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Taxi company rolls out Hello Kitty cabs
( 2003-09-17 14:09) (Agencies)

How's this for a relaxing cab ride: slide into the back seat of a pink and baby blue sedan with two Hello Kitty characters painted on the side, sit on a Hello Kitty blanket and listen to Hello Kitty music piped in through the sound system.

This mobile paradise for fans of the popular kitten character is the latest service offered by a Japanese taxi company, Kanachu.

The 10 Hello Kitty cabs _ equipped with Hello Kitty umbrellas, ponchos, and kleenex for customers _ have been operating since April.

Kanachu integrated the new taxis into their fleet of 500 cabs serving suburban Tokyo after deciding they needed a special service targeting children. They also figured there was also no danger of alienating anyone with the cute cat, said Katsuo Habu, a manager at Kanachu.

Kanachu has licensed Hello Kitty from Sanrio, the character's creator, for three years. Fares _ about 660 yen for the first 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) _ are the same as regular taxis.

The cars are driven only by women drivers, in part to satisfy Sanrio, Habu said.
``The Sanrio people told us they associated taxis with bearded, smoking male drivers. That is why they were not really sure if they wanted us to use their character,'' Habu said. ``But we told them that we would have female drivers and the cars would be nonsmoking.''

The ban on smoking alone has gotten a good response, he said.

But the most popular feature is the free giveaways of Hello Kitty goods.

``We hope mothers use our service when small children cry becauthey have to go to hospital or kindergarten,'' Habu said.

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