from mentioning the cat's name in almost every sentence she spoke.
Wendy and her friend were planning to get off at Hualien and vacation in the popular Taiwanese east coast resort before heading back home.
No mouth makes Hello Kitty happy
For another fan of the Japanese cult cat, Wa Ya-Hui, the "mouth-less" character was the closest she could get to spiritual bliss. "I really like Hello Kitty. Because she doesn't have a mouth, she looks happy every day. Ever since they released Hello Kitty "Nurse," I liked her very much, because I work as a nurse. I hope that I can pass one my happiness and cheerfulness to all the people around me."
Meanwhile, Taiwanese officials are busy introducing Hello Kitty lunchboxes for hungry fans, in the hope that more of them will take days off work to be on the train.