Travel Japan, catch Pokémon, and make some fun memories!

It’s been four years since Pokémon GO took the world by storm with its AR gameplay and real-world interactive format, and regular players can’t deny that the game has grown quite a bit since its initial system of endlessly chasing and catching Pokémon. Yet still, four years is a long time to play one game, and though many still have unbridled passion for it, some have lost interest in continuing as time passed by.

Our Japanese-language reporter Ikuna Kamezawa falls into both categories. She loves Pokémon GO so much that she’s willing to travel the world to catch ’em all, but sadly, thanks to COVID-19, her Pokémon GO aspirations have been put on hold, and she’s found her motivation to play has tanked as a result. As a trainer who loves to travel and collect Pokémon all over the world, she began to think on what she could do to maintain her interest in the game.

Then she came up with a brilliant idea: what about the Pokéfuta? The Pokéfuta are the Pokémon-decorated manhole covers that have been gracing cities, big and small, throughout Japan over the last few years. There are now more than a hundred scattered throughout the country, from Hokkaido down to Kyushu, and many of them are PokéStops, so why not make it her mission to find them all?

Excited by the prospect of a new goal, Ikuna started with her home prefecture of Tottori, which has just installed manhole overs of the Pokémon Sandshrew and Alolan Sandshrew, who are the prefectural ambassadors for the west-Japan prefecture, earlier this year. Using Google maps, she traversed mountains…

…followed roads she never knew existed, and…


She found some Pokéfuta!

In larger cities, the Pokéfuta are in easy-to-find places, like in front of train stations, but in these more rural locations they’re rather far off the beaten track, in places that you would never expect. Without a car, or even a sense of familiarity of the area, you’d probably have a hard time finding them, she says, but that makes it rather like a treasure hunt.

But for Pokémon Go fans, is it enough to satisfy the need for all things Pokémon? For many, the goal is to show off all that you’ve accomplished. Sure, a lot of people will say it’s satisfying to collect all the Pokémon, or to have a lot of rare or shiny Pokémon, or to do well in the battle leagues, but most players want to show it all off, right? How can you do that with the Pokéfuta?

Though the Pokéfuta are also PokéStops within the game, Ikuna doesn’t think the Stops alone will provide much motivation or interest for Pokémon Go fans. While they provide you with useful items, you can’t collect PokéStops themselves, and even after spinning them the game doesn’t maintain any evidence that you were there. About the best you could do is take a screen shot and post it on social media, which isn’t quite the objective.

You can receive gifts from PokéStops, but they don’t last. It’s fun to get them and send them to friends, to say, “Look where I went!”, but once they’re sent, they’re gone, and once they’re opened, all traces of them are lost. You can’t even keep them as a souvenir, because there is a slot limit for gifts, so you have to send them off right away, which is kind of sad.

If there was something special about visiting Pokéfuta Pokéstops, that would be totally different. Maybe awarding medals for visiting a certain number, or offering special items only at Pokéfuta Pokéstops, or offering limited edition stickers, or really anything that would last within the game to remind you that you’ve been there. But there is nothing, so the fun for Pokémon GO players is limited.

So then, outside of the game, what about collecting all the Pokéfuta collectible goods? Variety shop Village Vanguard sells postcards, stickers, and other items decorated with the manhole covers designs, so you could make it your mission to pick all of them up as souvenirs after you travel to see the manhole covers themselves.

But as it turns out, you can literally just buy all the varieties at any Village Vanguard shop in the country or even online, which takes the fun out of it completely. Of course, that’s really what you would expect, but…Ikuna was hoping for a challenge. They still might satisfy your desire to “collect them all”, but it won’t quite be enough for Pokémon GO players. Even a stamp rally, where you can get a unique stamp for every Pokéfuta you visit, would be better.

Having traveled all the way to Tottori to satisfy her traveling Pokémon trainer needs, Ikuna was feeling pretty dejected at having no way to commemorate her journey as a Pokémon GO player, until she received a text message from a friend. They thanked her for a gift from a Pokéfuta PokéStop she’d sent, and then mentioned that they have a special way to keep a souvenir of their visits to Pokéfuta: putting a lure module on the Stop, and taking a screenshot of it after spinning it!

The lure models show your Pokémon Go username above the Stop’s image, so it serves as proof that you were there. Plus, the screenshot with the items floating around the image makes for a lovely picture to share and remember them by.

They also used AR photography within the game to take a picture of their Pokémon together with the real Pokéfuta. You can use the Pokémon represented on the manhole, or your companion Pokémon, or your favorite, whatever Pokémon you like. Either way, it makes for a great shot! This is a pretty satisfying way for traveling Pokémon Go trainers to enjoy visiting Pokéfuta and keep a record of their visits in-game.

Ikuna’s friend agreed that some kind of special benefit within the game would also be nice, but they mentioned that the act of traveling to see the Pokéfuta in itself is fun, so they’ve been having a good time checking them out.

Every trainer has their own way to enjoy Pokémon GO in these difficult times, so let us know how you’ve been keeping up with the game in the comments!

Images © SoraNews24
Screenshots taken from Pokémon Go App (iOS version)

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[ Read in Japanese ]