Ever since the phenomenal rollout of the augmented-reality smartphone game Pokémon Go a few weeks ago, pokémon trainers have already discovered more than one virtual pokémon gym in the U.S. and across Europe.
In Go’s version of pokémon gyms, pokémon can be trained and trainers can claim them either by assigning a pokémon or battling a rival team who has claimed one. Of course, all this only happens on your smartphone.
But somewhere in Japan—where it all started—is a real-life pokémon gym where anyone can physically train, play, and interact with (virtual) pokémon. That means you, pokémon trainer!
A first, and so far the only one of its kind in the world, the Pokémon Expo Gym (PEG) opened in November 2015 in Osaka as part of Expocity, a massive shopping and entertainment complex.
It’s a 70-minute commute from Osaka Castle. You get off at the Banpaku-Kinen-Kōen Station; a giant inflatable Pikachu will welcome you upon arrival.
The Pokémon Expo Gym is right across this Gundam store.
Inside the gym is a small cafe that sells Pokémon-themed snacks.
We’ve seen healthier menus than this.
You can also take home this Pikachu tub filled with popcorn.
Just like Pokémon Centers in other parts of Japan, the Pokémon Expo Gym has a store that sells a sea of plush toys. Because, really, who wouldn’t want one?
There are also some AR-enabled merchandise that are not available in any other Pokémon stores, like this ID tag.
There are signs (in Japanese) around the gym with AR codes that activate with the PEG Gear app. Yep, that Pikachu popped out of that pokéball signage.
The gym’s real attraction, though, is an arcade-like facility beyond this gigantic pokéball. To get in, you need to buy a membership card called PokéPera for 500 yen.
Sadly, a membership at the world’s only real-life pokémon gym doesn’t increase your chances of catching rare creatures in Pokémon Go. But who knows what pokémon you can catch here once the app finally rolls out in Japan?
If you plan on trying out the facilities, you will have to top up your card with yen.
Macho J’s Boxercise, for example, costs 400 yen for one game that lasts for 3 minutes.
Here’s my friend Leslie getting physical with Macho J.
Aside from making Pikachus pop out, the PEG Gear app will also record your results inside the gym. I obviously have a long way to go to become a pokémon master. Sigh.
Gardevoir’s Control Score involves catching pokémon using a stylus and monitors.
There are other attractions where you can interact and talk with the pokémon. In case you’re going through some times, you can learn to punch like Machamp and get some life advice at Machamp’s Counseling Room.
The entire gym is decorated with Pokémon elements to give you all the #feels. Floors are painted with pokéball icons.
The walls also have murals like this one.
Even the toilet signs are Pikachu silhouettes.
If you ever find yourself traveling across Osaka — with half a day and more than 4,000 yen to spare — a visit to the Pokémon Expo Gym is a must. Whether you’re a die-hard Pokémon fan or not, this actual pokémon gym is something everyone can appreciate.
1 USD = 106 JPY