So, I’ve done a Japan trip two summers in a row now, and the first time I got a request passed to me from one of my wife’s co-workers. She wanted some Japanese Pokemon cards for her 5 year old son.
These weren’t that hard to find, so I picked him up two packs of trading cards and passed them to him through my wife. I heard back that he’d liked them a lot.
This year, I was sitting in the hotel on a Sunday morning watching morning TV programs and getting ready to head out to Comiket.
“Pokemon Sunday” came on. This seems to be a live action variety show featuring bouncy, energetic hosts and the voices of assorted Pokemon. I really can’t tell you more than that – I am not familiar with the series. Let me put it this way – I can, 9 times out of 10, accurately identify Pikachu.
However, it was kind of fun to watch in a “I have no idea what’s going on, but man, those Japanese are good at getting their merchandising hooks into kids” way.
The first half of it seemed to be a presentation about the Tokyo Pokemon Center and all the stuff you could buy there. Oh, and also you could trade Pokemon with people. But mostly it was “Hey, look at all the cool stuff you can buy and how it ties into the new movie.”
At the end of the sales pitch program, they gave directions to the place, and I was a bit shocked to realize that it was apparently a 2 minute walk from the same train station I was taking to go everywhere else in Tokyo. With it being that close, I decided that I would check it out and – here’s the justification – I’d get my wife’s coworker’s kid some new Pokemon stuff, since I’d just watched a presentation on what the new hot stuff was and in theory I’d be helping him trump American first graders by having that stuff before they did.
So: Plan of attack. I stopped preparing for Comiket and walked over to the station. Then I picked the first small child I saw:
And I followed him and his father. I figured this was the easiest way to actually find the place.
They led me right to it, just before the doors opened. The line wasn’t too bad – I was maybe the 50th person in line. The rest of the line was entirely made up of small children and their parents. I felt a bit, I don’t know, conspicuous.
Inside was, um, a bit mad. I didn’t want to look too creepy, so I didn’t take photos, but it was a sea of kids dragging their parents from display to display.
I picked up about 3000 yen worth of trinkets – a couple of packs of the latest trading card series, a “Monster Ball” pokeball full of, I am sure, yummy candy, and a couple of pins. I figured, well, I’m here, I’ll get a pin for myself and one for this kid.
Then I fought my way to the cash registers – they put everything in a nice green Pokemon Center bag with a turtle-looking thing on it and added some free stickers – paid, and ran, not quite screaming. I found it kind of interesting that the Pokemon Center accepts Suica as a payment method. This is basically like being able to use your bus pass to buy stuff. If Japanese kids didn’t ride the train for free, I suspect that a lot of them would be blowing the month’s bus money at this place.
I got back to this fine country, took my pin out of the bag, and handed the rest to my wife with instructions to deliver it.
A few days later, I got this back. Apparently, while he had to ask his mom for help with spelling, the idea to write it and all the words were his own. I’m a bitter, cynical guy a lot of the time, but I found it cute enough to share with you all.
So – side benefit to my latest crazy trip to Japan: I made a kid’s day. I like that.