SINGAPORE: Love Pokemon and gotta catch ‘em all? There is now an easy way to, with the opening of the Pokemon Center Singapore at Jewel Changi Airport. The outlet – the first official merchandise store outside of Japan, opened on Thursday (Apr 11) as Jewel flung open its doors to first visitors for a ticketed preview of the new attraction.
Despite snaking queues, hundreds waited in line, eager to have a first look at the store ahead of its Apr 17 official opening.
Once they make it in, a huge statue of Pokemon Lapras and Pikachu welcome visitors at the entrance. Many were seen whipping out mobile phones for a snap; some even snuck in a quick hug of the Lapras’ long neck.
In the background, friendly staff at the store chimed in unison: “Welcome to Pokemon Center Singapore!”
“Singapore as you know is surrounded by water. We chose Lapras since it is a water-type Pokemon and by having it here, we wanted people to see and get a feel of what it’s like,” said chief business officer of The Pokemon Company Ito Kenjiro.
“Safe to say that Pikachu and Lapras are extremely popular Pokemon, that’s why we thought it would be a fitting image for Singapore,” Mr Kenjiro added.
Ms Serene Chua, 46, and her son Keith, who have visited the flagship store in Japan, said the Singapore store was worth the wait.
“Previously we had to go to Japan and visited a store in Osaka. Now, we don’t have to since it’s really at our doorstep. We’re here for the experience and we wouldn’t want to miss the chance of coming for the experience since he is such a fan,” Ms Chua said.
She added: “We are even more excited to know that there are items exclusive to Singapore, like the Pikachu plush toys.”
The Pikachu plushies clad in pilot and cabin crew uniforms were a hit among visitors, but each customer can only buy up to five of these limited edition items.
“It’s a unique experience at Jewel since this is the first store outside of Japan, so the novelty is there. It’s good to have the Singapore-exclusive merchandise. Hopefully there will be more of such items in the future,” said civil servant Kenneth Lim.
“There’s a Pokemon store in Tokyo, and we plan to visit that when we go for our holiday in December. I later found out that one was opening in Jewel and I wanted to check it out so we can have a sense of comparison when we go for our trip,” said homemaker Jane Chia, who was seen checking out the various toys.
The visit was a sweet surprise for her son, 8-year-old Kian, who chanced upon the store during their Jewel tour. His mother chose not to tell him about the store beforehand, afraid of creating disappointment should the waiting time have taken too long.
Kian exclaimed: “Actually, I didn’t know there was this shop until I went to the Rain Vortex and received a map of Jewel, flipped through it and saw the word ‘Pokemon’ on it. I was then so eager to come here and it’s my dream come true, because I love Pokemon!”
In total, 143 of the 151 Pokemon mini plush toys are on display for purchase. The other eight are exclusive to stores in Japan.
“I think I have around 50 Pokemon plushies in my collection. I’m just grateful that they came to Singapore so we don’t have to travel far anymore,” said 12-year-old Nathaniel Foo, who has a shelf in his room proudly displaying his collections. Some of these are from stores in Osaka and Tokyo.
As for why Singapore was chosen as a major merchandise Pokestop, chief business officer, Mr Kenjiro explained: “When Pokemon GO was initially launched, it gained so much popularity and during that time, we had an event at Changi Airport. It was a huge, huge success and we saw how popular Pokemon became across the region.
“Opening our first store outside of Japan in a place like Jewel, which is really one of the most beautiful malls in the world, we’re extremely happy and excited and grateful for such an opportunity.”
“Before visitors come through our stores, they’ve only really experienced Pokemon through the digital world, but by coming here and actually touching and seeing the characters, we hope they experience this dreamlike environment and keep it as a precious memory,” he added.