How popular is Pokémon in Japan?

A mini guide to Pokémon in Japan

Japanese rare Pokemon cards

The Pokémon trading card game (ポケモンカードゲーム) or Pokémon Kādo Gēmu, was first published in October 1996 by Media factory in Japan.

Since that time, the entire Pokémon franchise has grown exponentially year on year and become an internationally phenomenon.

This expansion is most apparent in none other than Japan, with hints of Pokémon in everyday life and a sub culture deeply rooted into society as a whole.

In this article we’ll discuss the best place to buy Pokémon cards in Tokyo, show you where the biggest Pokémon centre is in Japan, and prove to you that it’s more popular in Japan than western countries.

Let’s start by answering some of the most frequently asked questions about Pokémon in Japan

What’s the biggest Pokemon center in Japan?

Japan is home to a number of Pokemon centers with literally everything pokemon you could ever want…

But, if you want the biggest pokemon shop in Tokyo, Head to the Pokemon Center Tokyo DX.

Pokémon Center Tokyo DX

Address: Japan, 〒103-0027 Tokyo, Chuo City, Nihonbashi, 2 Chome−11−2 髙島屋S.C.東館5F

The first thing you’re likely to notice about this Tokyo Pokémon store is it’s superb location. It’s a quick 10 minute walk from Tokyo station, a station that’s accessible from most places in the country!

Once you step inside the store you’ll be greeted by a Snorlax sat on his bum, with Mew on one shoulder and Pikachu on the other.

As you venture further inside this Pokémon paradise you’ll find items from the first generation all the way up to the latest. So you can rest assured that whatever you’re looking for, you’re bound to find at the DX center!

My favourite part about the Tokyo Pokémon DX center is the Japanese Edo period Pokémon range. Whilst I dont have any pictures of it myself, Live Japan have an entire article devoted to the Japan center and about half way down the page you’ll find Pikachu in a cute little Yukata!

Aside from way more merch than you’d every really need (or be able to pay for) the Nihonbashi Pokémon center also features a Pokémon café.

You can expect to find an entire menu of Pokémon themed foods and drink to really immerse you in Pokémon as much as humanly possible.

The prices seem to be pretty dam expensive but It’s not a surprise due to it’s location and branding.

If you’re only in Japan once and you love Pokémon, you’ve got to give this place an hour or so of your time. No where on earth has such a massive supply of Pokémon themed items! Just watch your wallet, you’re bound to spend more than you realise!

Why is Pokémon more popular in Japan than in the west?

Who remembers Pokémon on the Gameboy!?

This was one of the most asked questions that I came across whilst clicking through the Japan subreddit and forums.

This is a question that has two main answers.

Let’s take a look:

1. Scheduling

In the UK (and I imagine the US), Pokémon has never had a set channel where regular viewers know to watch the show. It’s also never greatly advertised and if you asked most people if they thought it was still going on, the most common response would be ‘No’ or ‘I have no idea’. As well as this, I would say it would be relatively hard to follow the show after specific seasons. If you could find a few episodes on Pokémon on English TV, they’d be few and far between and there’s no telling what seasons they’d be from.

In Japan however, Pokémon has it’s on channel (TV Tokyo) and a regular viewing each Sunday. This is something that’s happened year upon year and wouldn’t be unusual to think the majority of people living in Japan knew of this arrangement even if they didn’t watch it themselves.

2. Cultural

Japan loves cute, and it loves anime.

Whilst in many western countries Anime may fall under a ‘Childish’ or ‘Nerdy’ sub culture, in Japan it’s far more accepted and consumed on a regular basis. You’ll find a lot of advertising, whether on or off TV, uses anime because they know it’s a way to get through to their target audience.

Japan also loves all things cute and sometimes completely strange. Next time you’re in Japan flick on the TV and I challenge you not to come across a game show where people are running up oiled stair or making absolute fools of themselves.

The point is, Pokémon in western countries may seem slightly ‘taboo’ or have a heavy childish emphasis on it. But in Japan it’s just another program (With a massive following, however!)

The best place to buy Pokémon cards in Tokyo

If you happen to find yourself wandering around Tokyo, no doubt being bombarded with Pokémon memorabilia at every corner, where is the single best place to buy Pokémon cards in Tokyo?

Mandrake, Shibuya

Address: 〒150-0042 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Udagawachō, 31−2 渋谷BEAM B2F

A short 5 minute walk from Shibuya station will bring you to to the biggest manga shop in Tokyo (possibly the world, I think?). It’s here that you’ll find some of the rarest, limited edition Pokémon cards known to man.

Of course, you’ll also find an eye watering amount of manga if that’s your thing (I like to use it for finding beginner graphic novels to help me learn Japanese), but search a little further and you’ll find an entire section devoted to TCG (Trading card games).

So whether you’re looking for new sets, a few decks to beef up your collection, or specific cards you wont be able to find in any other destination on earth, Mandrake Shibuya is the place to find them.

How popular is Pokémon in Japan?

giant pikachu mascot

I think to answer a question like this we need to look at how popular Nintendo is in Japan as well

HUGE!

There’s no other way to describe the Pokémon fan culture in Japan than astronomical.

The first thing you’ll notice if you’re lucky enough to be wandering one of Japans street’s is how big they are on themed things.

As well as the previously mentioned Tokyo Pokémon Center café, Japan plays host to an absolute myriad of Pokémon themed attractions.

Pokémon GO store – As we all know, the Pokémon GO phone game was an absolute hit and people went mad for it (especially this Taiwanese grandad!) Even thought now the buzz has somewhat died down, there are still loads of people wandering round with their head deep into there phone trying to catch them all!

There’s also a newly opened Pokémon GO store in Tokyo where you can buy merchandise related to the game like team shirts, egg incubators, and facilitates Pokémon exchanges between players. If you’re interested in checking it out in detail, have a look at the article written by Sora News.

Pokémon Hotel Room

If your trip happens to take you to Tokyo, Kyoto, or Osaka (which it should), You’ll have the possibility to stay at a Pokémon themed hotel.

Mimaru hotels which have franchises located in three of Japan’s popular cities have Pokémon rooms with massive Snorlax cuddly toys.

Each room also comes with a kitchenette, dinning area, and a hell of a load of Pokémon based items!

Interested? Read more here.

Pokémon Wedding

From 2019, a Japanese wedding company by the name of Escrit began to offer Pokémon themed weddings. I suppose that’s one way to have a unique special day!

Pokémon Parade – How often does the Pokémon parade happen in Japan? Go onto google and type in ‘Pokémon parade Yokohama’. You’ll find that giant Pikachu’s walking down the road is actually a fairly common occurrence, at least a few times every month, maybe more!

Pokémon Popups – You’ll ALWAYS find Pokémon popups around the bigger towns and cities (Especially Tokyo). You can expect collaborations and new merch to be on almost every street corner as soon as any new form of Pokémon generation or show is released.

Pokémon themed everything

pokemon vending machine Japan
Potentially one of the coolest vending machines in Japan? I think so!

Pokémon themed, ramen, sweets, drink, food, clothing, cars, books, buildings, need I go on!?

It’s clear that Japan Pokémon is extremely popular in Japan and takes on a much higher prestige than any other country in the world. What’s also evident is that even if you aren’t a fan of Pokémon, Japan will probably serve it up to you in the form of food, drinks, events, or clothing at least once during your stay.

Jonny Gleason

Photographer, Magazine owner, Matcha drinker. One of these is definitely the most important, just unsure which...

Instagram: @jonny.gleason

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