“Gotta catch ’em all!”-Pokémon Tourism
Pokémon were one of my favorite things when I was a kid and was my first exposure to Japanese culture. I would religiously watch the TV show and begged my parents for the latest Pokémon games. Fun fact: Ash`s name in the original Japanese show is Satoshi, the namesake of the creator of Pokemon,Satoshi Tajiri.I also would collect and trade the cards with my friends at school.Though, I am old now, I still have a nostalgic fondness for these Pocket Monsters.Why worry about taxes and mortgages when you can make an electric mouse fight a turtle with rocket cannons coming out its shell for your amusement. While the closest we get to seeing Pokémon in real life is playing Pokémon GO( Do people even still pay that game anymore?), there are many Pokémon themed cafes,stores,and goods in Japan.
There are a chain of stores called Pokémon Centers that sells a wide of Pokémon merchandise that is not commonly sold in other stores.If you have a favorite Pokémon, you will likely be find a plush version and it`s image adorned on keychain, mugs, and so on. I have been to at least four different onex. I got my plush Lucario at the Pokémon branch in Kyoto. Each store has different Pokémon Mascots and theme and offer exclusive goods that you can only get at that branch. Most major cities in Japan will have a branch or several in case of Mega cities like Osaka and Tokyo. Some are bigger than others and there are some that are temporary pop up stores.
There is an official Pokémon café which has one branch in Nihombashi,Tokyo and another in Shinsaibashi,Osaka.All the dishes are adorably themed around Pokémon especially Pikachu. The cafes are tasteful decorated with plush and plastic version of Ash Ketchum`s Companions. Please make reservations if advance if decide to eat here.
Prefectural Pokémon Ambassadors
There are seven prefectures in Japan that have adopted Pokémon as mascots in order to encourage tourism to areas both well trodden and off the the beaten path. The seven prefectures are Hokkaido,Iwate,Miyagi,Fukushima,Tottori,Kagawa, and Miyazaki. Look out for the one of a kind manhole covers that feature the prefectural Pokémon. Each one is different and is part of project to add some much needed art and color to boring manhole covers.
Hokkaido-Aloha Vulpix and Vulpix
The main ambassadorial Pokémon of Hokkaido is the Alolan Vulpix and the deputy ambassdor is the regular Vulpix. The Alolan Vulpix is white Ice type version of Vulpix that lives in the snowy mountains. As Hokkkaido is famous for it`s mountains and cold snowy weather, it`s a perfect fit. One likely reason for the choice of Vulpix is that Hokkaido is home to the Ezo red fox.You can see the Vulpixes` image on Manhole covers(19 total), sweets, and merchandize. If you are lucky you might be able to see and meet the Vulpixes(In Mascot form) at an event.
Iwa means rock and Te means hands so it doesn`t take a detective to figure out why Geodude, a rock with arms was chosen as the prefecture ambassador for Iwate. No one knows for certain why the name of Iwate was chosen for prefecture in the first place but one theory is that it comes from the legend about villagers who worshiped three rocks as a god and one day a demon came to the village and started harrasing people. The villagers prayed to their three rock god and it defeated the demon. The three rock god made the demon put it`s hand prints on the rocks as a promise that it would never return again.The rocks and the “hand prints” can still be seen at Token-ji Temple in Morioka city,Iwate. Geodude was appointed in 2019 and has proven to be quite popular. You will likely be able to see him image in many places in Iwate if you visit.
Lapras was appointed the Miyagi support Pokémon in 2019. Lapras is a water Pokémon that basically serves as a ferry. This imagery is perfect as Miyagi has a large coast line and many islands that you can only access by ferry. Lapras is also known for it`s gentle spirit and distain for violence. This kind creature that enjoys swimming and singing while ferrying human on it`s back is an excellent choice for a prefectural Pokémon ambassador.
Chansey is a healing Pokémon that is said to bring good luck and happiness to those that encounter them. Fukushima`s name comes from fuku meaning luck and shima meaning island. Chanseys are famous for their delectable eggs that they carry around in a pouch which mirrors the fresh and delicious food and good hospitality of Fukushima. The healing Pokémon is also great fit for a prefecture that still recovering from the tragic and infamous 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami. Chansey to me is symbol of recovering and hope for a better future
Tottori-Sandshrew and Alolan Sandshrew
Tottori prefecture is famous as having the only large Sand Dune system in Japan. Tourists across Japan come to visit these dunes and maybe even ride a camel. Sandshrew is a sand loving mouse that would probably be thrilled to make the Sand Dunes its home if they were real. Sandshrew is a perfect for Tottori.
In Japanese Slowpoke‘s name is Yadon which sound similar to Kagawa`s most famous dish,Sanuki Udon. Many people across Japan travel to Kagawa just to eat some of Kagawa`s delicious Udon. Slowpoke is able to summon the rain at will and emits a sweet sap like substance from it`s tail. Kagawa is known low rates of precipitation and has traditionally made a type of sugar called Wasabon for centuries.
Miyazaki prefecture is well known for its`s sunny weather and it`s palm trees. I remember seeing many palm trees when I studied abroad in Miyazaki for a summer. The tropical like weather enables Miyazaki to grow fruits and vegetables like Mangos,kumquats, green peppers and so on. For these reasons, Exeggutor and the Alolan variety were chosen as Pokémon Ambassadors. Exeggutors and Alolan Exeguttors even more so look like palm trees and their heads resemble tropical fruit. I hope to visit Miyazaki again in the future to see Exeggutors` likeness throughout the prefecture as they were not yet made prefectural Pokémon ambassador when I was there.