On Saturday, November 1st, I attended Hello Kitty Con 2014! I went in with high hopes and left with mixed feelings.
Had the con had about 50% less attendees, I would have raved about it. The way it worked out, at least for myself and my 4-year-old on a Saturday—usually the busiest day of a long weekend con—we basically left as soon as we got in the con. Here’s how our day rolled out.
I had heard from people attending on previous days that I should get there early. Like early. And while it could have been a good idea to show up two hours early to wait in line for the con to open at 10 am, it wasn’t an option considering we live a solid 2-hour drive away. Moreover, the con warned extensively about the lack of parking in the area so I had decided to park at the subway station in Universal City and ride to Little Tokyo via the Metro, which just added more time to our trip. In the end, despite leaving at 7:30 am, we didn’t arrive until 10 am. By then, the line to get into the con show floor wrapped around the city block.
Thankfully, I had done some smart planning. I had purchased tickets to a Hello Kitty bento box workshop for 11 am. The various workshops and panels were located in different buildings outside of the con, so I didn’t need to wait in line for those. I got my badge and waltzed right in to the Japanese American National Museum, where my workshop was held. We had some 40 minutes to kill before the class started, so I asked a museum employee what I could do while I waited. She pointed out that their new exhibit, Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty, was free for con attendees. Not only that, it was also crowd-free! My daughter and I walked around looking at the plethora of Hello Kitty items on display, deciding which we’d like to own. They had Hello Kitty household items, Hello Kitty fashion apparel, Hello Kitty-inspired art, the list goes on.
Finally, it was time for our bento box workshop. In retrospect, this was the highlight of our day and I wish I had signed us up for more workshops. My 4-year-old was a little impatient while the instructor, Nikki Gilbert of Sushi Girl, gave a demonstration on how to make a sushi roll, nigiri, and Hello Kitty-shaped rice balls, but she came around when came our turn to get our hands dirty.
All materials were included in the price of the tickets for the workshop (only $10/person), and we each got a Hello Kitty bento box container and all the food needed to make the creations we were being taught. My daughter really got excited when she realized we’d actually get to take our boxes with us in the end, and, in our case, perfectly timed for lunch. We walked out of the class with our boxes and were stopped no less than five times by people asking if we had been to the class and could they please see inside our boxes. We settled down to eat outside, on the steps in front of the museum, and again people were stopping to point and gawk at our Hello Kitty rice balls. I was wishing I had a better product to show off… But sticky rice is super tricky! In any case, it was super tasty.
After our lunch, I wanted to tackle the con itself. Thankfully the line looked much more manageable than it had on our arrival, but it still took us a good 30 minutes to get in. Once we did, I almost regretted it immediately. It was so packed. I was hoping to get a con t-shirt and my daughter really wanted a Hello Kitty toy so we headed to the con shop, just to find out the line was—wait for it—4 hours long. No joke. FOUR HOURS. For an opportunity to spend my money! No thanks.
We walked about the “super supermarket” instead, where partners were selling their own Hello Kitty-themed items. Sephora, Megablocks, etc. It seemed like a good alternative to waiting in line for the official con shop, but again it was packed and meh, my daughter was getting the gimmies and I was thinking I could buy the same stuff (or similar) outside the con for much less money. I asked my daughter what she wanted to do and she wanted out; my own feelings weren’t too far off from hers at that point. So out we went, defeated.
At this point, had I been alone, I would have stuck around to attend some of the panels, but no chance of that happening with a tired 4-year-old who’s used up all of her patience while waiting in lines. I gave up on Hello Kitty Con and headed to Little Tokyo, where we shopped the Sanrio store (no lines!) and grabbed mochi balls before heading back home.
If Hello Kitty Con goes on to become an annual thing, I’d still be interested to attend again next year, but I’d plan my time differently. I’d attend more workshops and panels, and perhaps avoid the show floor all together—although I hope they’ll find a better way to manage the crowds and the merchandise by then.
I’d even say that the exhibit at the museum was better than the con’s own show floor, or at least from what I could see, so if you didn’t manage to grab tickets for the con then it’s not too late to check out the museum. The Hello Kitty exhibit is open until April 26th, 2015.