Top Message

Shintaro Tsuji Founder and Chairman

Founder and Chairman
Shintaro Tsuji

August 10th of this year (2020) marked the 60th year since I established the social communication business that is Sanrio out of a desire to create a happy world in which everyone could live together as friends and help one another. And on this momentous occasion, I find myself once again reflecting on the truly many people I have met in the 60 years leading up to Sanrio’s business reaching the state it is in today.

Seventy years ago, when I had just graduated from university, I saw Disney’s Fantasia at a movie theater in Shinjuku and was greatly impressed. And I came to possess a strong desire to make a similarly amazing movie myself someday.

Later, after I had founded Sanrio, I launched a movie business in 1974.

Establishing Sanrio Film, a movie production and distribution company, in Los Angeles, I hired American staff and spent four whole years making the animated film Metamorphoses. Metamorphoses was shown at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood and the Fox Theatre in Los Angeles’ Westwood Village, which was a big deal at the time, as no Japanese film had been shown at such first-rate theaters in the United States before.

Debolt Family, released in 1977, was a documentary film on the DeBolts, a family living in the United States which, in addition to raising their own biological children, had adopted Vietnamese war orphans and other children, including children with severe disabilities. The movie won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature at the 50th Academy Awards. The impetus for Debolt Family was my acquaintance with Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts and Snoopy.

Initially after Sanrio was founded, we took strawberry designs and had Takashi Yanase, Ado Mizumori and Setsuko Tamura create drawings and put them on little ceramic pieces and other small items to sell. I felt, however, that cute gifts needed cute pictures, and so gradually we developed Hello Kitty, the Little Twin Stars, My Melody and other characters of our own. It was around this time that these characters were beginning to gain popularity one after another.

One day while on a flight bound for the United States, an American flight attendant informed me that the characters of a comic strip called Peanuts, published in The New York Times, were popular in the United States, and that the creator, Charles Schulz, lived in San Francisco.

Immediately thereafter, then-Senior Managing Director Teruyuki Ogisu and I went to meet Mr. Schulz.

Mr. Schulz cheerfully welcomed these two Japanese men who had suddenly come to visit him, and that was the start of our acquaintance. At that time, Peanuts was a popular syndicated comic strip; Charlie Brown and Lucy were its main characters, while Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s dog, was nothing more than a minor side character.

In Japan, Hello Kitty and My Melody had exploded in popularity, and so Senior Managing Director Ogisu and I told Mr. Schulz, “Your comic will be more popular if you make this dog a main character.” After we talked, Mr. Schulz did indeed make Snoopy a main character, and Woodstock also began making frequent appearances. As we had predicted, Snoopy became very popular. Snoopy was not yet well-known in Japan, yet, in part because of our relationship with Mr. Schulz, Sanrio was the first company in Japan to sell gift products and greeting cards featuring the character. In 1970, we published four Snoopy mini gift books translated by Takashi Yanase.

On one occasion, Mr. Schulz asked us if I would collaborate in the creation of a documentary film on the DeBolts, an American family that had taken in a large number of Vietnamese war orphans. Debolt Family, which depicted the everyday life of the DeBolt family, went on to receive worldwide acclaim, and was even awarded an Oscar! Then-Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda and politician Yasuhiro Nakasone (who would later become prime minister) also highly praised this achievement. Thereafter, I continued to participate in the production of such high-quality films as The Glacier Fox, A Tale of Africa, and the Prime Minister’s Award-winning Poem of the Great Purple Emperor, releasing 35 motion pictures in total into the world.

Another person I am indebted to who I met through this business and will never forget is Donald Hall Sr., founder of the American company Hallmark Cards, Inc. In 1969, Mr. Hall said to me, “I think your idea of a business that brings people together by sending small gifts is brilliant. But I think it would be even better if you added cards to your gifts.” And on his recommendation, we became a distributor for Hallmark, with Sanrio evolving into a social communication gift and card business. At that time, the greeting card business was not seen as a profitable venture, but I perceived greeting cards not as a way to make money but rather as tokens for strengthening bonds. I believed they were absolutely essential to the “business linking people together in a circle of friendship” that I had desired. Hallmark greeting cards possessed many elements that served as hints for our own “Small Gift” business, including polished designs, cute characters, emotionally resonant messages, and little tricks to surprise and delight the receiver when taken in hand.

I believe that it is because of the greeting card idea that Mr. Hall suggested to me that Sanrio’s business became one able to touch people’s hearts.

Sanrio is now celebrating its 60th anniversary and, going forward, we will surely meet and be helped by numerous new people. Together with all our shareholders, will also continue to cultivate a globally one-of-a-kind social communication gift and card business. We ask for your continuing support in the years ahead.

Tomokuni Tsuji President and CEO

President and CEO
Tomokuni Tsuji

I would like to extend to you my heartfelt appreciation for your ongoing support of Sanrio and our characters over the years.

Almost half a year has passed since I assumed office as company president, and from this vantage point I have been able to see the areas in which Sanrio can improve more clearly than ever before. Accordingly, it is my aim that we make revolutionary changes in areas we can change, continue to carry on those things which we can carry on, strengthen cooperation across the entire company, and bring a new wind to Sanrio.

For 60 years, Sanrio has grown as a company under the same corporate philosophy as when we were founded: bringing friendship to others, and “Small Gift Big Smile.” In this time, we have created a variety of characters, as well as store and global licensing businesses utilizing these characters, and we will continue to grow going forward with these as our foundation. However, I do not believe we can evolve if we continue to follow the same methods we always have in all areas. Going forward, we will constantly seek change in all of our business models, start working on those areas requiring structural reform, further develop new and innovative businesses, and always keep our aim on the next stage for Sanrio so that we do not get left behind the times.

Owing to a variety of factors, changes that turn conventional wisdom on its head are occurring all over the world, and they are clearly coming faster than ever before. And the entertainment industry is no exception. The essence of entertainment, of course, is eternal, but the ways in which entertainment is experienced, such as purchasing behavior and value-based experiences touchpoints, have changed dramatically. We at Sanrio are striving to move forward and adapt to the changing times in our stores, products, designs, licensing business, value-based experiences business, and all areas. In addition to the Sanrio you know, we are also going to be steadily revealing new aspects of Sanrio that you have never seen before, and I hope you will look forward to the proactive changes we will be making.

As a business, Sanrio will experience proactive and revolutionary changes, but we will continue to firmly hold on to the same corporate philosophy from the time of our founding. Today, the entire planet is facing challenging circumstances, but even in these difficult times Sanrio is here to help everyone get along with each other and to give everyone the world over moments of peace and happiness filled with smiles.

We express our sincere gratitude to all our shareholders for their continued encouragement.

Page Top