YOKOHAMA: It’s that time of the year again – the scenic bayside area of the Minato Mirai harbour district has caught the annual Pikachu fever for the fifth time running.
Held from Aug 10 to Aug 16, this year’s Pikachu Outbreak parade revolves around the theme “Science is Amazing” and features the sight of more than 1,500 Pikachus – yes, 1,500 – storming the streets of the city in lockstep choreography.
Having gained a ton of Experience Points over the years from previous Pokemon invasions, this year’s festival has definitely levelled up.
We checked out the event over the weekend, and here were five things that caught our eye:
1. PIKACHU PARADE AT NOON ... AND NIGHT!
Although some day shows had to be cancelled due to temperatures soaring to 38 degrees Celsius, the Pikachus kept up the energy of the umbrella-toting crowds that had gathered.
It was one thing to see the yellow critters marching around in the day, but when the sun began to set and the temperature dipped, the pika-pika voices got louder and the Pikachus got their swag on.
For the first time during the festival, the Pikachu army treated visitors to some slick bopping at night. The twinkling lights on the ground formed a makeshift runway for the dancing fiends – perfect complements to the Pikachus’ glitzy light-up costumes.
It was impossible to keep yourself from tapping your feet to the rhythm of the deafening pop music and moves of the human dancers and their giant yellow friends.
We also couldn’t keep our eyes off the Pikachu with the white afro!
2. OCEAN PIKACHU PARADE
Pikachus sailing serenely around the Minatomirai inner harbour in three amphibious buses was certainly a sight to behold.
Add house music, dancers in gleaming costumes and a sea captain Pikachu with his envoy of bobbing Pikachus, and you’ve got a party.
Over at the waterfront venue of the ocean parade, you’ve got two flyboarders rising 10 metres in the air from below the pier.
The mesmerising spins and twirling of the performers wearing water jet packs was enough to make us temporarily forget about all those Pikachus.
As if all that fanfare wasn’t enough, the Ocean Parade has an evening version featuring a different backdrop – a dazzling ferris wheel displaying dancing Pikachus and Pokeballs, and colourful lights that swept the bay.
The atmosphere already felt electric, but the parade itself was on another level, with fancy lights, digital technology and fire.
Pikachus – the ones that did not make an appearance during the day parade – danced around onstage surrounded by projects that appeared to scan and analyse them the way a Pokedex would.
Later, the flyboarders’ entrance was greeted with plumes of fire that illuminated their act. The pyrotechnic show continued with the rest of the Pikachu act later.
For a festival that already unveiled many firsts, the cherry on top was the introduction of a beloved Pokemon that wasn’t a Pikachu to the parade.
Unlike in past years, when most fans would don Pikachu gear, people were spotted wearing Eevee ears or sporting a bushy brown tail this year.
When the first bright-eyed Eevee came out, the crowd broke into a chorus of “Kawaii!”
They didn’t even seem to mind that the Eevees’ parade was cancelled due to rising temperatures.
4. SPLASH SHOW
The Splash Show also has a day and night version, with the latter show infused with digital technology, too.
Crowds can expect to be soaked from every angle by the water cannons that were placed strategically around the stage. As Pikachus and Eevees came out to stun viewers with their dance moves, fountains of water shot in graceful arcs before raining down on the masses.
Don’t bother with ponchos or umbrellas though: The idea to counter the scorching weather by drenching the crowds was an ingenious one.
5. POKECAFE + POKECENTRE!
If you’re in the area for the Pikachu Outbreak festival, make sure to pop by a Pokemon Centre for cool souvenirs that you cannot purchase online or outside Japan.
Although the Pokemon Centre located inside the Nihonbashi Takashimaya department store is not the biggest, it certainly is a notch higher than the other stores in the country.
The relatively new store is the first to house an official cafe that has a variety of Pikachu, Raichu, Eevee and even Snorlax shaped food on its menus. Around the cafe, figurines of other popular Pokemon species graced the venue and provided for excellent selfie opportunities as well.
While you might be tempted to "kiss the cook" for your creative meals when he comes around, we suggest just taking a photo with him!
After having some grub, head on over to the Pokemon Centre – which carries over 2,500 Pokemon products – to get your hands on area-specific merchandise that cannot be found in other stores.
At this store, about 30 per cent of the products are different from what is available at the other outlets. A large assortment of the collection is said to cater more for the diehard fan, compared to other stores which carry more general Pokemon products.
Although smaller than the Ikebukuro outlet, another distinct feature that sets this particular store apart is its interactive Pokedex wall.
Customers can access the Pokedex with a single swipe of their finger and scroll through every Pokemon’s vitals and stats, just like in the game.