Pikachu pulls in the crowd


  • A Sip Of Matcha
  • Monday, 01 Sep 2014

Talk about Pokémon and Pikachu would spring to mind.

The sky looked threatening when my husband took me out on his Scrambler one recent afternoon. We were headed for the Yokohama Sand Art exhibition in Naka ward.

While we were riding along a road in Sakuragicho at Naka ward, a prodigious inflatable Pikachu stood out from a distance.

Talk about Pokémon and Pikachu would spring to mind. According to Wikipedia, Pokémon – a romanised contraction of Poketto Monsutaa (Pocket Monsters) – is a media franchise of Nintendo, a Japanese video game company owned by The Pokémon Company.

Pikachu has become a popular mascot of Pokémon franchise. It was the official mascot for the Japanese football team in the recent FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

This short chubby rodent-like creature has yellow fur, long ears with black tips, red cheeks, brown-striped back and a big tail shaped like a lightning bolt. The female Pikachu has a heart-shaped dent at the tail’s end.

I don’t have a predilection for any anime characters nor have I ever played a Pokémon game. However, that towering Pikachu figure piqued my curiosity. “There must be something going on. Let’s take a look,” I told Koji.

A Pikachu kindergarten minibus which depicts other Pokemon characters.
A Pikachu kindergarten minibus which depicts other Pokemon characters.

After Koji parked his Scrambler at a parking lot, we walked over to see that gigantic inflatable Pikachu at Nippon Maru Memorial Park in Minato Mirai, a central business district. On our way there, we saw a humongous poster with an illustration of Pikachu, on the wall of a skyscraper.

As we proceeded, we were stopped in our tracks by an enormous inflatable Pikachu aboard Nippon Maru – a museum ship docked at Yokohama Harbour within Nippon Maru Memorial Park. The ship, decked with Pikachu flags and decorations, drew passers-by who stopped to take photos.

Upon approaching the jumbo Pikachu sitting on the pavement of the park, I discovered that it was a bounce house. It was only for children of elementary school age and below.

The sky then unleashed a downpour. We ran for cover, but I stopped to take a quick snapshot when I caught sight of some female promoters dressed in eye-catching Pikachu-themed costumes.

We were drenched when we reached the Sand Art exhibition held inside a huge tent. After spending more than an hour there, the sky cleared up.

On our way back, we witnessed a crowd-puller on the main square in front of Sakurgicho JR station. It was Pikachu again! Event staff members were distributing leaflets and paper visors. No wonder children and even adults were donning Pikachu visors in the vicinity.

Cameras clicked away at a Pikachu mascot and a Pikachu kindergarten minibus displayed there.

As Pikachu wobbled, hopped and skipped, spectators cried out: “Kawaii (cute)!” Pikachu was incredibly adorable, for a kid kept hugging it tightly. Many children went forward to pose for pictures or have a feel of Pikachu’s pillowy costume.

Before that mascot retired to a tent, a female one turned up at the spot, drawing attention again. When it finally waved goodbye and headed towards the tent, several kids looked disappointed.

“Pikachu needs to take a rest,” one mother comforted her child.

We left for home. And by the time I read the leaflet, the event, Pikachu Tairyou Hassei Chu (Massive Pikachu Outbreak), which ran from Aug 9-17 at Minato Mirai, was already over.

The leaflet’s front page illustrated numerous Pikachu sightings at various locations. Special Pikachu events were held at Pacifico Yokohama, Mark IS Minatomirai shopping centre, Red Brick Warehouse, Cosmo World, the Restaurant Ship “Royal Wing”, Nippon Maru Memorial Park, and Landmark Tower.

The event’s website publicised that 1,000 Pikachu would appear at Minato Mirai over the nine-day event. Pikachu parades, stage shows, 3D projection mapping, games, workshops, stalls, a Pikachu summer festival, a Pikachu café, boat cruise, and other attractions would be featured.

During the event period, there were Pikachu embellishments at designated sites and exclusive giveaways. Yokohama Marine Tower was lit up in yellow – Pikachu’s colour – at night from Aug 11-13.

After encountering the sweet-looking Pikachu mascots, I would love to have a Pikachu plush toy to hug!

> Sarah Mori, a Malaysian married to a Japanese, resides in Japan.

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