How I took a $20,720 trip to Japan to catch Mewtwo
Let’s get past the first thing you’re probably wondering. I didn’t spend $20,720 on a trip to Japan to catch Mewtwo.
I won it.
Now for some backstory. There was no possible way I was going to travel in my current situation at the time, let alone Japan. I had entered ‘Sprint’s Pokemon Go to Japan Sweepstakes’ for the same reason someone would buy a lottery ticket for a huge jackpot— because it’s fun to imagine. Long story short, I’ll give you the ending of the sweepstakes story I gave to my friends (They didn’t know I won yet). “After all that paperwork, I got the email saying what I won. I didn’t win the first place prize… I won the Grand prize.”
I was overwhelmed with euphoria and I could remember exactly where I was and what I was doing. I was on the way to the butcher to get a blend of ground beef for a BBQ, Despacito was stuck in my head, and I was checking my email in-between spinning Pokestops. The first person I called, upon finding out I won was my Mom. She thought it was a ridiculous thing to get all the paperwork done to potentially only win a Power bank. (That was the “worse” possible prize if you got selected as a finalist). But nevertheless, she had helped me fill out the notary section with help from her friend and co-worker.
She didn’t pick up. (She was at work, so it was understandable)
I gave her the news later in person and she thought I was joking. She flipped between disbelief and accusing me of playing a prank on her. I felt the same way.
She believed me after dinner.
The trip was to take place during the Yokohama Pikachu Outbreak from August 9th to August 15th at Minato Mirai 21, the central business district of Yokohama, Japan. We stayed five of those days for the trip and one of those days was the Pokemon Stadium event which would feature Mewtwo. (We had no idea what actually was happening at that event.)
In addition to me going on the trip, I was able to bring three guests. I was originally going to bring my family consisting of my mom and two brothers (My dad isn’t the biggest fan of traveling). But our schedules weren’t going to work out so I ended up bringing my brother, we’ll call him Lan, and two of my friends that I’ve known since elementary school. We’ll call them Gregg and Monk.
Gregg recently went to Japan so I figured he would be helpful getting around and pointing places out. Monk was a good friend and had been wanting to go to Japan. My brother, Lan, has never been on an airplane before and never took up any offers to travel. But he came because he was a Japanophile. (Admittedly all of us were in some degree. Gregg was the actual weeb of the group though.)
Other than the few bumps in the road like my suboptimal choice of picking LGA for an international flight (This was my second time flying), everything in planning the trip was smooth. Sprint via a contractor was providing transportation, hotel, loaner phones with service, and other expenses on the trip. At the time, I still wasn’t believing it and thought there was a catch I overlooked. I found myself binging on Pikachu dance videos and Japan travel vlogs when everything was set.
When we arrived at Narita International Airport, it was raining and pretty humid out. The driver that would take us to Yokohama held a piece of paper with my name on it (Bucket list item – check). In Yokohama, we got hit with a wall of traffic on the way to the hotel due to the crazy activity of festival season and Pikachu Outbreak. The most amazing thing was almost everyone on the street was wearing paper Pikachu hats and playing Pokemon Go despite the weather. I checked my Pokemon Go app and saw the most spectacular spawns on the map: Pikachu, Farfetch’d, Mareep, Chansey, Larvitar, and Unown. There were Dragonite raids on going in the distance and I clawed at the van’s window wanting to do them. (I found out later they wouldn’t make another appearance after that.)
Our adventures in Japan could be summed up as Pokemon Go with a lot of sightseeing and even more pictures. (Gregg, Monk and I took a lot of photos. And for the record, I believe taking pictures help you live in the moment. At worse it helps me remember things that happened day to day. So the more photos, the more memories.)
I caught my first Unown, Japanese Farfetch’d, and Mr. Mine. I caught every single Mereep on sight because of how rare it was (My dex currently says 104 caught and seen). I did Ursaring, Golem, and even Wobbuffet raids. I managed to squeeze one Zapdos raid in Tokyo. I waited almost an hour by myself to watch a Pikachu dance performance. I watched Pikachu randomly march around the Yokohama area. A Pikachu blimp would randomly fly in the sky. In another instance there would be a crew of Pikachu in sailor outfits out in the water on a boat.
We had so much food we wanted to try but we settled for fresh sushi, unreal tonkatsu, reasonably priced ramen, wholesome curry and McDonalds. Convenience stores and vending machines became our favorite things in the world between sightseeing.
On the day we set aside to visit Tokyo, we visited Sensoji Temple, Akihabara (Gregg), Shibuya crossing, and Harajuku. Needless to say, we were exhausted after that.
Now if you were paying attention to Pokemon Go news at the time you would pretty much know all the details of the Pokemon Stadium event. The Pokemon Stadium event was a lottery event and only a select few thousand were able to attend. Personally, I had no clue it was going to be Mewtwo and still thought Ho-Oh was going to make an appearance. On the day of the event we were escorted to a side entrance. There I spotted Trainer Tips waiting outside to get in. My actual conversation with him in passing went:
“Hey, Trainer Tips.”
The rest of the event went by so fast. They played a really cool video of Mewtwo’s reveal while I was still stuggling to type in my QR code. Then the battles started. My Tyranitars got smashed by Focus Blast Mewtwo but we beat it with no problem with everyone else’s help. We were given 50 balls to chuck at him and it was an 100% catch rate if you hit him. My connection to the game was flawless so I had a great experence with the event. (Remember this a month after the Go Fest mishap. Promps to Sprint/Softbank for their handling of this event).
So, there was actually a single day between our flight back and we had nothing planned. I made a mention at the start of the trip of one of my friend’s request to get a Pooh Butt. Upon remembering that, it was decided by Monk that was what we were doing. We set out to find the elusive Pooh butt in Shinjuku.
We bought four.
At the end of most trips, people will take time to reflect on what they experienced and maybe what they gained from it. I never would have thought in a million years that I would travel to play a mobile game. Yet, it brought me to Japan. I felt inspired after visiting Japan and realizing there is so much out there to see by traveling. There’s still a lot I wanted to do in Japan too and I’m looking forward to coming back in the distant future.
When I asked my brother, Lan, what he thought of the trip. He said “We didn’t get to do much. You guys just took a lot of pictures.”. I nodded and replied,
“Yes, we did.”
I want to thank the individual from Octagon that arranged all the accommodations, the translator that escorted us in to the stadium, my friends for making this a memorable trip, and all of you for reading my rambling. Thank you.