The Matsuzakaya Nagoya Department store is ten stories tall and almost 3 blocks wide. The myriad of glossy and reflective windows along its main building make the whole thing look like it’s made of glass. Going through the sliding doors at its entrance entrenches you in a scent of perfume and window polish. Ladies wearing similar pencil skirts all offer samples of different sprays. The second floor is full of overpriced “Luxury Goods and Accessories,” the third handbags, the fourth frilly lingerie, and the fifth is children’s wear. There’s more to the 5th floor than meets the eye, though. Behind the overstocked jungle of toddler tuxedos, small seasonal wear, and pint-sized pressed pants is the Nagoya Pokémon Center.
The entrance to the Pokémon center is marked with a large statue of some fan-favorite starter Pokémon including Litten and Chickorita. Below them is bin full of themed Pikachu plush toys, this time it’s Pikachu dressed as various villains from the games. You can see a few other themed Pikachu on a shelf off to the side including one dressed for bedtime as well as one dressed in a vibrant yukata. Pikachu isn’t the only one commanding the store floor though, as Eevee has an equally towering presence. There’s a whole wall of the small brown dog Pokémon in various costumes, including ones of it dressed up as its various evolutions. The best ones have to be the large “sleeping” Eevee-lutions, which are perfectly sized and just soft enough to be used as a pillow.
There are other fun plush Pokémon as well, including an entire line of ditto-copied Pokémon and fuzzy versions of various monsters from the many generations of the Pokémon games.
The plush wall takes up maybe a third of the store floor, but it doesn’t take away from all the other interesting things you can find. There’s a nice selection of Pokémon shirts, jackets, and even socks that are stylized and colorful. There are tote bags carrying the Nagoya store brand as well some that are just themed after certain monsters. Flashy cellphone cases and cute jewelry sets sit behind an octagonal glass case in the center of the store. It almost feels more like a Pokémon museum than a store with just how many different things are crammed in around you.
The store is full of people of all ages. Small kids and parents peruse the wall of Poké-plush and action figures while teens and twenty-somethings look over the jackets, phone cases, and other day-to-day items. It was actually kind of hard to hear the store soundtrack playing overhead between the excited exclamations of kids finding their favorite monsters, or girls pulling their boyfriends over to the clothing displays. Even a somewhat grumpy mother couldn’t hold her frown when looking face-to-face with a soft and fluffy Slowpoke.
The Pokémon Center is more than just a store though. It also hosts a pretty big “play area,” for lack of a better term. Pokken machines line almost the entirety of the store’s right wall. The machines are all connected on a network, like any other arcade game, and let you play locally or online against players across the country. A little behind the small arcade is a section filled with carnival games themed after various Pokémon, including a game that lets kids fish for Magikarp, beanbag toss some fossils, and other things to win tiny plush toys, figures, or candy.
I can admit to not being the biggest Pokémon fan, if anything I have a passing interest in the franchise, but it was hard to not feel wrapped up in nostalgia inside the Nagoya Center. There’s a definite level of comfort that comes from simply walking around the store and seeing a bunch of excited kids and adults. The Nagoya Pokémon Center is on the 5th floor of a mall, above the perfume department and a bit beyond children’s wear. The shiny linoleum mall floor has stickers placed on it to guide you. Finding my way there felt a lot like when I first bought a Gameboy at Sears decades ago, and weaving between hangers full of coats, makeup, and underwear to reach the electronics department in the back of the store. The Nagoya Pokémon Center is certainly a treat, and a trip I recommend to anyone visiting Nagoya.
“Check the Map” is a bi-weekly column that talks about various gaming-related places in Japan. While based in the Nagoya area, Taylor will be checking out different prefectures all across the country to find fun and interesting stores, arcade, and chains that celebrate video games and his other nerdy hobbies.