N J

He’s caught ’em all in the U.S., Europe, Hong Kong and Australia, and now we get to find out what the gamer’s been up to in Japan, the birthplace of Pokémon.

Nick Johnson was living like any other Pokémon Go fan in New York until recently; pounding the pavement late at night, hatching eggs, stocking up on Pidgeys and unwittingly rubbing shoulders with fellow trainer Justin Bieber at Grand Army Plaza. That all changed on July 21, however, when the 28 year-old tech employee caught ’em all, filling up his Pokédex with all 142 available Pokémon in the United States and sharing the news in a screen grab on Reddit. Since then, he’s made international headlines and received a dream trip from Expedia and Marriott Rewards, who’ve flown him to France, Hong Kong and Australia, to help add region-exclusive characters to his ever-growing collection. As a fitting end to his international Pokémon-catching adventure, the gamer spent a weekend in Japan before flying back home, and we got to sit down with him to discuss tips for playing the game, while listening to some of his amazing travel experiences, and finding out how Japan rates in living up to the expectations of a Pokémon fan.

NJ

After finding Mr. Mime in Paris, Farfetch’d in Hong Kong and Kangaskhan in Sydney, Johnson experienced a few more gaming highlights during his stay in Japan. When we talked, he’d collected 500 more Pokémon in just a couple of days, bringing his total to an impressive 5,642; he’d caught three more of the Asian-exclusive Farfetch’d characters in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park; and he just recently progressed in the game by advancing from level 31 to 32.

Nick Johnson1

So how does one get to become a Pokémon master? According to Johnson, it takes a little bit of luck and a whole lot of walking. In just two weeks of playing the game, he traversed a distance of 200 kilometres (124 miles) in total, averaging 12.8 kilometres (8 miles) a day. Still, walking will only get you so far, as the social aspect of the game also plays an integral part in increasing your ability to catch Pokémon, particularly the harder-to-find varieties. In fact, Johnson credits his rarest captures, including Mr. Mime and Kangaskhan, to generous tip-offs from local players. It’s this kindness and community spirit, both online and in the real world, that’s one of the most appealing parts of playing the game.

Pokémon Go transcends language barriers, creating bonds between players in different parts of the world, including our own P.K. Sanjun, who couldn’t stop gushing over Johnson’s impressive collection.

Nick Johnson8

First getting into Pokémon as an eight-year-old in the States when the Red and Blue games were released, Johnson could not have imagined that his fondness for the franchise would one day lead him on an exciting sponsored journey to play the game in Europe, Asia and Australia. While he previously travelled to Japan on a family trip for a few days when he was just 12 years-of-age, now, sixteen years later, Johnson is enjoying the sights of Tokyo in a whole new light, with popular areas like Yoyogi Park teeming with Pokémon creatures. And if there’s two Pokémon he has a particular affection for, it’s Eevee, his favourite character as his girlfriend has named one of their dogs after the furry, four-legged creature, and Snorlax, who Johnson would choose to be if he could become any Pokémon other than Mewtwo, simply because it gets to sleep while still being a bad-ass at the same time!

▼ If he were to choose six Pokémon to be on his team, Johnson says it would be Dragonite, his strongest character, with 3,020 CP, and 5 Snorlaxes because they’re awesome!

Nick Johnson4

After landing in Japan, the birthplace of Pokémon, Johnson did what any self-respecting fan would do, and made his way to the Pokémon Mega Center. As a fan of the first generation of games, he picked up a few adorable plush toys to add to his creature collection in the real world. Visiting the store, he says, was definitely a fun moment for him and his Pokémon-loving girlfriend, who’s also accompanying him on his travels, and they were blown away by the variety of goods available, along with the giant character statues scattered through the store.

NJ 3

For Johnson, Japan has exceeded his expectations. While he was expecting to see a lot of love and enthusiasm for Pokémon, he’s been pleasantly surprised by the way it’s bringing people together here, commenting on how he’s seen people aged from five to seventy all gathering together to play the game outdoors, with families and retired people both using it as a fun way to exercise. He was also fortunate that his trip coincided with the annual Pikachu outbreak event in Yokohama, which he braved the heat to attend, and it was like nothing he’d ever seen. Though he wasn’t able to find an in-game Pikachu amongst the hundreds of dancing Pikachu at the show, he did come home with some more Bulbasaur and, of course, a few Magikarp, given Yokohama’s seaside location.

NJ 2

Though he was unable to meet anyone from Nintendo or the Pokémon Company in Japan, Johnson says searching for Pokémon in Tokyo has been incredibly enjoyable, with the unusual architecture and the beautiful green-filled atmospheric locations making it a memorable experience. And to Japanese fans of the game, Johnson wants to say thank you for keeping the spirit of the game alive. As the birthplace of Pokémon, where it all started, the community here has really exceeded his expectations, with players getting out, having fun exploring, and making friends in the process. It’s this sense of adventure and fun encounters that reflects the true spirit of the Pokémon game and the anime series he grew up watching, and to see it happening in real life across the world has been really awe-inspiring.

Nick Johnson89

So what lies in store for the future? Johnson plans to return to regular life in New York with his girlfriend, where they’ll continue to enjoy walks after work while playing the game, although he won’t have to stay up until 4 or 5 a.m. like he did while attempting to fill up his Pokédex! While he’s still keen to level up in the game, it’s not something he’s focussed on but instead he’s happy to slowly get there eventually, all while waiting for the creators of Pokémon Go to introduce new social features that hopefully include opportunities for trading between players, direct battles and big gaming events. Of course, Johnson will be sprinting from location to location to find the legendary Pokémon once they’re released, so next time you’re out playing the game in the crowd, make sure to look around every now and then — you might catch sight of the Pokémon Go master gaming in your midst!

We want to extend a big thank you to Nick for meeting with us and to Marriott and M Live Asia Pacific, Marriott International’s real-time social-listening studio, who helped organize Nick’s trip — from flights to finding local Pokémon hotspots and other regional experiences — and who put us in contact with the Pokémon Go master!

Photos © RocketNews24

Follow Oona on Twitter for more Pokémon news from Japan.