I just recently returned from my first trip to Osaka, which I took with my boyfriend to celebrate my birthday. While there was a lot we wanted do, we both agreed that the new Pokémon Gym was an absolute must see! The gym is fairly new, having just opened on November 19 at Expo City in northern Osaka. I’ll admit it was a bit out of the way, but for a pair of Pokémon fans like ourselves, it was totally worth the trip.
When you enter, there is a ticket counter where you will be given the choice of purchasing a Pokémon red or blue card. The cards are 500 yen each and serve as your admission ticket. They are also used to play the games inside. To use them you can charge the amount you’d like to spend at the counter, or at the charging stations within the gym. Each game varies in price from 400 yen to 600 yen.
The boyfriend and I decided to look around the gym first and then went back to the counter to charge up the cards. I suppose the only downside to this would be that many of the games can’t be fully enjoyed or understood without having basic knowledge of the Japanese language. We already knew that going in and decided to just give it a shot. The woman at the counter was super helpful and spoke English very well. Since we were foreigners with little to no Japanese skills, she recommended certain games that would give us the least amount of trouble.
Once inside, there are two floors of interactive games. The 600 yen games are more like interactive shows, rather than games and start about every 10 min or so. The counter lady recommended giving Smeargle’s Promo Studio a try. Here, we were led into a small theatre that looked like an MTV set from the early 90s and asked to take a seat on some benches. When the show started, a digital Smeargle and her trainer appeared on the screen and began to address random audience members. Volunteers were also asked for and a camera would pick out some participants (willing or not). My boyfriend was one of the
We are often mistaken for Japanese, so when the camera stopped on us we froze and stared all bug-eyed at the large talking characters. When we didn’t respond, the trainer suddenly said “What’s your name?” I took this moment to throw my boyfriend to the wolves, or in this case, the Pokémon. Needless to say he was called on all throughout the show… it was hilarious! Apparently the point of the interaction was that Smeargle was looking for backup dancers for a music video. So in the end, my boyfriend was pulled on stage to “dance” with 3 other participants. They basically raised their right and left had in the air to a beat, with my boyfriend occasionally having to shout “woo” and wave an imaginary lasso over his head. It was a lot of fun… for me. At the end everyone got to take a picture with Smeargle and her trainer and was given a code card to get Smeargle in the game.
After a good laugh, we proceeded to the second floor to play some actual games, which cost 400 yen each. We tried Macho J’s Boxercise, where you train alongside Lucario and get to fight against other Pokémon. I guess in this scenario you yourself are a Pokémon, or you play from Lucario’s prospective? This wasn’t quite clear, but either way you work up quite a sweat. Also, this game allows for levelling! However, you’ll have to pay multiple times to reach higher stages and fight different Pokémon.
The final game we played was Pokémon Battle Bowling. This game can only be played in pairs and was relatively easy to figure out. The camera sensors track your movement as you move side to side with your partner to knock down all the pins in your path. You get to play through a few rounds so it doesn’t end too quickly, but the sensors aren’t perfect so it can be a bit difficult to navigate your direction.
On a side note, you can download the Pokémon Expo Gym Gear app to your smartphone. It collects all your stats from your game play during your visit and keeps track of your ranking at the gym. There are also QR codes that you can take pictures of and activate an animated Pikachu. It was a little tricky to figure out at first, but with a little help from the staff we were able to enjoy this extra interactive feature. You can download it from the Google Play Store or the iTunes App Store.
After exiting the gym were were directed straight into the gift shop, where I proceeded to spiral into a shopping frenzy. There were so many cute items I didn’t know what to do with myself! Many of the items there can be found atPokémon Centers all over Japan, but official Pokémon Gym Pikachu and other Pokémon Gym merchandise can only be found at the gym. There are also a few random items that are either exclusive to the Pokémon Gym or are sold out at Pokémon Centers, but there’s no real way to to know for sure. After coming down from my Pokémon high, I settled on an adorable pink Pikachu tin of milktea cookies and a Pokémon Chiku-Chiku Sewing Vulpix, which is part of a special collaboration with illustrator, Michiko Tachimoto. It’s designed to have a stylized hand-sewn feel and is irresistibly cute! Also, as a birthday gift, my boyfriend got me the Pikachu of the month, which was a special new years Pikachu dressed as an Entei!
Finally, we ended our gym experience with a quick bite at the the Pokémon snack shop. To be honest, there wasn’t anything particularly special on the menu unless you want to purchase the commemorative Pikachu popcorn bucket. Nonetheless, all the food and drinks come in Pikachu wrapping, so we had to try something. The menu was all in Japanese, but with the help of our handy dandy Google translate, we were able to order some caramel popcorn and some kind of interesting cacao milktea.
The overall experience was pretty cool! The staff members are super nice and enthusiastic. They were always more than willing to take pictures of us and even position us for an even cuter pic! With the exception of the snack shop, you can use credit card at the gift shop and ticket counter. I do wish the games were more foreign friendly, but we both had fun regardless. However, if you want to skip the gym and go straight for the merchandise and snacks, you can definitely do that without needing to pay an admission fee. Either way, if you’re any kind of fan, it’s definitely worth your time.
Pokémon Expo Gym / ポケモンEXPOジム
- 10:00am~8:00pm (Gift Shop & Snack Stand)
- 10:00am~7:00pm (Training Area)
- Osaka-fu, Suita-shi, Senribanpaku Kouen, 2-1 Expo City
- 大阪府吹田市千里万博公園2-1 EXPOCITY
- Website (Japanese Only)