Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Japanese origins of Pokemon

I'd estimate there is about ten thousand dollars worth of camera gear in place around this little carp and lily pond on my daily jogging route. Half a dozen middle aged men stand there for hours waiting to take "action" photos. Photos of what I am not sure. Dragonflies being eaten by carp? Or hovering over certain lily pads? At their senior pay grade this surely accounts for several more thousand dollars worth of 'effort'. The resulting output must be the most expensive photos of carp and lilies in existence.

Japanese men playing with expensive equipment while wearing baseball hats
My own attempt at an "artistic" photo of carp and lilies
This blog post is about how Japanese culture naturally led to the invention of Pokemon cards, and more recently Pokemon-Go. Japanese people love going out and capturing things. Sometimes it's photos, as above. Sometimes plants or small critters. And they love little pets. Pretty much sets the stage for the evolution of Pokemon-go, no?

The same jogging route that passes the carp pond also boasts an allĂ©e of ginko trees. About one out of 10 of them is female, and October is the fruiting month here. Ginko fruits smell unbelievably bad, but they hide a delicious nut inside. Below a father-son team collecting these. Imagine enduring a stench wave attack from a plant-type pokemon. Once, back when we were living in Toronto, Min and I decided to try to cook some of these nuts and we went to collect them from a stately old tree in front of the University Bookstore on St. George Street, about a block from our apartment. We only managed to collect a few before a crotchety old Chinese man hobbled over to shoo us away, informing us in angry Cantonese that this was his ginko nut collecting territory. 

Ginko Nuts
Could those be Ginko nuts on Gloom's head?
Little pets are also big in Japan. I'm not 100% sure but it looks to me a bit like this fashionably attired woman has chosen her outfit in order to match the very distinctive and attractive colors and patterning on her Meowth, which she is parading proudly in a public park on a leash.  No walk in the park in Japan is ever complete without an eclectic menagerie of pocket sized pets being pampered.

Finally, for capturing all those flying-types, family day in the park clearly requires multiple butterfly nets. After all, imagine the conundrum if one member is the family is busily tracking down a Butterfree, and a Venomoth suddenly appears nearby. Clearly it's best to have two nets on hand just in case.
Backup Butterfly Net?
One of the great things about Japan is that these traditional treasure hunt like activities are still going strong, and have not been displaced entirely by Pokemon-go, though the balance of evidence suggests the electronic version is more popular for the time being. The other day Min and I were standing, completely alone, on a drizzly dockside when Pikachu appeared. I was just trying to nab him, when, I kid you not, literally 1000 people stampeded me, all with their phones out trying to capture the icon.

Pikachu Seeking Hordes

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