Only In Dubai: World’s First Hello Kitty Spa Opens

hello kitty spaA hot pink spa with a Parisian theme in the middle of Dubai designed by someone in Japan – it sounds like a spot with an identity crisis, but for lovers of the cult favorite Hello Kitty brand, it’s practically purr-fection.

Sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves.

Newly opened in Dubai’s Jumeriah Town Centre, the Hello Kitty Beauty Spa caters to both young girls and women alike with a variety of treatments ranging from hand massages to “kitty-cures.” Ratings of “queen” and “princess” denote if the treatment is meant for kids or adults.

More of a beauty salon and less of a true day spa, the treatments focus on the aesthetic – haircuts, blowouts, up-dos and mani pedis – than the true “spa” treatments like facials or body massages. But, if you want, you can get the famed Hello Kitty “Kitty White” character painted on your nails, or snack on an organic cupcake post-treatment at the cafe.

Thanks to the Daily Mail
for initially tipping us off. We’ll pop in for a kitty-cure next time we’re in Dubai.

What do you think about this new spa? A great treat for devotees of the famous cartoon brand, or a creepy place for anyone but kids and teens? Frankly, we’re just shocked Japan didn’t get one first.

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Tokyo’s cat cafes newest trend

Tokyo cat cafesHasta la vista, Hello Kitty. Get lost, LOL cats. Tokyo’s hot new phenom are neko cafes (“neko” is Japanese for cat). At first appearance typical, cozy coffee houses, closer examination reveals live cats lounging on the furniture, in baskets, or on laps. Which, I guess, isn’t nearly as bizarre (or kinky) as Tokyo’s maid cafes. Actually, to a cat lover like me, it’s quite appealing.

CNN reports that about 100 neko cafés can now be found in Japan, with more popping up in South Korea and Taiwan. More than 50 of the cafes are in Tokyo proper, with almost 70 in the outlying suburbs. Neko no Mise, for example, is a popular neko cafe in the Machida suburb that just celebrated its fifth anniversary.

Right about now, you’re probably asking yourself, what kind of person chooses to hang out in a neko cafe? Banish the image of the stereotypical Crazy Cat Lady from your mind, because these places are a huge hit with young professionals–particularly couples (childless, perhaps?). Far from being frumpy, many neko cafe clientele are hipsters who like to take their dates out for an evening of coffee and cat-watching. Single patrons are welcome too, however, as evidenced by the proliferation of cat bloggers.

Apparently, the neko cafe craze is accountable for many a blog starring specific coffee house felines: some have their own mixi profiles, which, I’m sorry, is definitely halfway to crazytown. And I say this as one who has been frequently dubbed a CCL (yes, that is my cat wearing a sweater in the photo, and I was trying to cut my heating bill). But not everyone is on board with the concept of caffeine and kitties. A young woman named Yuko told CNN, “My sister wanted to go so badly, she took me to one. It was weird, I thought. People just hanging out there with the cats, but you’re not allowed to wake them up or pick them up, they were just watching the cats and smiling and stuff … it was a little scary.”

Hello Kitty theme park opens in Tokyo


If you’re a lover of all things Hello Kitty, there’s good news today. Hello Kitty Kawaii Paradise has opened in the Odaiba district of Tokyo.

The 10,000-square foot attraction is being called an indoor theme park, but it’s a pretty small space to accommodate any kind of ride or show. Kawaii Paradise does have a theater with Hello Kitty cartoons projected onto a domed ceiling, a restaurant that serves Hello Kitty pancakes, and that bastion of all theme park values, the gift shop.

There are two other theme parks — Sanrio Puroland and Harmonyland — dedicated to Hello Kitty and other characters in the Sanrio universe. But this is the first park where Hello Kitty does not share the marquee with her friends.

Kawaii (which means “cute” in Japanese) Paradise is in the growing Venus Fort shopping complex. The park’s operator, PleasureCast, says it expects to top 700,000 visitors in the first year of operation.

[Image credit: Flickr user Stephen Hucker]

The Purgatory Museum

I’m not sure what I’m looking at.

A rectangular slab of wood bears two burn marks–one in the shape of a cross, the other resembles a human hand. Nearby are other items–a shirt, a prayer book, a pillow–all with burns that look like they’ve been made by fiery fingers.

I’m in Rome’s smallest and strangest museum, the Piccolo Museo del Purgatorio, the Little Museum of Purgatory. Housed in the church of Santo Cuore del Suffragio, which is dedicated to relieving the souls tortured in Purgatory, it stands barely ten minutes’ walk from the Vatican. Small it certainly is, just one long case along a single wall, but the questions it raises are at the center of an increasingly acrimonious debate that’s dividing Western civilization.

Purgatory is a halfway point between Heaven and Hell, a place for the souls of people who lived good enough lives to avoid eternal damnation, but not quite good enough to join the angels. In Purgatory these souls suffer torment for enough time for their sins to be forgiven, a sort of celestial spanking with no Child Protective Services to intervene.

But there is hope. Prayers by the living can reduce a soul’s time in Purgatory. Faithful relatives offer up prayers or even pay for entire masses to be said for the departed. Others neglect this spiritual duty, and it is said that sometimes a tormented soul will return to Earth and ask for help.

During the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries these visitations happened fairly often and took on a common pattern. A spirit would appear to a relative or friend, reveal it was in torment, and ask for prayers to shorten its time in the cleansing fires. As proof that the spirit had been there, it would touch its burning hand to a nearby object. These events were one of many types of miracles common in the Catholic world such as apparitions of the Virgin Mary and bleeding statues of Jesus.

The Purgatory Museum collects these soul burns and tells their story. The hand and cross that I am seeing was left on a table by Fr. Panzini, former Abbot Olivetano of Mantua. In 1731 he appeared to Venerable Mother Isabella Fornari, abbess of the Poor Clares of the Monastery of St. Francis in Todi. He appeared to her on November 1, 1731 (All Saints Day) and said he was suffering in Purgatory. To prove his claim, he touched his flaming hand to her table and etched a burning cross in it too. He also touched her sleeve and left scorches and bloodstains.

%Gallery-101999%I have to admit I’m skeptical. I am an agnostic, and while I can’t disprove the existence of some sort of deity, I’m having trouble believing this story. The hand doesn’t look quite right. I take several photos, including the negative black and white image shown here. On this image details become clear that aren’t easily spotted with the naked eye. The burnt hand and cross are made up of a series of circular patterns as if they were made with some sort of hot poker. Other objects, whose images and stories can be seen in the attached gallery, appear more convincing but could still easily have been made with a bit of flame and ingenuity.

This doesn’t dissuade the two guys I’m seeing the museum with. They are a devoutly Catholic gay couple here in Rome on pilgrimage, something I find far more mysterious than a few burns on a nightcap. They go from object to object with wonder in their eyes. Looking at that same hand they don’t see its shape as odd, and they don’t see the circular patterns that make it up as a sign of forgery. A burning hand, of course, would have flames coming out of it, which would distort its shape and lead to some areas of the imprint being more scorched than others.

And that, I realize, is what the Purgatory Museum has to teach. For the faithful, it is yet more proof of Divine Judgment. For an atheist, it is proof of the gullibility of religious people and the nasty web of lies that supports organized religion. For the agnostic standing between two fundamentalisms, it proves nothing. Personally I think these objects are the products of overzealous fraudsters wanting to make converts by any means necessary, yet debunking them doesn’t disprove the existence of spirits any more than showing there’s no life on Mars would disprove the possibility of aliens on other planets.

As I stand there wondering where the whole debate over religion is going to lead, an attractive young American nun walks in, hands me a pendant of the Virgin Mary, and hurries off before I can ask her what the Latin inscription says. This sort of thing happens a lot in Rome. The inscription reads, “O MARIA CONCEPITA SENZA PECCATO PREGATE PER NOI CHE RECORRIAMO A VOI” and bears the date 1850. Translation, anyone?

So I leave the same as I entered, “knowing” nothing but insatiably curious about everything. That’s a pretty good place to be, I think. Walking down the nave I see one of the gay Catholics gazing upon a reclining figure of the crucified Jesus. His face is transfixed with reverence, wonder, and sadness as he bends down and kisses the statue’s feet. His visit to Rome will be very different than mine.

This starts a new series called Vacation with the Dead: Exploring Rome’s Sinister Side. I will be looking at the Eternal City’s obsession with death, from grandiose tombs to saints’ relics, from early Christian catacombs to mummified monks. Tune in tomorrow for The Tombs of Rome!

Daily Pampering: Swarovski crystal-encrusted Hello Kitty bottled water

Remember when you were in third grade, and instead of working on your multiplication tables you furtively traded Hello Kitty puffy stickers for bubble gum-scented Hello Kitty erasers? No? Well, if you missed out on that iconic elementary school experience, fear not, because the Sanrio empire has expanded its line of high-end adult goods in commemoration of the megalocephalic cat’s 35th anniversary.

The folks at Sanrio have just released Swarovski crystal-encrusted bottles of Hello Kitty luxury water. At a mere $100 a pop, this is one indulgence water aficionados of all ages won’t want to miss. Produced by Japanese “jewelry water” company Fillico, the contents come from a natural spring at the base of Kobe’s Mt. Rokko.

The appearance of the water vessels will also strike a nostalgic chord with Boomers and Gen-X’ers who recall the cone-shaped pump hairsprays of the ’70’s and early ’80’s. The waters come in five different colors (or flavors, depending upon which vague marketing blurb you happen to read): red, for “friendship”; pink for “cute”; yellow for “heartful,” green for “wish,” and lavender, for “sweet.” You can even have them engraved, for that personal touch. The top of each bottle is capped with a crystal crown, with a color-corresponding crystal bow around the neck. Even the Hello Kitty moniker sports a wee little crystal bow on her head.

We still have some Hello Kitty puffy stickers lying around if anyone wants to trade us for one of these crystal bottles. Anyone?

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