YUANLIN, Taiwan – Japan's iconic Hello Kitty has been recruited to help calm anxious mothers at a maternity hospital in Taiwan where the cartoon image adorns everything from walls to newborns' blankets.
Hau Sheng Hospital, located 95 miles south of Taipei, is the latest destination for the cute cat with a penchant for pink.
A giant Hello Kitty figure dressed in a pink doctor uniform greets visitors in the lobby, while colorful murals of the feline are found in recovery rooms, the nursery and on elevator doors.
Owner Tsai Tsung-ji approached Sanrio Co., the maker of Hello Kitty, about decorating his hospital with a Hello Kitty theme at the suggestion of his mother, wife and daughter — all of whom are huge fans.
"When new moms feel anxious and lost about how to deal with their new babies, Hello Kitty can make them more relaxed and reduce their sense of discomfort while giving birth," said Tsai.
He declined to reveal how much he was paying Sanrio for the Hello Kitty rights except to say it was a "reasonable" figure.
Introduced in 1974, Hello Kitty has become one of the most powerful brands in the world, adorning some 50,000 products in 60 countries.
First-time father Chen Wen-sheng, 24, said he was pleased his son was born at Hau Sheng. "The place is quite pretty, and warm and fuzzy like Hello Kitty should be."
But Angela Lee, a marketing professor at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management in Chicago, said the idea of a cartoon themed hospital was "controversial" because some people are bound to "think the entire hospital is like a theme park."
Tsai said the hospital has delivered about 2,000 babies since it underwent its Hello Kitty makeover in 2006.