Humanity’s elemental weakness to the coronavirus leads to near-immediate temporary closures of almost every Pokémon Center and Store in the country.

Japan’s Pokémon Center megastores are pretty amazing. Stocked with just about every plushie, toy, and trinket you could imagine for the Pokémon franchise, the happy and excited atmosphere inside is on par with a visit to a theme park, as pretty much everyone inside has a serious love for several species of Pocket Monsters.

Sadly, though, the fun will be shutting down on a huge scale, as the Pokémon Company will be closing 14 Pokémon Center locations across Japan, as well as seven smaller Pokémon Stores, for a temporary but currently indeterminable time. The reason, once again, is the continuing nemesis of human joy, the coronavirus, as infections have recently surged to unprecedented numbers for Japan.

The closures, which include all Pokémon Centers and Stores in Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, and Kyoto, will come almost immediately. The announcement was made on Thursday, and the 21 affected stores will be closed starting from Saturday.

▼ This is one crisis we can’t blame Mewtwo for.

Two developments likely helped push decision makers past the tipping point. On Sunday, a worker at the Pokémon Center Mega Tokyo branch (located in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro neighborhood) was confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus, leading to the store’s closure as of Monday. Then, on Wednesday, the Japanese government expanded its declared state of emergency to include eight more prefectures, and the closed Pokémon Centers and Stores align with the entire declared set.

The complete list of closures is:
Pokémon Centers: Sapporo, Tohoku, Tokyo DX, Mega Tokyo, Shibuya, Skytree Town, Tokyo Bay, Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka DX, Osaka, Hiroshima, Fukuoka
Pokémon Stores: Shin Chitose Airport, Tokyo Station, Narita Airport, Gotemba, Outlet Kisarazu, Kansai Airport, Okinawa Rycom

The sting is especially sharp for the Kansai Airport Pokémon Store. While the plan is to reopen the other branches once it’s safe to do so, the Kansai Airport branch won’t be coming back, as it was already scheduled to permanently close at the end of the month.

In addition to the above-listed Pokémon Centers and Stores, the Pokémon Cafes in Tokyo and Osaka will be temporarily closing, as will Tokyo’s Pikachu Sweets shop.

In total, just four Pokémon Center/Store locations remain open: the Pokémon Center Kanazawa, and the Pokémon Stores in Ehime, Oita, and Okayama Prefecture, where a state of emergency has not been declared. Oh, but one of those, the Okayama Pokémon Store, is permanently closing on August 31, and has already started saying a very sweet goodbye to its loyal customers.

On the bright side, Pokémon’s massive popularity in Japan means that we can probably expect all, or at least most, of the stores to weather the storm and bounce back once the health climate improves. There’s also the fact the Pokémon Center’s online store remains up and running, and maybe the pause in physical store operations will give the chain time to think up additional clever anti-scalper strategies. Still, there’s a special kind of magic to being surrounded not only by Pokémon merch but also Pokémon fans, and it’s sad that that’s an experience most of them won’t be able to have until sometime in the unknowable future.

Sources: Pokémon official website (1, 2) via Livedoor News via Hachima Kikou
Top image: Pokémon official website
Insert images: SoraNews24, Pokémon official website
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