Last month I was fortunate to go to Japan on a business trip — and so of course I took a few hours to visit Tokyo’s Pokémon Cafe.
My husband was really the one who got me there. He’s been a Pokémon fan most of his life, so a trip to the cafe was a must-see for him. (So was every Pokémon store we passed. And Tokyo has a lot of them.)
I wasn’t sure what to expect going in, since I only played one Pokémon game my whole life and didn’t even spend a lot of time on it. When my husband was addicted to the hit AR mobile game Pokémon GO a few years ago, I’ll admit I turned my nose up at it. While I enjoyed my time with Pokémon X and Y back in 2013, I found that trying to live up to the game’s slogan “Gotta catch ’em all” was overwhelming. I might have enjoyed it as a kid with more time on my hands, but I struggled to stay connected to it as an adult.
Still, I knew the little pocket monsters were adorable, and so I was excited to try out this unique cafe experience. And I’m so glad I did.
When you walk in, they seat you at one of about 30 tables scattered around a spacious room. There is one large table near the center of the room that I’m guessing is reserved for special events, like big birthday parties — although when I was there, a few couples were sitting at different parts of the table.
There’s also a large display of Pokémon items in glass shelves, some of which are for sale. There are a few things you can only buy at the Pokémon Cafe, such as kitchen towels. (As you can imagine, most are related to cooking!) As a practical shopper, I didn’t buy much, but my husband did purchase one of the souvenir cups!
We were seated at one of the wooden tables near the windows, which was great for a view of Tokyo’s skyscrapers right outside. The cafe is located in a part of the city that feels like a financial district — lots of tall office buildings and wide intersections, with some stores and one of the major railway stations nearby. In a way, the cafe feels like a creative oasis in the sea of more formal buildings surrounding it.
Every table has a tablet where you punch in your order. You can spend 90 minutes at your table, and you have to put in all of your orders in the first 70 minutes so there’s time to finish eating and drinking before the next group takes over your spot! I thought that would be plenty of time — but once you’re there, it goes fast!
While the cafe has several dishes, such as pancakes that you can decorate with all kinds of toppings, the main attraction seems to be their lattes. Mine was tasty, but it’s not the flavor you’re going for — it’s the latte art. Every Pokémon is represented, so you just order your latte with the number of your favorite Pokémon, and then wait for your little friend to garnish the foam of your drink.
Since I was new to Pokémon, I didn’t know my favorite until my trip to Japan. But my husband, while shopping in a store earlier that week, helped me pick out the perfect Pokémon for me: Espeon, an evolution of Eevee. I kept seeing her everywhere and wanting to take a closer look. At one point, I thought I saw a different Pokémon that I liked — it was a graceful gazelle, I thought — but when I pointed it out to my husband, he said that was actually Espeon too! It felt like a sign that she was meant to be at my side.
That’s why, by the time I got to the cafe, I had a little stuffed animal of Espeon to join me at our table. And I knew exactly which latte art I wanted to order.
The main event of any meal at the Pokémon Cafe is the introduction to Chef Pikachu himself. Toward the end of our time there, servers appeared announcing his arrival, and then the chef came dancing out for photos and handshakes. I have an amazing video of my husband shaking Pikachu’s hand — it was an honor and a privilege, I’m sure.
If I had to sum up the Pokémon Cafe experience for someone who’s never been, I would say it is like Disneyland for Pokémon fans. Obviously it’s not as big, and there are no rides, but it’s the most magical experience you can have if you want to see the Pokémon world brought to life! Just get your wallet ready for the massive store that’s right outside — it’s hard to resist all of the goodies you can buy when you’re high on Pokémon lattes…