SoraNews24 heads to the Tokyo-area bayside oasis to spend warm summer nights chasing, and finding, Pokémon!
Recently, Pikachu himself stopped by the SoraNews24 office to hang out with us, and while we wished he could have stayed permanently, the Pokémon mascot had someplace he needed to be. See, every summer, the city of Yokohama, less than 30 minutes south of Tokyo by train, is the site of the annual Pikachu Outbreak, and it was time for the beloved Pocket Monsters to break out.
Pikachus have even taken over the signs at Sakuragicho Station, one of the two rail access points to Yokohama’s Minato Mirai neighborhood, where the outbreak takes place (if you want to hear the talking Pikachu ticket gates, though, you’ll need to arrive at Minato Mirai Station).
This year, the Pikachu Outbreak has broken with tradition in two ways. First, it’s primarily being held the week before Japan’s Obon summer vacation season kicks in, rather than overlapping with it directly, which makes for less crowded conditions. Second, while past iterations of the Outbreak have had most of their parades and dance shows in the afternoon, and in the blazing sun, this year all of the performances are taking place in the evening, meaning a much less sweaty time for Pikachu’s many fans (though all the decorations are still up in the daytime).
There’s a total of four shows to catch, but if you’ve only got time for one, you’ll definitely want to make it the Forests of Minato Mirai x Pikachu. Held in verdant Rinko Park, which sits on the shore of Yokohama’s harbor, this show is the largest single gathering of Pikachus in the Outbreak’s history, which stretches back to 2014.
When we rolled up, event staff were directing people towards a section of the park with a wide, grassy slope leading upwards into a grove of trees. Suddenly, the lights went out, but then, out of the darkness came happily bobbing pairs of warmly glowing red circles.
The Pikachus have learned a new trick since last year’s outbreak, and some of them now have light-up rosy cheeks!
But while we were distracted by those cheeks, more and more Pikachus were streaming into the park.
With roughly 50 Pikachus now dancing to upbeat music, it truly felt like an outbreak, but one we were happy to bear witness to.
The show lasts about 15 minutes, and is so overwhelmingly adorable that we went back on another day to attend the earliest performance, which starts at 6:55 p.m. (a full schedule for the Pikachu Outbreak Pikachu shows shows can be found here). With just a little bit of daylight left, this is the time to go if you want to get some golden-hour snapshots of the fluffy golden Pokémon.
This year, we also noticed that some Pikachus are substantially bigger than others. They’re not quite on the scale of the kaiju-class Dynamax Pokémon that’ll be featured in the upcoming Pokémon Sword and Shield video games, but these “boss Pikachu,” as we came to think of them, are a good head taller than their smaller brethren, as you can see with the third and fourth Pikachus from the right in the front row in the photo below.
But while Forests of Minato Mirai x Pikachu is the biggest, and in our opinion, best performance at the 2019 Pikachu Outbreak, it’s not the only one. Right down the street from Rinko Park, in the grassy park in the canal-side plaza next to the stately Nihonmaru sailing ship, there’s a Pikachu dance parade.
The group of rainbow-colored Pikachus with a rainbow-afroed leader also made an appearance at the 2018 outbreak. For 2019, they’ve dialed back the club-style intensity of their music and moves for something a little cuter and more crowd-pleasing, especially when they bounce through the crowd for energetic high-fives with the audience.
This show also gives you the best chance to snap a photo of dancing Pikachu with the Pikachu-themed lights on Minato Mirai’s iconic Ferris wheel.
Next up, and also just a few blocks down from Rinko Park and the Nihonmaru, is the Streets of Minato Mirai x Pikachu show, in the Grand Mall Park plaza that runs between the Yokohama Museum of Art and Mark Is shopping center.
The museum itself serves as a canvas, with beautiful projection mapping providing a backdrop for the electrically costumed Pikachu dancers.
Speaking of Mark Is, if seeing so many Pikachus convinces you that you need to get some Poké-merch ASAP, on the complex’s first floor you’ll find a Pikachu vending machine, stocked entirely with Pikachu towels, pouches, and other items.
But wait, there’s still one more Pikachu show to catch! So now it’s off to Aka Renga, a.k.a. Red Brick Warehouse. The most remote venue for the 2019 Pikachu Outbreak, it’s still only about a 10-minute walk from Rinko Park.
Aka Renga is actually a pair of buildings, built in the style of the former Yokohama customs house. It’s now an entertainment complex, and the large plaza is the site of the Seas of Minato Mirai x Pikachu show, which combines dancing with playful splashes of water.
Even after the shows are over and you’re on your way home, there’s still some Pokémon-style fun to be had. Set up at various points throughout Minato Mirai are Pokegenic photo spots, where you can take commemorative snapshots of your day of Pikachu-chasing.
▼ Minato Mirai Station’s Pokegenic
▼ Don’t worry, there’s no age limit.
With smaller crowds and a sun-down schedule, this 2019’s Pikachu Outbreak feels a little more relaxed than previous years, but is no less awesome an experience. The event runs through August 12, and each show is performed multiple times a night, with the earliest beginning at 6:55 p.m. and the latest at 8:45. Be aware that there’s unfortunately no way to see all four in one night, so you’ll want to double-check the schedule here and plan ahead so that you don’t miss the ones you want to see most.
Or, of course, you can just do what we did, and go back again for a second day.