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Hello Kitty, the superstar feline character created by Sanrio Co. 38 years ago, has gained fans across generations, with products featuring her likeness selling in 109 countries. The Hello Kitty Art Exhibition, which started Thursday in Osaka, tries to explain the secret of its appeal through the eyes of its designer Yuko Yamaguchi.

On display will be 17 artworks created by Yamaguchi, who became the third Hello Kitty designer at Sanrio in 1980 and has marketed a series of unique products that have helped give the cat a voice — though she doesn’t have a mouth — through generations of schoolgirls who have propelled her rise to become an icon of kawaii (cute) culture. Some of the old products released by Sanrio, including a Hello Kitty purse (1975) and a Hello Kitty dial-up phone (1981), will also be shown.

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