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Photos: A Look Inside The World's Largest Hello Kitty Retrospective

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It's hard to think of Hello Kitty turning 40 this year. After all, we associate her with our childhood and she seems to perennially be a little kid herself. But in celebration of her birthday, the Sanrio folks have put together the world's largest retrospective on the kawaii kitty (or little girl, whatever you think she is) documenting her entire life at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) in Little Tokyo—and the exhibit opens today.

LAist attended a preview of "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" last night, and the Hello Kitty fans were out in full force. Excited crowds donned their best Hello Kitty shirts and glasses as they walked through the museum and cooed at the cute items. Plenty of cosplayers wore elaborate Hello Kitty, Harajuku-style dresses, and they were like celebrities as crowds circled around them snapping photos. Bartenders poured Hello Kitty-branded wine for guests and frenetic J-pop music was blasting in the background.

As for the exhibit itself, it was an impressive look back at 40 years of Hello Kitty's life, seeing how she's grown to become the supernova icon she is today. The first Hello Kitty product ever made was on display—a tiny, see-through coin purse from 1975—as well as other vintage items including rotary phones, calculators and pencil sharpeners.

The art show follows Hello Kitty's life in a timeline, and we get to learn about her origin story and family members, as well as get background on the Sanrio head, who seemingly was a fun-loving guy himself. The exhibit revealed that there was a Hello Kitty product for pretty much everything: curling irons, mini-refrigerators, motor oil, braces, and even vibrators.

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Just when we thought we were done taking a look back at Hello Kitty's life, we were led to a room that illustrates the present and future of the character. There's contemporary artwork inspired by the character, with works from notable artists like Gary Baseman, D*Face, and Kristin Tercek. Be sure to check out the amazing piece by Scott Scheidly called "Hello Lincoln." You even get an up-close look at the famous Lady Gaga plush Kitty dress, as well as other fashion-forward items.

Love her or hate her (there's even a section in the museum on the polarizing opinions on Hello Kitty), this exhibit at JANM will make you feel lost in another dreamy (and adorable) world for a bit of time.

Japanese American National Museum is located at 100 North Central Avenue, Los Angeles, (213) 625-0414. "Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty" is on display from October 11, 2014 to April 26, 2015. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for ages 6-17, and free for ages 5 and under. For more information, visit their website here.

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