Pokémon Centers are real and they are amazing! There are 8 in existence in various locations around Japan. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to heal your Pokémon in a futuristic beeping machine while you furiously press A over and over again. Pokémon Centers are in reality retail stores that have one purpose: to sell you Pokémon merchandise that you didn't even know you needed. These stores are MUST sees for any Pokémon trainer who visits Japan.
We’ve all been to Toys ‘R’ Us and seen the Pokémon card sets and action figures they offer for sale but the Pokémon Centers go so far above and beyond in terms of range of merchandise. From the usual cards, action figures and school supplies to a wide and constantly rotating selection of plushies, cell phone cases, apparel, household goods and food products. If you can think of it, they probably have it with a Pikachu slapped on the side. Coffee mugs? Check. Computer mice? Check. Yeah, well…what about macaroni?
A special Pikachu created for the Osaka Pokemon Center’s 10th Anniversary.
Protective card sleeves in many designs.
Pokemon themed snacks to buy and give to friends and family as souvenirs.
They even have books on how to construct Pokemon-themed bento boxes.
Adorable Pokemon school supplies.
A set of mugs where the Pikachu male and female tails make up the handles.
Pikachu chocolate coins! Why not?
Male and Female Pikachu tail keychains.
Vegetarian, I hope.
We bought these, and I was terrible at them.
Pokemon Center Osaka’s Mascots.
Yes, Japan has these things too.
Even the Escalators get the Pokemon Treatment.
The ball. It beckons to me.
A way to keep your starter close to you at all times.
In case your luggage isn’t cute enough.
The plush selection is regularly updated with new Pokemon.
Take us hoooome!
Giant inflatable Pokeballs? We must be in the right place!
Have you ever seen a cuter Snorlax?
Each Pokemon Center has 3 different Pokemon Mascots. One of them is always Pikachu.
So many socks.
Exclusive merchandise only available in Fukuoka!
Adorable tiny mice for laptops.
Are you overwhelmed with cuteness? Take a breath. It’s going to be okay.
Besides the delightful merchandise, the Pokémon Centers also regularly hold special events for holidays, new game and movie releases, and sometimes just because. Typically there are games set up where children can play for prizes. Sometimes one of the store workers will come out in full Pokémon costume for photo ops.
The entrance archway to a special events games area, where children can play to win prizes.
Japanese children play "Pokemon Swimming" by stomping on mats and making their characters race each other on the giant screen.
Having myself lived in Japan and having been a Pokémon fan for over a decade, it became my mission to visit as many of these shops as possible. So far on my travels I’ve only been to four out of eight of them: Osaka, Tokyo, Yokohama and Fukuoka. The others are located in Sapporo, Tohoku, Nagoya, and the newest location, Tokyo-Bay, which opened on November 22, 2013. For addresses and access maps to each of the locations, consult the Japanese Pokemon Center semi-English website: http://www.pokemon.co.jp/gp/pokecen/english/
But for Japanese residents, 8 locations simply isn’t enough. The official Amazon Pokemon Store fulfills the need for licensed Pokémon merchandise, shipped directly to your (Japanese) door. If you’re crazy desperate to get your hands on some of these Japan-only Pokémon goods, you could try using a shipping fulfillment website like Tenso, OPAS, or Danke Box . For a fee, these websites provide you with a Japanese address to ship to, and then forward the packages to your U.S. address. Alternatively, there is Pokevault.com which offers these items direct to you with a price markup. I can’t say which option is best, nor can I vouch for any of these sites as I have not used them myself.
What about if you're unable to get to Japan in the near future? Well, there still may be an option for you to get your hands on some officially cool Pokémon merchandise. The Pokémon Company International operates a few mall mall kiosks in the Seattle area of Washington state. There is also a section of the Nintendo World Store devoted to Pokémon merchandise.
I'm going to close this article with a mention of my most-prized Pokémon Center possession. Magikarp has always had a special place in my heart, and in April of 2013 a special limited-time over-sized shiny golden Magikarp plush was released. I found it at the Pokémon Center in Osaka, but didn't buy it. It was around $100, and too large to carry home on the train. I hemmed and hawed for a few days, but finally decided to order it online. The Magikarp salesman got me, but I couldn't be happier.
Giant shiny Magikarp, human for scale.
I just hope it doesn't evolve into Gyarados. I simply don't have the space!