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"I Choose You!" An Introduction to Japan's Prefecture Pokémon

©The Pokémon Company


Ask any millennial about their childhood or teenage years and you'll no doubt find most held one franchise exceptionally close to their heart: Pokémon. Pokémon's famous call to "catch 'em all" has resonated with Pokémon trainers from across the globe—including yours truly—since its inception in 1996; even today an incalculable number of video games, trading cards, toys, manga, films and animated TV episodes continue to guide trainers on their quest to catch an ever-growing number of Pokémon.

Arguably Japan's biggest pop culture export, Pokémon has played a huge part in attracting foreign fans to Japan's shores; merchandise-filled Pokémon Centre stores and a real-life Kanto region and Palette Town are just some of the Poké-pilgrimage sites located in Japan. But in more recent years Pokémon has stepped up its domestic efforts to promote travel to Japan's least-visited or disaster affected regions with exclusive Pokémon GO events and, get this, official Pokémon tourist ambassadors! Join us as we introduce the Pokémon pals that have joined forces with Japan's prefectures so far!

Sandshrew #027 x Tottori Prefecture

©Tottori Prefecture

According to the Pokédex, "Sandshrew's body is configured to absorb water without waste, enabling it to survive in an arid desert"; fortunate therefore that Tottori Prefecture's famous sand dunes pose no threat to Sandshrew!

After a successful first appearance in Pokémon GO in November 2017 when it drew crowds of 89,000 to this quiet corner of Japan, Sandshrew and its Alolan cousin were officially appointed as Tottori Prefecture's temporary official ambassadors from late-December last year to mid-January this year. Just like last time, the cute pangolin Pokémon did a great job in bringing people to Tottori from across Japan by appearing, quite literally, at stamp rallies and releasing exclusive merchandise. 

Tottori’s governor Hirai Shinji had announced Sandshrew's official appointment with plenty of Pokémon puns, announcing "Nido, sando oide kudasai!". While the literal translation from Japanese means “visit us two or even three times!” it also incoporates Sandshrew’s Japanese name, "Sando", imploring the character to return. Well, this having been Sandshrew's second official appearance in Tottori Prefecture, perhaps we can take Governor Hirai at his word and expect a third appearance?!

Vulpix #037 x Hokkaido

©The Pokémon Company

Next up is Vulpix, Hokkaido's adorable Pokémon of choice. Given Hokkaido is home to the Ezo Red Fox and is more often than not associated with thick white snow, it's perhaps no surprise that Vulpix and Hokkaido are joining forces. 

However, much like Sandshrew and Tottori Prefecture, Vulpix is unfortunately not yet a permanent ambassador for Hokkaido. That said, with the revitalisation of Hokkaido in the wake of the 2018 earthquake at its heart, The Pokémon Company and Hokkaido Government did hold an official ceremony last October pledging future collaboration. This commitment was swiftly followed up earlier this year during the annual Sapporo Snow Festival when snow sculptures of Vulpix and its Alolan cousin made their debut - a precursor of even more to come? We sincerely hope so!

Geodude #074 x Iwate Prefecture

Geodude isn't exactly the coolest or strongest Pokémon out there, but that didn't stop Iwate Prefecture from appointing the rock-type Pokémon as its official tourism ambassador for the foreseeable future earlier this May! You see, Iwate is a combination of the words for stone (岩, iwa) and hands (手, te) and, well, just look at Geodude; it's a literal match made in heaven. 

Nomenclature aside, the partnership with Geodude is just what Iwate needs: not only does Iwate have the lowest population density of any prefecture outside Hokkaido, but it was also one of the Tohoku region's worst affected areas as a result of the Great East Japan Earthquake back in 2011. We expect Geodude will do a great job in bringing people to this quiet but beautiful corner of Japan; after all, that's one more Pokémon for you to catch and even more exclusive stash and events to look forward to!

Slowpoke #079 x Kagawa Prefecture

Remember last year when an April Fools' joke featuring Slowpoke ("Yadon" in Japanese) in Udon-ken (the nickname for udon-crazy Kagawa Prefecture in Shikoku) turned into an official two and a half week-long collaboration between the two parties? Well, dopey Slowpoke has once again teamed up with Kagawa for Slowpoke Paradise 2019! What's more, Slowpoke will be sticking around until the end of next January - "YAAAS" says Slowpoke!

Much like last year's campaign, Slowpoke Paradise 2019 will feature a stamp rally event with exclusive prizes, and, of course, a boatload of limited-edition Slowpoke x Udon-ken merch; new additions however include the Slowpoke One Day Travel Pass for Kotoden trains in Kagawa Prefecture, and Slowpoke Face Panels across the prefecture for you to take some funny snapshots with - think of them as a clumsy but cute filter!

Chansey #113 x Fukushima Prefecture

Say hello to Chansey, Fukushima Prefecture's first official Pokémon ambassador! Given that Fukushima is a combination of the words for luck (福, luck) and island (島, shima), it's no wonder that Chansey ("Lucky" in Japanese) is the Pokémon tasked with promoting the prefecture to the rest of Japan and beyond.

Fukushima is still reeling from devastation caused by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and the consequent nuclear disaster, so it's imperative that Chansey works hard to promote Fukushima's many charms and bring in tourists from far and wide: for one, Chansey's pink hue matches that of Fukushima's famous peaches!

Chansey will take part in a number of events until the end of October including stamp rallies, the sale of exclusive Chansey x Fukushima merch and donation drives for disaster victims amongst other things. Be sure to catch as many Chansey as you can on Pokémon GO when in Fukushima Prefecture before the pink bundle of joy skedaddles on 4th August!

Lapras #131 x Miyagi Prefecture

Lovable Lapras is the last of our Prefecture Pokémon, having recently been appointed the official tourism ambassador of Tohoku's Miyagi Prefecture! Lapras will be at the forefront of promoting Miyagi's charms such as snowy Zao, Matsushima Bay and the famous cat island of Tashirojima until next March.

Much like neighbouring Iwate Prefecture, Miyagi was greatly affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and, as result, equally in need of a resilient and optimistic ambassador such as Lapras to navigate the waters of the tourism world. Who better for the job?

Well, Lapras does boast prior experience, having made an appearance in Miyagi on Pokémon GO soon after the game's release in a bid to drive up visitors to the prefecture from across Japan. This time however, Lapras will be, quite literally, in its element as it features in a number of aquatic activities and events: Lapras-themed (and Lapras-shaped!) pedal boats are now available at Miyagi's Michinoku Park, as well as the Hanayama Aoshonen Ryokoumura camping grounds from 3rd August; and inflatable Lapras swim toys will be available at 16 public swimming pools across Miyagi, including at Akiuo Onsen. And if that wasn't exciting enough, more Lapras-themed attractions are planned from October 2019 - Lapras, take us to Miyagi!


Looking for other anime-worthy locations to bring back the nostalgia? We went through each region of Japan from north to south and matched them up with the Studio Ghibli films that they have inspired here.


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