Beyond reading that it’s Tokyo, Japan’s Hello Kitty theme park, I couldn’t find a lot of info about Sanrio Puroland before our visit. In this post, we seek to rectify the dearth of info and planning tips, covering whether it’s worth your time, how to save money on tickets, and other tips for avoiding lines and improving your experience at Sanrio Puroland.
The threshold question, of course, is if it’s worth the money and time to visit Sanrio Puroland. I might’ve lost some of you with the words “Hello Kitty” above, but hopefully that’s not the case. I’ll be honest: I’m not a Hello Kitty fan, and outside of knowing that the character exists and is really popular in Japan, I knew nothing about it.
I had some preconceptions about Hello Kitty–that it’s just kawaii merchandise and aimed at the kiddie crowd–and those caused us to overlook Sanrio Puroland on our first several trips to Japan. Even though we love amusement and theme parks, I just assumed Sanrio Puroland would have little, if anything, to offer us. Thankfully, I was wrong…
Sanrio Puroland is cute, wholesome, and charming beyond belief. It’s also so much more than a thinly-veiled means of peddling merchandise (my biggest fear), and meet characters for photo ops. There is one well-done ride, a few beautifully-produced shows, and an incredible “parade.” Beyond that, the design of the park abounds with whimsy and character, making it a wonderful place to explore. We spent a couple of hours just wandering, and saw so many cool elements and just flat out had fun.
Now, this is not to say that Sanrio Puroland is for everyone. While we don’t really “get” Hello Kitty and aren’t fans of the other characters, we are theme park enthusiasts. We found a lot to appreciate in the design and production value of the entertainment and attractions at Sanrio Puroland. It has some of the same sensibilities as Fantasyland at Tokyo Disneyland, so if that does not appeal to you, neither will this.
The problem also remains that it’s nearly an hour commute into the suburb of Tama from Shinjuku Station, meaning your round trip commute will be at least 2 hours, and there isn’t really anything else to do in this area. Since it’s a theme park, it also requires a decent time investment, meaning Sanrio Puroland is going to eat up at least a half-day of your time in Tokyo.
If it’s your first visit to Japan and you only have a few days in Tokyo, there are probably better ways to spend this time. I’d say this is true for all but the most devoted fans of Hello Kitty, Gudetama, and the other characters. If you have 4 days in Tokyo or this is a repeat visit to Japan, I’d say allocating the necessary time to visit Sanrio Puroland makes more sense.
I don’t mean for that to be a tepid endorsement: we absolutely loved Sanrio Puroland, and will definitely be going back (sooner rather than later). It’d probably even crack my top 10 things to do in Tokyo. It’s the kind of place that’s sure to put a smile on your face, and I doubt many people reading this will regret visiting. It ultimately comes down to how many other things in Tokyo you’ll have to skip to do Sanrio Puroland, and whether it’s worth that cost to you.
The other ‘is Sanrio Puroland worth it?’ question pertains to money, and that’s an unequivocal yes. The added good news here is that great discounts are available. We paid ~$20/person for our tickets via Voyagin, which is roughly half the price of purchasing them at the gate. Given that we spent almost the entire day at Sanrio Puroland, I’d say the per hour value was exceptional–better than most entertainment hours in Tokyo.
With that out of the way, let’s cover some basic background and planning info for Sanrio Puroland…
Sanrio Puroland is an indoor theme park that opened in 1990, and currently attracts about 1.5 million visitors per year. Considering its relatively small footprint, this is an impressive attendance number.
While many attractions have been updated over the years, the core design of Puroland has a 1990s sensibility. This is mostly a good thing, as there’s a certain tactile quality to the design, and everything has aged well. Like pretty much everything in Japan, Puroland is impeccably maintained.
Sanrio Puroland has 4 floors, with most of the attractions being on 1F and 2F. In the center of these two floors there’s a large atrium with the Wisdom Tree serving as the focal point. The rides weave through these two floors, and most of the entertainment occurs in theaters located off of wings of 1F, or in the large atrium around the Wisdom Tree.
The entrance to Puroland is on 3F, which is also where you’ll find most of the gift shops and some character meet & greets. On 4F, there’s a slew of restaurants plus more gift shops and other character and photo ops. You’ll spend the bulk of your time on the lower levels.
Sanrio Puroland is typically open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., although 6 p.m. closures are also common on weekdays, with 8 p.m. closures on Saturdays. Note that in the off-season, Sanrio Puroland can be closed completely some weekdays. It’s best to consult their official calendar before planning a visit.
From Shinjuku Station, take the Keio Line to Tama Center Station to access Sanrio Puroland. You’ll know you’ve arrived at the right station because it’s adorned with Hello Kitty decor, including a fun, faux stained glass ceiling.
It’s about a 7 minute walk from Tama Center Station along an elevated walkway. (We accidentally walked on lower-level sidewalks going there–same time to get there, but the elevated walkway is much nicer.)
Here are a few other random tidbits:
- Purchase discounted tickets in advance for significant savings.
- Sanrio Puroland has free WiFi, and it actually works!
- There are lockers inside the park (with larger sizes available at the train station).
- Cover visible tattoos before entering (this rule exists throughout Japan and is seldom enforced on non-Japanese guests).
- Gift shops at Sanrio Puroland are tax free if you meet minimum purchase requirements and present a foreign passport.
- Smoking is not allowed indoors, except for in the designated location.
In terms of basics, that’s about it for Sanrio Puroland. Now, some strategy and tips to get the most out of your visit…
Tips & Strategy
While operating hours are longer on weekends, we’d recommend visiting on days when operating hours are shortest. Additionally, try to avoid the days before or after Sanrio Puroland is closed, as that redistributes crowds to the open days.
On weekends, every theme park in Japan gets swarmed with locals, causing dramatic skips in wait times. As such, you should always avoid all Japanese theme parks on Saturdays and, to a lesser degree, Sundays.
Sanrio Puroland sells the “PuroPass,” which is akin to Disney’s FastPass (except paid) or Universal’s Express Pass. It’s a means of bypassing lines. On our weekday visit, this was totally unnecessary, but it likely would be useful on a Saturday or Sunday.
Arrive at park opening and immediately doing the rides, starting with Sanrio Character Boat Ride followed by ~My Melody & Kuromi~ Mymeroad Drive. Both of these rides are incredibly low capacity, and waits can get longer midday.
If you wait times are long during your visit, prioritize Sanrio Character Boat Ride and skip ~My Melody & Kuromi~ Mymeroad Drive. The latter is pretty uninspired, whereas the boat ride is quite well-done.
Those without children–or who aren’t big character fans–can safely skip Lady Kitty House, Twinkling Tour, and Character Hug Time.
If you do want to meet characters but are more casual about it and not picky with who you meet, try 4F. We found these characters had minimal wait since few guests were up there, and our interactions were more fun, with the characters being playful and spending more time with each guest.
Miracle Gift Parade is an absolute, unquestionable must-do. While billed as a parade, it’s more a 360-degree show. I’d say it’s Hello Kitty meets Cirque du Soleil meets Captain EO. All of that is incredibly high praise–this quirky parade/show is brilliantly produced, and even though parts of it are a bit odd, it’s beautiful.
People claim spots for Miracle Gift Parade on the lower level 30+ minutes in advance. This is one option, but if you arrive late and a front row spot is not available, consider going to the second level, or standing on the stairs. The second level essentially offers a balcony view, and while it doesn’t put you up close to the fur characters, it offers a better vantage for the aerialists and light show.
Every show we watched was enjoyable. While some (e.g., Gudetama the Movie Show) are entirely in Japanese, it’s possible to ascertain what’s going on and get a feel for the humor by virtue of the visuals. The main stage show during our visit was Hello Kitty in Wonderland, an acid dream spin on Alice in Wonderland.
Unfortunately, Hello Kitty in Wonderland has now ended, to be replaced by a TBD show. If it’s half as good–and flat out bizarre–as Hello Kitty in Wonderland, it’s also a must-do. Even though the current show is really (really) weird, it’s weird in a charming, endearing way that’s also hilarious. (Somewhat typical for Japanese entertainment.)
While not as “sexy” as the rides, parades, or stage shows, don’t miss the walk-through exhibits. There’s a one about the making of bread featuring a bunch of cute forest critters, another about candy, and a larger-scale ‘fun spot’ with Gudetama. This last one is fairly popular, and includes games and photo ops.
We’d recommend doing an early or late lunch. We dined at the food court on 1F right around noon, which was a little over an hour before the parade. We waited in line 10-20 minutes for food, depending upon the cuisine (there are separate ordering stations).
As theme park veterans, we should have known better. First, noon draws the biggest crowds. Second, people always eat before grabbing their parade spots. Had we waited about 30 minutes, there would’ve been no lines whatsoever, as most guests were rushing to eat and then grab a parade spot.
After lunch, or really at any time of the day, be sure to visit the restrooms in the area near the food court. I’m only half-kidding with that recommendation.
While it’s a bit odd having a woodland critter and angry tree watch you pee, these are also thematic gems. One of those quirky products of the 1990s that probably wouldn’t be made today, but we’re better off for having restrooms like this.
Back to the topic of the food…it’s not very good, but it is very cute. Our party tried a pretty good variety of the food available at the different restaurants in Sanrio Puroland, and mediocre was about as good as it got. I thought my ramen here was fine, but the curry was pretty bad. The desserts were the best part of the meal.
This isn’t to say we would avoid eating at Sanrio Puroland. It’s part of the experience, and (as you can see) makes for some fun food photos. This is most definitely the point, with taste being secondary. It’s probably a smart move to order what you think looks cutest, rather than fretting over what might taste the best. That’s a recipe for disappointment.
We’re not Sanrio Puroland experts (yet), but between our firsthand experiences visiting the park and general knowledge of theme parks that’s fairly universal, we think that about covers everything. Since the park is small and compact, there’s not a ton you need to know–but if you have any additional questions or need help, leave a comment.
Overall, we’re big fans of Sanrio Puroland. We had fairly low expectations going in, and the park blew those away in almost every regard. While it’s small scale as compared to Tokyo Disneyland, DisneySea, or Universal Studios Japan, it offers plenty to see and do, and is well worth a half-day of your time. It’s also a great value, especially if you take advantage of a discount Sanrio Puroland ticket offer. Ultimately, if you check your preconceptions at the door and go in with an open mind, we think most people will really enjoy Sanrio Puroland, regardless of whether they have kids, or are fans of the Hello Kitty family of characters.
Have you visited Sanrio Puroland? Any additional tips or thoughts from your experience to add? Would you recommend it to a first-time visitor to Japan? If you haven’t been, does Sanrio Puroland look appealing to you? Any questions? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!