Pokémon (or Pocket Monsters, to use its original Japanese title) is now a worldwide phenomenon.
Whilst it recently celebrated its 20th birthday in February 2016, the franchise has expanded from video games to include a successful anime (complete with movies), trading card game, manga and of course, real life Pokémon Centres where you can buy pretty much any Poké-merchandise you could dream of.
Whilst there are now quite a few spread throughout Japan, the largest is Pokémon Centre Mega Tokyo, located in Ikebukuro’s Sunshine City Building.
Whilst Sunshine City is rather large, the way towards the store is paved with handy signs, and the escalators decked out with Pokéball lights and cute characters on the walls.
The entrance to the store itself is also something to behold - you’re greeted by the familiar yellow and blue logo, whilst a giant projected Pokéball spins lazily around. The decor, true to Japanese style, is neat, clean and very colourful. The most iconic Pokémon, Pikachu (who incidently is so popular he became the mascot for the Japanese football team for the FIFA World Cup 2014) waves from on top of a Mega Charizard statue.
Staff make sure that everything is well stocked and are very helpful. An extra fun thing to look out for are their name badges, which also feature the staff’s personal favourite Pokémon!
Even those who are only mildly acquainted with the series will be in awe. Plushies come in many sizes and types, to the delight of those whose favourite Pokémon is slightly uncommon or unusual. There is everything from clothing and accessories to practical homeware and school stationery supplies. There is an inspired range of Japanese souvenirs including tea towels, chopsticks, ‘chirimen’ fabric toys (a material used for making kimono) and bento boxes for tourists looking to take home something original.
A lot of the items for sale are seasonal; spooky items featuring Ghost Type Pokémon will be around in October for Halloween, but will be pretty much gone by November. Limited edition items can also be found, so there is a definite sense of ‘get it before it’s gone’ for the rarer products.
Pixellated products to celebrate the 20th Anniversary since the original games were released.
Every month there is also a different Pikachu plush available, usually connected to the season. Graduation Pikachu makes a sweet mascot for those finishing the school year, and Mr. & Mrs Chu. are great for a significant other. I am loving the Geisha Pikachu, with a Pokéball parasol and Ho-oh print furisode.
Mr. & Mrs. Chu, together forever!
A range of products featuring Pokemon butts!
You may also notice that the price tags are different colours. A blue tag emblazoned with “Original” can only be bought in Japan either in store or official web stores. Yellow tags mean a product is licensed, and you may find it at a store near you selling anime merchandise. Green tags often mean that all the products sporting them belongs to a set/theme, whilst red tags inform you of an item’s ‘gotochi’ (ご当地商品) status. ‘Gotochi’ are regionally limited products that feature a key aspect of that region. For example, in the smaller Pokémon Centre in Tokyo Station, there are Pikachu plushes dressed in a Tokyo Rail Uniform, and key chains with various Pokémon on Tokyo Tower.
Gazing at the sheer array of sweets, key rings, and other nik naks is not the only thing you can do. The Centre has it’s own Wi-Fi, with special events seeing you able to download your very own exclusive and legendary Pokémon through your game system. (Please note that this seems to be for Japanese consoles and games only). Periodically, there are also promotional events where you can win Poké-goodies by lottery, and gatchapod machines at the exit if you still haven't had your Pokemon fix.
If you are sad that you can’t visit, or live far away from your local Pokémon Centre, then fear not - there’s an online store that delivers anywhere in Japan, and if you spend over a certain amount, free gifts abound!
Old or young, new fan or seasoned Poké-veteran, everyone can appreciate and enjoy the Pokémon Centre!