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2/26/2000--Tokyo, Japan..Tsuji Shintaro, 71, the man behind the Hello Kitty phenomenon. Orphaned at 13, Tsuji Shintaro was brought up by his grandparents in Kofu City in central Japan. He says his lonely childhood taught him the importance of having someone - or something - for "heart-to-heart communication." So at 71, the founder and president of merchandiser Sanrio continues to think up stuffed-toy characters like the bunny My Melody, the frog Keroppi, the cherubs Little Twin Stars and, of course, the mouthless feline Hello Kitty. All are determinedly cute and cuddly, presumably so they can bring comfort and joy to lonely kids and even grown-ups. There are apparently millions of these people. For the year ending March 1999, Sanrio is expected to gross a record-breaking $1 billion...All photographs ©2003 Stuart Isett.All rights reserved.This image may not be reproduced without expressed written permission from Stuart Isett.