pokemongymosaka

Osaka’s Pokemon Expo Gym: Unleash Your Inner Child!

So two weekends ago I had the opportunity to visit the brand spanking new Pokemon Gym in Osaka! And I am thanking my lucky stars that I just so happen to be living but a mere few hours from Osaka on the dawn of such a momentous occasion! Fate, I tell you – fate! As it only just opened on November 19th and I assume most people haven’t had a chance to go yet, I thought I’d share my experience today, on its one month anniversary! I hope it will give you a little insight into just what it is exactly. (Hint: not a Pokemon gym in any sense of the word…) Being a Pokemon fanatic, I’m pretty sure there could be no better topic for my first “real” post!

If you’ve heard anything about it at all, you most likely got one of two images in your head – that of a fitness gym where you like, eat five dozen eggs, pump iron like a beast to “Eye of the Tiger” and get all kinds of buff. OR your mind will jump to Pokemon gyms like those you find in the games – you know, those places where you lay the beat down to a type-specific gym leader in order to get a badge and ultimately become a Pokemon Master?

Is it sad that the first thing that jumped into my mind was the former? Kid me would punch me in the face for guessing that first, I’m pretty sure. But c`mon – a Pokemon-themed fitness gym would be badass! I can just imagine hitting punching bags resembling Bidoof, running on Pikachu-themed treadmills (pretty sure that was a thing in one of the first Pokemon episodes ever, no?), and being able to bro-five a VR Machamp after a job well done.

Well in actuality, I would have to say the Pokemon Expo Gym is, in fact, closer to a fitness gym than a “real” Pokemon gym. Though nowhere near as awesome as my “imagined” Pokemon gym, it is still a wonderful place filled to the brim with magic and Pokemon and Pikachu-themed restrooms! It made kid me decide that maybe she wouldn’t punch me after all; maybe instead she would just take the wheel and lead me into a fangasmic frenzy for a good hour or so. And thus, my romp around the Pokemon Expo Gym began!

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This is not a drill, people. I repeat, this is not a drill!

The Shop

The first thing that grabbed my attention after arriving was the gift shop. Despite my telling myself that I would wait until after entering the gym to look around, like any sensible adult, kid me had the wheel. And kid me decided to goggle at the prettiful Pokemon merchandise!

The shop is essentially just a mini Pokemon Center. Now, I’m gonna sidetrack for a moment to just say, how convenient would it be to have a Pokemon Center in a Pokemon Gym? Seriously. You’d never have to take the time to run back and heal your Pokemon up between beating the gym trainers and the gym leaders (or is that just me…?)! Considering that in the Pokemon universe, someones Pokemon will end up taking a serious beat down over the course of the gym battle… wouldn’t it be the humane thing to do? If you’re listening, Nintendo, just saying. …Just saying. (And yes, I do spend a significant chunk of my free time contemplating the ethics in the fictional universes of children’s video game series. Don’t judge. :) )

Anyways, if you are much of a Pokemon fan, you will realize that when I say “Pokemon Center,” I am referring to the shops one can find around Japan that exclusively sell Pokemon merchandise. I’ve been to the ones in Tokyo, Nagoya, Yokohama, and Osaka and the gift shop here had quite a few similar goods, along with some exclusive stuff – mainly, this:

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And there was this sexy Vulpix, though I dunno how exclusive it is. I just know that I want it.

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Somehow I resisted the urge to buy ALL the things. In fact, I didn’t even buy a single thing. Go me! I have self-control! (This was mainly because my bank account had almost all but run dry…but alas, details) I doubt I will be strong enough to fight the temptation when I return to the Pokemon Gym, next week, however…

The Reception Area

So once kid me was sated by having the chance to look around the shop, it was time to head on inside! But before I could do that, I had to go through reception. I was with three of my fellow gaijin friends, and let me tell you, the workers looked a little unnerved by the prospect of dealing with – not one – but four scary potential non-Japanese speakers. All the workers were free, but they told us to go to the English-speaking worker (who honestly didn’t have the best English – but she tried!) To speed up the process, I assured them I had no problem speaking Japanese and me and another friend went through the “normal people” line.

If you can’t speak Japanese and you go, believe me, you should have no problems – even if there is no “English-speaker” available. Silly Japan, thinking that they would only be dealing with small Japanese children, unsuspecting of the fact that this attraction would be bringing in full-grown gaijin in droves! They were not prepared. They lived in blissful ignorance of the truth and now must face the full force of our gaijin wrath! Muahaha!

In any case, the process is a simple one. You give them money – how much you give depends on how much you want on your card. My friends and I all put 2000 yen (approximately $18) on ours. Then you’ll have a choice of making a red or blue card – themed after the Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire games that were released last year. Since it was our first time to the Gym, we actually only ended up with 1500 yen because it costs 500 yen to make a card. So keep that in mind for the first time you go! In addition, there are two types of activities you can engage in at the Gym: games and shows. The shows cost 600 yen while the games cost 400 yen. So with the money we had on our cards, we knew we would be doing two games and one show.

The Fun Begins!

On the way inside, there are big screens with Pokemon that talk to you (since when did Pokemon other than Team Rocket’s Meowth and a select few legendaries learn to do that!?). There was a Gardevoir and a Krookodile along our path. It was cute, cool, and also just a tad bit creepy. XD

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384 He straight-up stares into your soul…

 

Once you’re inside, you may wish to admire the prettiful paintings of Pokemon that adorn the walls of the gym. Observe:

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But anyways, let’s get to the part you’ve all been waiting for, shall we? What you actually do at the Pokemon Gym! As I said before, there are games and shows. So I’ll take you through a run-down of the three my friends and I tried. Since there’s a good chance I’ll be visiting the Gym again next week (and trying the remaining activities), I may do a follow-up post then to include every activity available, along with my oh-so-important impressions, naturally.

Macho J’s Boxercise

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Yes, that is what this game is called. Why? No idea. I will be referring to it as Lucario-sensei instead!

This was the first game we tried, as I heard from people that had already been that this game was by far the most fun. After trying it myself, I must say, I concur!

Basically, in typical rhythm game fashion, you watch the prompted actions on the screen and try to perform them in-sync with the prompt in order to be successful. My friends actually took a video of me playing the game, which I promise to include with an update at a later date! It’s crazy embarrassing and would make for some fantastic dirt on me, so you’re welcome in advance.

So that’s the game in a nutshell. If it’s any indication of what may be coming in the future with VR, then we’re about to have ourselves a generation of insanely fit nerds! ‘Cause damn, was that a workout! And this is coming from someone who goes to the gym regularly (I may have just been out of shape though…). Who needs ellipticals, and treadmills, and lame cardio videos when you’ve got a Lucario as your personal trainer and a Mega-Aggron to beat on?

Pokemon Battle Bowling

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This game requires two people to play. You move your body to the right or left to move your on-screen avatar. My avatar was a shinx – one of my favorite pokemon! So exciting!  I forget what the other avatar is because quite frankly, I don’t care – shinx is all that matters. Shinx! (okay, the other avatar was Abra)

So to be completely honest, my friend and I didn’t really have much of an idea what was going on. All I know is that it was a killer ab workout – particularly for the obliques! I’m not kidding – if you were to do this game every day (with proper form, of course) I’m convinced that you’d end up with a six pack in no time. Now, if only I lived just a little bit closer…

In a nut shell, though, what I did understand from my time playing this game was this: there are icons on-screen that you try to get your avatar – who is on top of a bowling ball – to run over. Since there are two players, you have to try and coordinate with your partner so that you can hit them all! That’s it. I think? If anyone’s played this one and somehow did not leave the experience lost and confused and with aching abs, let me know what your take on it was!

So in conclusion, I wouldn’t recommend this game unless you…

A. Love shinx (or abra…)

or

B. Are in need of a nice ab workout!

The Lucario game is where it’s at! I have yet to play the Gardevoir game but it looked like it might be a bit challenging for people with limited Japanese abilities. From what I gathered, it was some sort of puzzle game with some reading ability required? I dunno. I just know that I love Lucario-sensei and that you will too!

Charizard’s Battle Colosseum

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So while the general consensus from people seemed to be that the best game of the three was the Lucario one, it was also the general consensus that the best of the three shows is Charizard’s Battle Colosseum. Thus, that is the show my friends and I decided to go to!

We had to wait in line for a little bit, until the prior show had let out. It didn’t take too long. Being a former employee of Walt Disney World, it was nothing to me. But a word of warning: this does seem to be the most popular attraction at the Pokemon Expo Gym, so if you visit on a day that’s crowded, you may have to wait quite a bit for this one.

My friends and I were the only gaijin, naturally, so once we were allowed to enter, we let all the small Japanese children and their parents sit in front of us. We took seats in the back and still had a perfect view! Often times, the kids would look back at us, which led me to the conclusion that the Pokemon Expo Gym is not only a great chance for kids to learn more about Pokemon, but a chance for them to learn about foreigners too! Funny, as a running gag between me and my fellow gaijin friends is that we’re “shiny” Pokemon. And if you look at the percentage of non-Japanese people living in Japan compared to the stats of coming across a wild shiny Pokemon in the games, those statistics aren’t too Farfetch’d at all! (Heheh…see what I did there? Farfetch’d? Like the Pokemon? Oh, I’m good.)

So back to Charizard’s Battle Colosseum, my first instinct when I entered was to let out a series of fangirl squeals and run around the place inspecting every miniscule detail like a rabbit hopped up on coffee. I didn’t, however. I’m an adult! And I maintained my composure as any respectable adult would do. That being said, my friends and I were definitely more visibly excited about the whole thing than any of the children present.

So why were we so excited? Well, I can’t speak for my friends, but I was pumped because the room the show takes place in is what I kind of imagine a real Pokemon gym to look like! Not like if one of the Pokemon gyms of the games were adapted to real life, but if we really were to have Pokemon gyms in the real world as it is now – Pokemon gyms in which we held virtual battles, like those at the VGCs! There was a huge screen in the front, but the walls were decorated to give it the feel of a colosseum. It. Was. Awesome.

Once the show began, I was more than a little taken aback – the charizard talked! And not only did it talk, but it didn’t have a deep voice at all, as one would expect of a charizard that can speak like a human – it was pretty childish, actually! I suppose that was so it can appeal to the – erm – target demographic. After the show, my friends and I decided that it was clearly an adolescent charizard. Adolescence was giving him a rough time so clearly he needed a little emotional support!

So going back to Disney for a second – in Disney World, there’s an attraction in Epcot called ‘Turtle Talk with Crush’ in which there is a big screen with Crush (from Finding Nemo) on it and he actually talks to / interacts with the audience. In other words it’s not a set show; it changes depending on who is there. The first time I went, it blew my mind a little. This attraction is almost exactly like that, but instead of Crush you have a charizard and his trainer – a young girl with a hat resembling a charizard’s err… horn things. Being a die-hard Pokemon fan, this show was even more awesome for me!

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At the beginning, you will watch the charizard fighting a zoroark – a battle which charizard loses. He will talk to his trainer a bit, and then they will start asking the audience for tips! So if you’re a gaijin with any Japanese ability at all, think of something awesome to say! ‘Cause let me tell you – I was nice and decided to let the kids talk and that was a train wreck! Being a teacher at JHS and elementary school, I should’ve known better – Japanese kids are just too damn shy! It was a totally different atmosphere than what I was used to at similar attractions in America – kids are practically peeing their pants with anticipation to get called on. Here, it was a different story.

The first kid to get called on actually did say something (I forget what). He was older, maybe 10-11 years old, so I guess it’d make sense that he’d be more confident than the little ones. After that, however, it was just plain sad! Barely any kids raised their hands at all – and on the two other occasions that kids did, when they got called on they completely froze up! It was simultaneously cute and pitiful. So fellow Pokemon-loving gaijin, if you get the chance to go to this lovely attraction, I beg you – please give poor Charizard some advice! He has growing pains and he needs help, dammit!

All in all, though, I thought it was a great attraction! It was super adorable and afterward we were given cards to get that very Charizard in X/Y or OR/AS – in which you will find a message from charizard himself – cute overload! Unfortunately, the code didn’t work with my American copy of the game, so if you want Charizard, I’m guessing that you’ll need a Japanese 3DS and copy of the game.

If you did go to this attraction, what did you think? Were the kids painfully shy? Or was that just the group I happened to end up with?

The Café

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So that was all that our tight budgets allowed my friends and I as far as fun at the Pokemon Gym was concerned! …Or was it?

As we left, we all decided to get stuff from the Pikachu café that’s located in between the shop and the reception area! Though I may have the superhuman powers of self-control when it comes to merchandise, I can never say no to food!

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So. Much. Pikachu.

I ended up getting chicken nuggets, which sadly were not shaped like Pikachu or anything Pokemon-related for that matter – bummer! Missed opportunity, Japan. Missed opportunity. I also got a drink – Mew’s Synchro Smoothie! It was delicious. Though overpriced, it was worth it – better than I expected from this little café! There were five other specialty drinks available, all based on a Pokemon as well. In the picture below, from the top left to the bottom right are Pikachu, Charizard, Machamp, Zoroark, Smeargle, and Mew.

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Despite the lack of Pikachu-themed chicken nuggets, I would say it was pretty hard to deny the not-so-subtle theme of this café!

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In Conclusion

If you go to the Pokemon Expo Gym expecting a “real-life” version of a Pokemon gym from the games, you will probably end up disappointed. But if you just go in with the mindset that you’re going to otaku out, scare small Japanese children, and quite possibly get a bit of a workout doing it, then what more could you ask for, really?

On a side note, I went on a Sunday – December 6, to be exact. I expected that it would be crazy busy as it’s a brand new thing and it was a Sunday, which is often times the only day Japanese people get off work. Surprisingly, however, it wasn’t! Literally, the only thing we had to wait for was Charizard’s Battle Colosseum and that was because the previous show needed time to let out.

We went around 1pm, if I recall, leaving around 2ish. And as we were leaving, it did get noticeably more crowded. So if you go on a Sunday, I would say that the earlier you can go, the better! Generally, on weekdays The Gym is open from 11am-6pm, while the shop and café are open from 10am-8pm. On weekends and holidays, the Gym is open for a bit longer – from 10am-7pm. I imagine going on a weekday, earlier in the day, is your best bet at beating the crowds! You will most likely only find very small Japanese children, gaijin, and delinquents who play hooky from school!

So go! Embrace your inner child and set them free! In the immortal words of Professor Oak: Your very own Pokemon legend is about to unfold! A world of dreams and adventures with Pokemon awaits!

Author Bio
Hannah Azok

Hannah Azok

Hannah's just a crazy, fun-loving, Ohioan in Japan for the third time. She loves video games, working out, traveling, and ice cream! Her adventurous nature often lands her in some exciting, silly, and just plain awkward situations—but hey, they make for some great stories!

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