This Community-Building Project Is Aimed to Use Pokemon for Tourism in Japan

This is their way of forming a stronger bond within the community.

Pokemon is becoming more than just our favorite characters on screen. Our favorite Pokemon characters are beginning to form strong links with the community. Miyagi Prefecture started the Lapras Plus Miyagi Touring last October 2019 featuring the Pokemon named Lapras in this touring campaign. Back in May 2019, Geodude took up a post as Iwater Supporter Pokemon, and the press conference was a popular topic on social networking sites. These Supporter Pokemons that appeared in 6 different prefectures are part of the Pokemon Local Acts, an activity in which The Pokemon Company communicates and showcases the attractive and interesting cultures of the regions inside and outside of Japan. 

Pokemon has always been known worldwide across the globe even on its 23rd year. But this time, our favorite characters are now working on reaching out to the community locally. From the stories of
Koji Tamura, Akiko Tsuda, and Keita Imamura, who are the ones working behind the Pokemon Local Acts in The Pokemon Company (Pokemon Company), we can definitely see a new form of collaboration that will make a strong link between Pokemon and the local community.

Koji Tamura
(left), Akiko Tsuda (middle), and Keita Imamura (right), of The Pokemon Company.

800 Slowpokes run away from ‘Udon Prefecture’

Hariko Slowpoke
, Hariko (paper tiger) is designed in the prefecture as decorations for the Boy’s day festival in the shape of the famous Pokemon, Slowpoke.

The Pokemon Local Acts first started in 2018. Each prefecture collaborated with Pokemon to make an effort to promote and boost local tourism by having Supporter Pokemon in many areas such as Pokemons being present in events, stamp rallies, collaboration goods, and appearance on the smartphone app,
Pokemon Go

In October 2019,
Slowpoke of Kagawa Prefecture, Alolan Vulpix and Vulpix of Hokkaido, Sandshrew and Alolan Sandshrew of Tottori Prefecture, Chansey of Fukushima Prefecture, Geodude of Iwate Prefecture, and Lapras of Miyagi Prefecture were each selected as Supporter Pokemons.

Before this activity started, there were already a few activities that the Pokemon Company has been working on. One of which was a feature project in Pokemon website, the
Pokemon Fans Club.

In December 2018,
Slowpoke became a member of Udon PR Group of Kagawa Prefecture.

According to Tamura, when the website’s Pokemon Fans Club was renewed in 2014, a special project started in which one Pokemon out of the hundreds of characters will be picked. A feature project of
Slowpokes called the Slowpoke Paradise was the beginning of it all. In 2015, Kagawa Prefecture had an April Fools collaboration project called The 800 Slowpokes that ran away from Kagawa. They found similar connections such as Kagawa being an Udon (Japanese soft noodle) Prefecture and Yadon (Japanese name of Slowpoke) which sounded the same, Kagawa specialties wasanbon (refined Japanese sugar) and kishoto (rare sugar) which are similar to Slowpoke’s sweet tail, and the affinity of Kagawa which has long been deficient in water and Slowpoke’s yawn causing rain. 


Earthquake disaster reconstruction

Pokemon’s earthquake disaster reconstruction support activity

Since the April Fool’s project was a huge success, the Pokemon Company started to accept more collaborations with other regions. Meanwhile,
Tohoku prefecture and the Pokemon Company formed the POKEMON with YOU which aim is to bring back the smiles from the children that were affected by the massive East Japan earthquake in 2011.

Currently, there are collaborations with
Fukushima, Miyagi, and Iwate prefectures. Tsuda said the Pokemon Company are working to help children look forward to their future through POKEMON with YOU. After many years after its launch, each prefecture who hoped to restore from the disaster of the earthquake has spread their initiative to reconstruct their tourism.

and Alolan Sandshrew became Tottori Home Ambassador in December 2018.

The launch of the location-based game app,
Pokemon GO, in 2016 made the local collaborations even stronger. Events were held in Tottori Sand Dunes where people can encounter with Pokemons.

Tsuda also mentioned how they found unique charms of each region during their Pokemon Go events. People are seen to enjoy not only the Pokemons but also the local attractions. This justified their idea of appointing an ambassador to each region.

No royalties involved.

Lapras boats in Kohan Park of National Michinokumori.

Pokemon Local Acts has started to spread and become very famous in many regions. Each Pokemon’s royalty or license charge in the collaboration do not exist, this is also what keeps a clear line between general content collaborations.

“Pokemon Local Acts is not a commercial enterprise.” Tamura said they do not receive license charge. They hope to link each Pokemon with tourism and promotional products made in each prefecture. For them, it’s great to promote tourism through Pokemons in the regions. They think that it has a greater value in places more than business.

In selecting Supporter Pokemons, they give a number of possible candidates by the Pokemons’ characteristics and stories and select the perfect Pokemon ambassador for each prefecture. For the collaboration products sold in each prefecture, the Pokemon Company wants to create more products that only a particular Pokemon can work on. Many of the goods such as a music box with Alolan Vulpix/Vulpix sitting on top,
Kokeshi (Japanese doll) in the shape of Lapras, and Nambu ironware for Geodude have the Pokemons fit in with the designs of the traditional craftwork each region originally have.


Nambu iron pot with Geodude.

Increasing local Pokemon manholes

Aside from these projects, there are also Pokemon-designed manholes you can find throughout Japan called
Pokefuta from Pokemon Local Acts. Currently, there are many manholes set in prefectures that have Supporter Pokemons, but there are also other prefectures such as Kanagawa and Kagoshima that only have manholes. Since local manholes are known as touring spot these days, tourists who come to visit the Pokemon manholes are increasing. This project is riding the trends but it started due to the compatibility of the features of manholes and Pokemon. 

All of the designs of Pokefuta are different. There is an aim for visitors to enjoy searching for the Pokemons drawn on the manholes like a real life game simulation.

manhole that is set in Yokohama City, Kanagawa.

Staryu, RA+
, and Ditto manhole in Shichigahama, Miyagi Prefecture.

manhole in Nodamura, Iwate Prefecture.

manhole in Higashi Kagawa City, Kagawa Prefecture.

manhole in Ibusuki City, Kagoshima Prefecture.

We cannot take our eyes off new challenges of The Pokemon Company’s future collaborations to create sustainable links with the more and more communities to promote and support their own regions.

(C)2019 Pokémon. (C)1995-2019 Nintendo / Creatures Inc. / GAME FREAK inc.

Pokemon is a registered trademark of Nintendo, Creatures and GAME FREAK.

Provided by Japan Walker
TM, WalkerplusTM, and Tokyo WalkerTM, (7 November 2019)

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