I have a post in the works about the Narita drum festival, but in the meantime, let’s talk about the Pokémon Center in Tokyo.
That’s a place I went.
I’ve loved Pokémon ever since I was a little girl; in fact, I can’t really imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t gotten into Pokémon. Pokémon led me to anime, and anime led me to studying Japanese, which is why I’m here. So really, if it hadn’t been for the Pokémon craze of the 90s, I probably wouldn’t be here right now. Even all these years later, I’m still just crazy about Pokemon. I’ve played every [main series] game, and I have a sizable collection of Pokémon toys that I’ve gradually amassed since my childhood. Visiting the Pokémon Center–a store dedicated entirely to Pokémon merchandise–was an absolute must.
In hindsight, we probably didn’t go the most direct or cost-effective way (you shouldn’t always trust google maps, or your own intuition for that matter), but it took us about an hour to get there. Although the station we got off at was big and confusing, the Pokémon Center had prepared well–signs with Pikachu on them pointed the way at every turn, leading us to the north exit of the station. We walked outside, but the signage ended there; if it wasn’t for a friend who’d been there before, we probably would’ve kept on walking.
The entrance was on the second floor, marked by huge pictures of Pokémon smiling from the windows and a big english logo for Pokémon. Inside we were greeted by gashapon machines, a setup advertising the newest Pokémon game, and an employee telling us about the display of life-size Pokéball capsules–buy a Pokéball for 500 yen and find a random Pokémon inside. I didn’t want to take my chances, so I walked past the little display and made a beeline for the figurine corner.
All in all, we spent about an hour perusing the various displays, comparing merchandise, and making sure that we’d inspected every corner of every shelf. I made a considerable pile of things I planned to purchase for myself, and an equally formidable pile of things I wanted to get for friends. I tried not to buy too much in one go, mostly because I get awful buyers’ remorse sometimes, but also because I know that I’ll be back here again when my parents and brother fly out to Japan at the end of the program. A picture of my self-indulgent purchases can be found below, while the gifts for friends were wrapped and stowed in my ever-growing gift pile. In all I spent about $55, and I regret nothing.
The Pokémon Center both met and didn’t meet my expectations. In many ways, it was exactly as I’d imagined/inferred from pictures: it was, true to form, a store dedicated entirely to Pokémon. It sold every kind of merchandise imaginable, and even some merchandise I never would have thought of. There were Pokémon figurines, plush dolls, and trading cards, of course, but also notebooks, clear files, phone charms, wallets, pens, wrist watches, chopsticks, kitchenware, child-sized desks, tins full of chocolates and cookies, “rare candies” based on in-game candy, designer plush dolls, and even socks–all plastered with cute or popular Pokémon characters. There were more kinds of merchandise than I can probably recall off the top of my head. So in that vein, it exceeded expectations: I had no idea of the sheer variety of merchandise the store would contain. Pokémon has the horizontal aspect covered–the store offers products that fans of any age would enjoy.
However, the store lacked a bit in character variety. Pikachu was to be expected, and the store seemed to be having a promotion related to the Eevee line. Many of the other offerings had either to do with the new movie, the recent games, or the 5th generation in general. I had expected as much; a store that offers something so specific ought to change its lineup to reflect the current developments in the franchise. But even fairly recent characters from the franchise were nowhere in sight, even with some older characters that had been popular in their day joining the new Pokémon. The Tomy figurines offered slightly more cross-generational variety, but not much (though I was at least able to find my top favorite Pokémon, Swampert, among them). Part of me lamented the lack of representation for a recent movie star, Cobalion, even with its co-star Keldeo still lining the shelves. I’ll have to keep looking around for the cute Cobalion doll of my dreams (it exists), but I at least managed to find a durable figurine version.
Despite the shortcomings in character variety, I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of merchandise offered for human characters. I hadn’t been expecting much for the humans in the first place, and though there was little merchandise for them, it was better than nothing. There seemed to be a sizable market for one of my favorite characters, which made me happy although I didn’t buy anything with him on it (well, for myself, anyway).
The Pokémon Center was an incredibly fun experience, despite its shortcomings, and I highly recommend it for anyone who likes Pokémon. Even casual fans, or fans who think they’re too old for plushies or toys, might find something they like there. Even if you’re not a fan of Pokémon (why are you reading this post?) it’s a great place to find gifts for the Pokémon fans in your life.
Basically what I’m saying is you should go there. Okay. Yes.
“There’s no end to Pokémon. That’s what I’m saying, <player name>.” – Rival, Pokémon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Lauren Fellows is a Japanese major, geology minor studying at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. She hails from Boulder, Colorado, and is glad to be going to school in a place with both mountains and a water feature (the weather, however, leaves something to be desired). Lauren is a huge dork who loves drawing, watching anime, writing stories, and taking pictures of toys when she isn’t spending long hours training to beat the Elite Four in the latest Pokémon game. She’s ventured to a few places outside the United States, most notably France and Israel, but this is her first time in Japan and she is SUPER EXCITED. While in Japan she plans to make friends from near and far, experience anime culture in its natural habitat, and explore an urban jungle unlike anywhere she's ever been before. The adventure of a lifetime is just over the horizon!</span></p>