The Pokemon franchise has been huge internationally since the late 90’s, but were you aware that in Japan there is a shop just for Pokemon called the Pokemon Center? There isn’t only one shop either, there is a chain of stores throughout the country, and mini stores in airports and train stations. They sell a huge variety of goods, and it’s not all for children.
Last year saw the opening of the biggest store, the Mega Tokyo Pokemon Center which is now the second branch in Tokyo. It celebrated a new type of Pokemon that ‘mega-evolve’ in the game (hence the name). The other 8 shops are smaller, but all celebrated the opening of the biggest yet by selling Pikachu, the brand’s mascot Pokemon, in the outfit of the ‘mega’ Pokemon called Charizard Y.
New goods are announced each Friday on the Japanese Pokemon website, and they can be anything from a huge themed release, or collaborative items with other companies. Previous collaborations have been with Harris Tweed, Seiko, Uniqlo, and 9FIVE.
These places aren’t limited to just being a shop, but also hold events in-store where they give out prizes for mini-games like bingo, host competitions for Pokemon Battles and exclusive downloads for anyone who has their Nintendo DS on them, and have game units for the latest arcade games. The most recent of those being Pokken, the Pokemon/Tekken crossover game.
One thing of note about the chain is that they also raise money for Pokemon with You, a charity run by volunteers involved in the Pokemon company who hold events and support groups for children affected by the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake.
The stores are very popular with tourists who go to buy the limited rarities, as the stores are only in Japan and have no online shop to order internationally from. This makes a journey there more worthwhile and anything you buy there extra special, especially for long time lovers of the franchise. If you have friends who love the series and know you are visiting, you can expect them to plead with you to pick up something branded with the store name, such as the pin badges that say Osaka or Tokyo on them. The staff accommodate tourists very well, with a few English speaking staff in the store and offering you extra carrier bags for if you want to take them home as little gifts.