TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Hello Kitty, Japan's iconic cat character, glittered and gleamed in Tokyo after being reborn in Swarovski crystals for a good cause -- raising money for disaster relief.
On display in a showroom in Tokyo's fashionable Omotesando area were versions of the famous feline in everything from tiny earrings to melon-sized figurines.
The centerpiece of the project, a collaboration between the Austrian jeweler and Sanrio Co, the company that markets Hello Kitty, was a 20 cm (7.9 inch) limited edition figurine picked out in 19,636 crystals -- and carrying a price tag of 1.2 million yen ($14,800).
"I can't buy this for myself, so I would like someone to buy it for me," said Rumi Suzuki, a Hello Kitty fan who couldn't wait until Thursday's official opening and sneaked into a media event.
Only 88 of the figurines will be available to fans around the world, said a spokeswoman for Sanrio, the creator of the white-faced, mouthless cat character.
Among the 30 different accessories available is a bag adorned with a large Hello Kitty logo and worth nearly $100,000.
Swarovski said they will auction off nine Hello Kitty figures designed by Japanese celebrities and artists that will be exhibited, with proceeds going to the Japanese Red Cross.
"She's just a nice, cute, adorable character," said Swarovski CEO Robert Buchbauer.
"She's just a symbol of happiness, and I think it's very important these days to transmit some positive messages to the people, and I think Hello Kitty is perfect in order to do so."
Some 15,400 people have been declared dead and roughly 8,100 are missing after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which set off a continuing nuclear disaster that has forced thousands from their homes.
Reporting by Hyun Oh; editing by Elaine Lies