Catch ‘Em All in Tokyo

In the Japanese capital, you don't chase Pokémon, they chase you: in malls, inside gaming arcades and at cafés where even the crockery is Pokémon-themed.  
Pokémon 1
Tokyo is home to a slew of Pokémon Centres where fans troupe down to collect merchandise, play games, eat Pokémon-themed foods, and buy another limited edition something. Photo by: The Hollywood Archive/ Dinodia Photos Library (Ash and Pikachu), Noriokanisawa/iStock /Getty Images Plus/Getty Images (background)

IMAX seats taken. Popcorn tub in hand. 3D glasses on. I’m all set for Pokémon Detective Pikachu.

But when I see (and hear) the adorably forlorn, roly-poly Pikachu singing Pokémon’s theme song on the big screen, I’m instantly transported to my Indore home, as a bespectacled little girl sitting cross-legged in front of the TV, watching a cartoon series—pardon the upcoming cliché—all nineties kids grew up watching. Beside me in the theatre, my partner is grinning non-stop. An anime devotee, he’s played the video games and traded Pokémon cards; a treasure he’ll hopefully unearth from the bowels of his room someday.

In Ryme City, where the movie is set, fiction favours Pokémon-human partnerships, of the Men In Black kind. It’s a fallacious question to ask and yet I do: Where in the real world could the two coexist?

Tokyo! Where else? I end up muttering mid-movie. Japan is where the series was birthed. The very first video game was created by Japanese genius Satoshi Tajiri in 1995, and the multimedia franchise is still co-owned by his company Game Freak, Nintendo and Creatures Inc.

With the knowledge that the film was shot in Denver, I start a fun exercise. Replacing Denver with Tokyo, I imagine Pikachu sleuthing around in alleys redolent of Ramen, gliding in and out of Tokyo’s LED-lit, ad-flashing, cloud-kissing towers. Reality, it turns out, isn’t far apart. Tokyo is home to a slew of Pokémon Centres where fans troupe down to collect merchandise, play games, eat Pokémon-themed foods, and buy another limited edition something.


Tokyo’s Akihabara district sports neon shades, and is a haven for fans of manga. Photo by: Enchantedfairy/iStock Editorial/Getty Images

Of them, the newest and Japan’s biggest, Pokémon Center Tokyo DX, in the trade district of Nihonbashi, is worth spending every (Poké) dollar in. Besides soft toys and card packs, there’s an interactive Pokédex, and at the in-house café, food and plating both are themed. Think Cheerful Pikachu Curry with a smiling Pikachu or Snorlax Hamburger Doria with a bear-shaped patty.

At the Pokémon Center Mega Tokyo in Sunshine City Alpa mall, the fire-breathing, dragon-like Charizard awaits you, while Pikachu is perched on the back of the legendary dragon Rayquaza at Pokémon Center Skytree Town, located inside world’s tallest tower. Wall-to-wall displays, latest collectibles and video games, can all be indulged in in here.

While the craze for Pokémon GO has fizzled elsewhere, the augmented reality game is still hot property in Tokyo. Shibuya and Shinjuka stations—Japan’s busiest—are good places to begin your game. Want to meet fellow trainers? Head to the recently opened P-GO Izakaya Genkinokakera in Bunkyo City. There’s even a Pokéstop and gym, so catching some (at least) is guaranteed here. Considering how I was chasing the cutesy creatures on the streets of Mumbai once, Genkinokakera is one place I’ll definitely drop in, to pick up the threads, to play again.

The other would be Akihabara—a technicoloured paradise teeming with stores selling vintage video games, comics and trading cards. Its arena is where I imagine my partner and I brushing up our gaming skills before calling it a night at a nearby izakaya, surrendering to steaming bowls of ramen and freshly plated sushi.

  • Lubna Amir is Assistant Digital Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. She travels in the search for happy places (which invariably involve a beach) and good food. When she’s not planning her next escape, you can find her curled up with a book or researching recipes.

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