With the recent popularity of the Pokemon Go mobile phone app, the Pokemon franchise has brought itself back into the mainstream light.Though it has been in the hearts and minds of western fans since its 90’s release, it has largely been set aside for hardcore fans and kids. However, in Japan, the Pokemon fever never died down. The demand for anything Pokemon related is so large that brick and mortar spaces for these items have been erected in Japan. These poke centers are, a name suggests, the center from which everything Pokemon related can be purchased. Though the world has slowly begun to shift to online buying and shipping of goods, these physical spaces provide buyers with the same experience as a child going in a candy shop.
A Pokecenter, also known as a PMC or Pokesen, is a common sight within all the Pokemon games. It is a building which provides many services to the players and their Pokemon. Everything from patching up battle wounds and connecting players, the poke center is the hub for many important in-game features. It is also the origins of the popular character Nurse Joy, who has been part of the franchise since the first two games. Much like its in-game counterpart, real life poke centers provide fans with their much needed Pokemon goods.
Currently, pokecenters are found in eleven locations - Tokyo, Oshiage, Tohoku, Sapporo, Chiba, Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Gotemba, and Fukuoka. Each of these locations are visited by fans as they have location-specific merchandise which cannot be bought anywhere else. In fact, these original Pokemon items are the most sought after merchandise for the fans. For Pokemon fans visiting Japan, the poke center is the place to be.
So what can one expect when visiting a poke center? First off, these poke centers are often adorned with many Pokemon decorations. Some of these centers even have very large statues of iconic Pokemon such as the ever popular Pikachu. There are even some statues of multiple Pokemon interacting with each other such as a statue of Pikachu straddling the back of Mega Charizard Y, which are the exclusive mascot pair for the Ikebukuro poke center branch. While these statues are often the first to greet visitors to the poke center, it is the merchandise which brought them there in the first place.
Within the store, there are a wide variety of Pokemon goodies which will tickle the fancy of any Pokemon fan, young or old. The sheer number of items being sold might confuse others so it is imperative that one knows what to expect to see beforehand. The following is a list item which can generally be found across all poke centers in Japan.
Who wouldn’t love to have a snack decorated with their favorite pocket monster? Pokecenters across Japan feature a diverse range of sweets and snacks all in the theme of Pokemon.These are in fact the cheapest items that one can buy within the shop and are often bought in multitudes to be given away as gifts. Examples of this are bags of gummy candies whose taste is said to evolve as one eats them. Costing only 120 yen. There are also hard candies which are cased in tin cans that have gorgeous Pokemon themed designs that can be reused once empty. There are also traditional Japanese snacks that have been adapted to the Pokemon theme. You will find nori seaweed sheets that are cut into the shape of Pokemon characters, furikake, and matcha cookies in the shape of Pikachu.
Accessories are abundant in poke centers as everything from simple keychains to Mobile Phone cases are sold here. Small trinkets, charms, and keychains can be found scattered throughout the store and are perfect for those who want to carry their favorite Pokemon around with them at all times. Mobile phones can also be dressed up with Pokemon designs as poke centers carry covers and accessories that fit a wide range of phone models. One of the most popular designs are the Maiko Pikachu cases which are only available in the Kyoto poke center.
The poke centers often have whole sections dedicated to Pokemon gacha. For a small price, one can test their luck at these machines and receive a Pokeball with a random toy within them. These machines are called Poke Deru Gacha 2.0 and are made by Takara Tomy.
Aside from the actual Pokemon video game, the franchise has also found success in its trading card game. The poke center is arguably one of the best places to buy these as they are one of the first shops in the world to receive new releases. However one must be quick to decide when buying cards here as customers often buy multiple boxes of these cards. The value in buying these cards have also seen an increase in popularity especially since collectors are now paying thousands of dollars for rare Pokemon cards, with the most expensive being the Illustrator Pikachu being sold at 10,000 US Dollars.
The wide range of Pokemon merchandise allows customers to bring their love for Pokemon with them at all times, even at work! With the adorable Pokemon stationary, one can bring Pikachu to school or even to the workplace. The s=poke centers have everything from pens, pencils, and notebooks to stamps, post-its, and sticky tape.
An offshoot of Lego blocks, Nanoblocks are made for those who want to create 3D art that fits in the palm of one's hand. The most famous of the nanoblocks are the Pokemon line, which is sold in all poke centers. To date, there have been many pokemon that are available as nanoblocks.
It might come as a surprise when one sees household goods in a pokecenter. From pillows to tableware, these shops will make sure that you bring your pokemon obsession to every part of your household. One may buy cups, bowls, and ceramic plaltes that are adorned with only the most popular of pokemon characters.
Collectible Plush Toys and Figurines
By far the most sought after piece of merchandise, collectibles are often sold out immediately upon release and stocks are not given sufficient time to become old. Everything from plushies to vinyl figurines, the poke center sells many items perfect for display.
If one still hasn’t noticed, these Pokemon centers really try and make their customers show off their love for Pokemon. Nothing screams being a pokefanatic than wearing a Pikachu sweatshirt or a Charizard cap. Pokecenters sell multitudes of clothing which showcase many Pokemon designs. One can also buy fashion accessories such as rings, necklaces, and watches in the store.
Seasonal Pokemon Merchandise
Seasonal merchandise is definitely something to look out for when visiting these stores as they are often limited releases and will not be produced again. Examples of this would be during Easter 2016, their Easter-egg themed collections seemed to fly off the shelf as customers would snatch up whatever they could from this release. One definitely must take note of the yearly seasonal cycle for the exclusive merchandise. Winter is from December to February, Spring is from March to May, Summer is from June to August, and Autumn is from September to November.
The Biggest Pokecenter in Japan is in Tokyo
Tokyo is home to the three most popular poke centers in the nation. The number of Pokemon fans visiting this city is evident in the sales of these shops as they are able to co-exist with each other.
The first poke center would be the Tokyo Character Street Pokemon Store. Found underneath the Tokyo Station, is the Tokyo Character Street shopping area. This is home to many stores that are dedicated to selling character and franchise-specific merchandise. Of the three poke centers, this is the smallest but due to its location, it is also one of the busiest. Getting it is so easy that a map isn’t even needed. One just needs to head on over to Tokyo Station and exit via the JR Yaesu Underground Central Exit. This will lead to a long strip of boutique shops. One must then follow the signs for Character Street. It is right next to the Tamagotchi Store. The main highlight of this store would be to grab the exclusive Pikachu plushie that is only available here. This Pikachu is special because it is wearing the Tokyo Station uniform. There was also a limited release of the businessman Pikachu, complete with the suit, tie, glasses, and suitcase.
The second poke center would be the Mega Tokyo Pokemon Center. This is undoubtedly the largest Pokemon center in Japan and one can find most of the merchandise here. One will most definitely spend a lot of money buying goodies in this store. Accessing this poke center is a bit more difficult than the previous store as one has to head on over to Ikebukuro Station. This can be done by taking the Marunouchi Line from Tokyo Station. Upon arriving, take the East Exit and head towards Green Street. From there take a left onto Sunshine 60 Street and keep going until one reaches the Sunshine 60 building across a Tokyu Hands store. Enter Sunshine City and just head up the elevators and look for the Pikachu signages pointing to the poke center. This is the store whose mascot is a Pikachu riding a Mega Charizard Y. The giant statue of the mascot pair is definitely photoworthy, as is the rest of the store. There are multitudes of plushies and merchandise featuring this duo. Another reason for visiting this branch would be that season specific items are often fully stocked here and are less likely to run out.
The last poke center would be the Tokyo-Bay Pokemon Center. Though it is technically not located within the city of Tokyo, it is already within Chiba, this poke center is a mere 40 minutes away from Tokyo Station and is not difficult to get to. The easiest way to get here would be to go to Funabashikeibajo Station by taking the Keiyo Line, the same line one takes to get to Tokyo Game Show, from Tokyo Station. At the Funabashikeibajo Station, one must just follow the signs pointing to LaLaport Tokyo Bay. This is a giant shopping plaza with over 440 stores. After a few minutes of walking one must then enter the LaLaport Building and head on over to the second floor. You will know when you are close by when rows of Pokemon gacha machines are seen. A word of warning, it is best to make sure that the sun will be out during a visit here as the roads are not covered and rain might impede one’s journey. The main highlight of this store is that the Tokyo-Bay Pokecenter features Inkay, a squid-like Pokemon from Generation X and Y. This is unique as most poke centers feature Pikachu alongside the starter Pokemon from each generation. This store also has multitudes of plushies and fashion accessories. Examples of which are soft plushies of Pikachu in a Charizard costume and Shirts with Inkay on them. The opening hours for this store is 10 AM to 8 PM.
A visit to any of the above poke centers would definitely leave a hole in one’s wallet but most people will say that it is most definitely worth the trip. By bringing in the magic that one felt in the game to the real world, the creative geniuses behind Pokemon have cemented themselves and the franchise in the popular culture of Japan. It is no wonder the lines at these stores are often very long. It is always a good idea for international visitors to make sure that they have their credit cards on hand as one can easily burn through all their cash in one of these stores. For those who are unable to visit any of these stores, do not fret as there is a small Pokemon outlet shop at the Narita airport.