Summer in Japan guarantees several things: heat, humidity, festivals, and Pokémon. A new Pokémon film has been in theaters every summer since 1998, the year after the TV series began airing in Japan. Having come full circle, this year’s film ExtremeSpeed Genesect: Mewtwo Awakens features Mewtwo, who also starred in the first movie, Mewtwo Strikes Back. The movie is the last in the Best Wishes! series, and along with a new movie also comes a stamp rally to promote it.
Each summer, kids (and a fair share of adults) run around train stations with their parents or older siblings to collect stamps which they can exchange for a prize. While there are different stamp rallies to promote different things year round, East Japan Railway Company’s annual Pokémon rally is among the most popular.
To take part in the stamp rally, participants purchase a one-day rail pass for the area holding the event and receive a stamp sheet or pamphlet. Then they’re off to collect a minimum of 12 stamps from the 24 participating stations. The number of required stamps and stations may vary depending on the event and railway, but the goal is the same. Stamps are placed outside the station gates and once the required number of stamps are collected, participants can exchange their completed sheet for a prize at an exchange station. Prizes generally range from clear files and stickers to pins and cards. They make great souvenirs for those visiting Japan but are only available while supplies last so if you snooze, you lose!
Another notable annual rally is the Kamen Rider stamp rally organized by Tokyo Metro. Many anime series also get their own one-time events, such as the Tobu Railways Majestic Prince rally.
These stamp rallies offer an excellent opportunity for families to spend time together, and you can’t go a summer without spotting Pokémon designs on the JR trains or kiddies with their Pikachu cardboard headbands eagerly leading their parents and elder siblings to the stamp area. If you’re visiting Japan during a stamp rally, don’t hesitate to join in on the fun!