If you grew up in England in the mid to late 1990s, then there’s a bloody good chance you were a Pokemon fanatic. I remember having both the Red and Yellow games (exactly the same, apart from the latter allowed you to start with Pikachu as your first Pokemon!) for my GameBoy as well as hundreds of cards which I’d spend my hard-earned/gifted pocket money on.
I’m fairly sure the ‘Beanie Baby shop’ in Todmorden was inundated with kids on a weekly basis buying as many packs as their allowance could afford. As a matter of fact, I still have my collection gathering dust somewhere back in England. They’ll be worth sumat some day, I tell you.
A question I am regularly asked (no, seriously) from people back home is whether there’s a load of Pokemon stuff just knocking about in Tokyo. It’s hard to believe that it’s actually 20 years old and, perhaps unsurprisingly, Japan has moved on somewhat with new animes and trends so there’s probably not as much Pokemon tat hanging around the city as people may expect. However if – like me – you’re not really one for all that manga and anime stuff, then the first animation that springs to mind when Japan is mentioned will no doubt be Pokemon.
Despite living in Tokyo for almost a year now, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago I actually paid a visit to the ‘Pokemon Mega Centre’. I know, crazy…right? What with it being all ‘mega’ and that! How could I possibly resist?!
The Mega Centre is located in Ikebukuro’s ‘Sunshine City’ which, on this particularly cloudy and wet May afternoon looked slightly more sinister and threatening than its name suggests.
One thing to note is that Sunshine City is one of those buildings where half of it seems to be an office block, and half of it is a shopping centre. I happened to take an office entrance and thought I may have accidentally stumbled into the Japanese equivalent of Scotland Yard but after following a few signs and with the assistance of my old pal Google Maps I soon found my way into the shopping area.
When you reach the second floor of Sunshine City it’s quite hard to miss the huge ‘POKEMON’ sign and numerous (massive) pictures of various creatures such as Charizard, Blastoise and all those fellas.
Although I’d done my research before, I do feel it’s quite misleading to call it a ‘Mega Centre’ when in reality, it’s nothing more than an overpriced merchandise shop. An impressively large merchandise shop at that, but still just a shop nonetheless. I’m aware that the phrase ‘Mega Centre’ doesn’t have any sort of dictionary definition, but if I didn’t know anything about it I’d be assuming there’s at least some opportunities to play games in there or some other form of interactive Pokemon paraphernalia.
That said, you can pick up your essential Pikachu thermometers and tissues here, so it’s not a completely wasted journey.
On a rainy Tuesday afternoon, a time when most of the locals are at work (except us eikaiwa teachers – what’s a ‘real’ weekend?), it was perhaps a little unsurprising to see that the store was filled largely with tourists and westerners. Then again, I have some students who work six or seven days a week for 12 or more hours a day, so I imagine it’s more of the same on a weekend!
My theory that Japan has moved on from Pokemon was also backed up by the fact that there wasn’t a single child in the store! Just people in their 20s and 30s, desperate for a glimpse back in time to their childhood. I’m sure there’ll be some interesting looks when some of their suitcases get scanned at the airport.
Needless to say, I didn’t buy anything (really, did you expect anything else?) but certainly managed to make good use of our time there by taking photos of and with just about everything I found.
It’s not quite the interactive Eureka-esque (niche reference there for the Yorkshire readers!) childhood dream that the name may suggest, but if you were a fan of Pokemon and fancy a trip down memory lane then this place is well worth a few minutes of your time.