How popular is Pokémon in Japan?

A mini guide to Pokémon in Japan

Japanese rare Pokemon cards

Update: I’ve written a massive guide to finding pokemon cards in Tokyo, so check that out if you’re interested!

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 after year and become an international phenomenon.

This expansion is most apparent in none other than Japan, with hints of Pokémon in everyday life and a subculture deeply rooted in 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 center is in Japan, and prove to you that it’s more popular in Japan than in 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 about 16 Pokemon centers (more added all the time!) with literally anything pokemon related you could ever want…

But, if you want the biggest pokemon shop in Tokyo, Head to Ikebukuro and to ‘Pokémon Center Mega Tokyo’ inside sunshine city mall.

sunshine city japan
It’s a massive mall called Sunshine City, home to the biggest pokémon center in the world!

Pokémon Center Mega Tokyo

Address: 〒170-6002 Tokyo, Toshima City, Higashiikebukuro, 3 Chome−1−2 サンシャインシティ 専門店街アルパ 2F (Type me into google!)

The first thing you’re likely to notice about this Tokyo Pokémon store is its superb location. It’s a quick 10-minute walk from Ikebukuro station, making it easy to get to no matter where you are in the country.

Once you step inside the store you’ll be greeted by a massive pokémon statue, as well as a few of the base set characters nearby.

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 Pokémon Center Mega Tokyo!

My favorite part about all of the Pokémon centers in Japan as a whole is they have Pokémon merchandise you never knew you wanted. For instance, the first time I went there I saw Pikachu in a cute little Yukata! Who could resist?!

Aside from way more merch than you’d ever really need (or be able to pay for) the Pokémon center also features a Pikachu café. You can expect to find an entire menu of Pokémon-themed foods and drink to really immerse you in this famous franchise as much as humanly possible.

The prices seem to be pretty dam expensive but It’s not a surprise due to its 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. Nowhere on earth has such a massive supply of Pokémon-themed items! Just watch your wallet, you’re bound to spend more than you realize!

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

Pokémon Yellow gameboy game
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 of 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 its own channel (TV Tokyo) and a regular viewing each Sunday. This is something that’s happened year after 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’ subculture, in Japan, it’s far more accepted and consumed on a regular basis. You’ll find a lot of advertising, whether on or off the 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 you may just come across a game show where people are running up oiled stairs or making absolute fools of themselves. That’s still not considered “normal” tv, but game shows can definitely get weird.

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’re really looking for the ultimate guide on finding pokémon cards in Tokyo, check out that article! If not, here’s a fun little place to pop into if you’re nearby one of the stores.

If you happen to find yourself wandering around Tokyo, no doubt being bombarded with Pokémon memorabilia at every corner, where’s a solid option to buy Pokémon cards?

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 you could want.

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, 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


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 streets 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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