[Memory Backlogs] Pikachu Outbreak 2019
Summer season in Japan is unbelievably hot.
It’s what some senseis described to me as 蒸し暑い (mushi atsui), or humid. Which is why when someone told me about hundreds — thousands even — of people dressing up as Pikachus (and in some locations, Evees), I felt what could be a mixture of excitement over seeing what kind of performance they’ll be putting up and dread over how exhausting that could be.
But the moment I walked in on Minatomirai station on August 6th and tapped my IC card on the ticket gate to be greeted by chirps of “pika-pika”, I was met with childlike glee. Ahead, there was a display of a giant Pikachu inflatable, surrounded by some Pikachu merchandise. There were boxes of Pikachu candies in the convenience store nearby, and a wall with a neon Pikachu on it.
But time was of the essence, and I had to go to work. And so I had to begrudgingly let go of the (quite expensive) Pikachu bag I’ve been eyeing and go to work, all the while looking back like a forlorn lover.
It was a bit later when I learned that the Pikachu performances ran for 7 days (for 2019 it went from August 6–12) and started at around 7PM — 9PM, simultaneously in six different locations around Yokohama: Minato Mirai Tokyu Square, Grand Mall Park, Yokohama Museum of Art, Queen’s Square, Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse and Rinko Park.
The performance was for free, but you had to head to the venue a earlier if you wanted to have the best view since there’s also a lot of people waiting in line to get a glimpse of the Pikachus dancing.
This is how I found myself later that night after work, standing on my tiptoes as I tried to get a better view of the Pikachus marching in for the beginning of their performance in the Minato Mirai Tokyu Square. The performance was around 10–15 minutes long and my feet hurt from tiptoeing by the end of it, but I was completely buzzing with excitement. It was like a dream come true for all those moments when I was a kid and wanted to take care of my very own Pikachu.
The next event I was able to go to was on August 8th in Rinko Park. Me and my friends were just in time for the first show, and I once again tiptoed my way through the entire performance. Since we all had time to spare that night, we found some spots up front and waited for around 30 minutes for the second show, this time seated on the grass.
Before the second show started, several Pikachus were seen peeking by the trees and waving in our direction. Children around us yelped in excitement and I couldn’t help but feel the excitement bubbling through my veins too.
I looked around me and saw how adults and children alike were bobbing their heads along to the music, taking pictures and photos of Pikachus dancing in synchronization with big smiles on their faces. I was happy to know that a piece of media I enjoyed when I was younger is still enjoyed by people today.
I haven’t gone to the other shows after that because I was busy with work (biggest regret of my life, to be honest), but there was an Evee parade that I went to on August 9th in Queen’s Square. None of us knew how to get to the starting point of the parade, so it was mostly just an hour of us running around the place (also decked in Pikachu decorations, by the way) and trying to look for the area where crowds have gathered.
Thankfully we made it in time to see a woman guiding a few Evees forming a line and marching along to the beat. Upon seeing us, the Evees started jumping in glee and clapping. They shook hands with some children near them and some even hugged them. I had to stop myself from running up there and asking for a hug myself.
I wasn’t able to take a photo, but there’s a video somewhere out there where I sound like I’m close to crying because of how cute the Evees look (because let’s be real, they’re just so freaking adorable).
After the parade, the people who have gathered up in lines started clearing up their mats and proceeded to the booths, were a lot of Pokemon merchandise were being sold.
I found the bag I saw the first time and weighed the happiness value it could bring me against the fact that I didn’t really have much money to spare (aside from daily expenses). After much deliberation, I had to let it go at one point and part ways with it, once again looking like a forlorn lover in front of a Pokemon merchandise booth.
I may not have bought mementos during that week, but I still do remember the joys that entire event has given me.
And it made me realize that even if we’re ages and cultures apart, the happiness we got from simply watching a bunch of people dancing in Pikachu costumes felt universal.