The world’s first permanent Pokémon Cafe is feeling the blow of Japan’s international travel restrictions.

Back in March 2018, the world’s first permanent Pokémon Cafe opened alongside the Pokémon Centre megastore in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district, and we were one of the first to reserve a table.

Sadly, our Pokémon-obsessed Japanese-language reporter P.K. Sanjun missed out on attending at the time, and after trying in vain to secure a reservation for months afterwards, the coronavirus pandemic arrived, disrupting the cafe’s business hours and forcing P.K. to give up on his dream of tasting ’em all.

However, during this time P.K.’s young daughter was fast developing a love for Pokémon, and this year the now-four-year-old had become just as keen as her father to visit the cafe, which had taken on a Disneyland-like appeal in their eyes.

With his daughter’s dreams upon his shoulders, P.K. decided to be the very best dad, like no one ever was, and attempted to make a reservation yet again. Surprisingly, he managed to get a booking with ease, likely because current travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic meant reservation battles with fans from around the world were considerably less intense.

His previous failed attempts to get in ended up being a blessing in disguise, though, because this way he was able to share his first time at the cafe with his Pokémon-loving daughter, who would’ve been too young to appreciate just how special it was when it first opened.

▼ So it was a special day when P.K. and his daughter arrived at the cafe, making their way past Snorlax, Pikachu and Mew in the lobby the cafe shares with the shiny Pokémon Centre next door.

Stepping inside the cafe was a surprise, not only for the gorgeous setup that was there to greet them, but also because it was practically empty. P.K. had walked past this cafe a number of times before the pandemic and seen it filled with happy customers and lines out the door to get in.

▼ Now, the cafe was filled with smiling Pokémon, who outnumbered the humans in their midst.

P.K. certainly wasn’t complaining about the lack of people, though. In fact, he’d been concerned about crowds so he was relieved to find there was so much space for him and his daughter, although he did feel bad for the business and staff.

Still, he was determined to support them from his back pocket as best he could, so he immediately got down to ordering, starting with the Pikachu’s Have-it-all Meal, priced at 1,738 yen (US$16.75). When it arrived, both he and his daughter let out a squeal of delight because, well, look at it–how could you not?

▼ Diners are able to take the Pikachu-shaped serving plate home as well, with the adjusted price for the lot being 2,948 yen.

The Pikachu sitting on a Pikachu plate was fashioned from a serving of omuraisu, a mound of tomato-sauce-flavoured rice covered in a thin egg omelette covering. It looked adorable, and the serving size was generous, but then Snorlax arrived to take up all of their attention.

Snorlax’s Tummy Filling Nap Lunch Plate is priced at 1,958 yen.

In the last few month’s Snorlax has become P.K.’s daughter’s favourite Pokémon, so when it appeared, napping in a forest scene with a bellyful of rice, her eyes lit up with delight. Then they opened even wider when their drinks arrived…

Ditto’s Transform Fruit Tea (935 yen) is a fruit tea that changes flavour as you stir it up.

Gengar’s Confuse Ray Smoothie (880 yen) is a grape-flavoured frozen smoothie that’s said to make you dizzy if you drink it too fast. For 1,760 yen, you can take the glass home with you as well.

As P.K. and his daughter gushed over the look of their food and beverages, P.K. could think of no better dining companion, and that’s when he remembered he could dial up the excitement even further by ordering from the special menu. Limited only to diners who can show they’ve cleared certain levels of Pokémon mobile game Pokémon Café Mix., P.K. was amongst this elite group, and was able to order the two special dishes on offer.

▼ Diners who’ve completed order 71 are able to order the Piquant Pikachu Curry, priced at 1,848 yen

▼ Those who’ve completed order 291 are able to order the Pikachu Fruit Flan, priced at 1,078 yen.

Being able to “unlock” these special items from the menu was a real treat for P.K., who felt like a kid spending his hard-earned pocket money inside a Pokémon-themed candy store. Which, if you think about it, he kind of was, really.

As they finished their meals, P.K. discovered it wasn’t the flavour of the food and drink that stayed with him–the food was good, but it wasn’t fine dining–instead, it was the experience of the cafe and the memories made there that really left a lasting impression. It may not have been exactly like the Disneyland he’d built it up in his mind to be, but for his daughter it certainly was the happiest place on earth during her time there, and to him, that’s all that mattered.

▼ To make the day even more memorable, P.K. bought his daughter a Mew plushie at the Pokemon Centre Tokyo DX next door.

Currently, there are two permanent Pokémon Cafe stores, at Nihonbashi in Tokyo and Shinsaibashi in Osaka. The one in Tokyo is waaaaaay less crowded now than it’s ever been, but the cafe is thankfully still in business, with staff ready to serve customers with a smile, and the Pokémon-themed menu just as cute as it always was.

Once Japan’s international travel restrictions are lifted, hopefully business at the cafe will bounce back again, with trainers from around the world able to gather safely over Pokémon dishes. With new menu items regularly appearing at the cafe, that day can’t come soon enough!

Restaurant information
Pokémon Cafe / ポケモンカフェ
Address: Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 2-11-2, Nihonbashi Takashimaya S.C. East Building 5th floor
東京都中央区日本橋二丁目11番2号 日本橋髙島屋S.C.東館 5階
Open 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m.

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[ Read in Japanese ]