Gotta See Them All: The Real Life Locations That Inspired Pokémon

So you want to be the very best, like no traveller ever was? To celebrate the much anticipated release of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet on November 18th 2022, we are looking back on this beloved franchise’s previous generations, and admiring what inspired each of its adventure-packed regions. Whilst we cannot give you a Starter Pokémon (sorry Charizard fans) or guarantee a spot as the next champion, what we can promise you is a bunch of out-of-this-world adventures in some epic destinations. From an immersive tour around Japan to crossing the pond to see the Big Apple, here are the eight real life locations that inspired the game we cannot get enough of!

Generation One (Kanto) — Kanto Region, Japan


Kanto was the Pokémon region to start it all, drawing much of its inspiration from its real-world counterpart — in more than just its name! As the place where series creator Satoshi Tajiri grew up, the game’s portrayal of Kanto feels personal. There is more than Tokyo to explore here; as Pokémon Red & Blue includes its references to places like the ‘Roof of Japan’ Tateyama town (Fuchsia City), and the hot-spring town of Hakone (Viridian City).

But it is impossible to ignore the presence of Japan’s capital, especially since it is the largest city in the world! With famous landmarks like Tokyo Tower and Shibuya Crossing, it is hard not to be charmed by this city’s neon lights. Blending together times old and new, expect to find temples and shrines in one corner of Tokyo — and quirky high-tech shops in another.

And we have not even started on Japan’s food scene. Considered to be the culinary capital of Japan, this city has 160,000 restaurants that you can dine in — from Michelin Star, to downright bizarre.  If you are an animal lover, then stopping by one of Tokyo’s finest cat cafes is guaranteed to brighten your day.

While Japan is a fantastic destination any time of the year, its cherry blossom season does take this country’s beauty to the next level. Whether you are in the countryside or walking the streets of Tokyo, these pink flowers just gives every sight you encounter in your travels that extra touch.

Generation Two (Johto) — Kansai Region, Japan

Buddhist Temple Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto.

If Kanto represents the Japan of today, then Kansai symbolises its past. While regional feuds linger, many can agree that Kansai is where you should go if you prefer historical sites to skyscrapers. Home to Buddhist temples, Zen gardens, and the country’s ancient capitals, no place blossoms quite like Kansai.

Pokémon Gold & Silver clearly honours these values, as the traditional Japanese architecture can be found throughout the region of Johto. From Violet City drawing inspiration from Nara, to Olivine City mirroring Kobe, Johto is distinctly Kansai — even if they do not share the same name.

First, there is Osaka. Once the country’s first ever capital, Osaka still holds soft power as a vital economic city in Japan. It is an imaginative and vibrant city — not least because it is the location of the first Universal Studios Park built in Japan. Osaka Castle is this city’s standout star. Towering over trees of cherry blossom, the Osaka Castle is made up of around one-million giant stones.

Then there is Kansai's most famous ancient city to explore: Kyoto. The capital of Japan from 794 to 1868, Kyoto has over 1600 temples, including the breath-taking rows of the Fushimi Inari Shrine.

Want to find out more about Kyoto? Check out our guide on why you should visit Japan’s old capital.

Generation Three (Hoenn) — Kyushu Island, Japan

Hirado Island, Kyushu.

Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire took us away from Japan’s main island of Honshu, and instead to the subtropical island of Kyushu. With endless beaches and hot springs, Hoenn players are well-familiar with having to surf this region's coastline to get from one point to the next.

Kyushu is known for its energetic environment, fertile land, and status as the gateway to the outside world. Excitement can be found in its several cities, the most popular choice being its capital of Fukuoka. It has a bustling nightlife and shopping scene, making Fukuoka a fun-loving city 24–7. And as the second-largest port city in Japan, Fukuoka’s cuisine is rich in ingredients and taste.

Closely connected to Korea, Kyushu is a friendly and welcoming nation which has embraced its unruly landscape. With Japan’s most active volcano (Mount Aso) in the centre of it, Kyushu is wildness at its finest. From the 100,000 years old Takachiho Gorge to the bed of rock Devil’s Washboard, Kyushu is a hub of natural entertainment. Also worth visiting is the awe-inspiring Kawachi Wisteria Garden, a private garden adorned in shades of lavender.

Generation Four (Sinnoh) — Hokkaido, Japan

Shirogane Blue Pond in winter, Hokkaido.

Pokémon Diamond & Pearl moved further afield with their location to the northernmost region in Japan. A mountainous island, Hokkaido boasts incredible nature trails and ski slopes. As the coldest region in the country, Hokkaido in the snow can feel like stepping into a winter wonderland. This is especially true during February, when Hokkaido hosts its annual Sapporo Snow Festival! Over 250 ice and snow sculptures get displayed in the city, injecting that extra magic into an already dreamy destination.

Hokkaido may be a great winter spot, but it is beautiful all-year-around. Its abundance of adorable animals and weather that rarely goes above 27 °C (80 °F) make summer hikes and camping not only an exciting experience, but relaxing as well.

And it would be amiss not to mention perhaps Hokkaido’s most iconic (and free!) sight — the rainbow fields of Biei. Despite being a small village, Biei is the muse of many photographers for its ‘patchwork hills’. Situated between Furano (a city full of lavender fields) and the metropolitan Asahikawa, Biei is a great stop-off point in a trip around the Hokkaido region. With around 30 kinds of flowers blooming brightly in Shikisai No Oka , it is easy to see why it is also called the panorama road.

Generation Five (Unova) — New York, U.S.A


As the first Pokémon game to be set outside of Japan, the stakes were high with the release of generation five. Its success can be partially due to its Unova region — inspired by New York. While in-game geography references were not as blatant here compared to future instalments, there are still similarities worth noting.

Based upon Midtown Manhattan, Nimbasa city is the most populous destination in Unova. It shines in bright neon lights just like Time Square, and makes a nod to the Broadway scene with its Pokémon Musical. And just like Coney Island, there is a Ferris Wheel pivotal to the experience.

Home to iconic sights like Madison Square Garden, the Grand Central Terminal, and the Empire State Building, there is so much to see in just Midtown Manhattan alone. And as the wealthiest city on Earth, it is safe to say that New York knows how to make a statement. From riding around Central Park in a horse carriage to dining at Michelin-Star restaurants, NYC is all about the glitz and glamour.

But even if you don’t have much money to your name, there are still plenty of ways you can enjoy New York. With street vendors everywhere you go and welcoming neighbourhoods like Queens, this is a place that has heart and spirit.

Generation Six (Kalos) — France

Palace of Versailles gardens.

In-style with France’s reputation as the fashion capital of the world, the release of Pokémon X & Y allowed players to customise their characters for the first time. Shops were spread through the chic region of Kalos, so that your Pokémon journey could be reflected in more than just the number of gym badges you had.

Kalos is oh-so-French —  and not just because the region’s professor is a walking stereotype with the theme music to match. From the manicured gardens of Parfum Palace which screams Versailles, to the looping Lumiose capital which never gets easier to navigate, this game is like a highlights reel around the most visited country in the world.

Seeing the Parisian city of love for yourself can be thrilling, but there is much more to France than the Eiffel Tower — even though the in-game and real life buildings are immense. Equally impressive would be the awe-inspiring Mont Saint Michel, which appears to defy gravity. Situated in Normandy, this UNESCO World Heritage is whimsical and winding. And just like its in-game equivalent (Tower of Mastery), the Mont Saint Michel stands tall and proud.

Generation Seven (Alola) — Hawaii, U.S.A

Napali Coast, Kauai.

Easily one of the most beautiful destinations on Earth, there is no denying the effect Hawaii has upon people. It is no surprise then, that when preparing for Sun and Moon, the developers based this instalment upon such a heavenly place.

Divided into four islands, Alola’s terrain is similarly vast. Art imitates life in all its excitement -  golden beaches that stretch across a glistening sea, steep volcanoes, rich rainforest jungles, and more! Whilst Hawaii has an abundance of islands, its most famous would be the natural paradises of Kauai and Maui.

Nicknamed the ‘Garden Island’ for its unparalleled greenery, Kauai goes above and beyond when it comes to nature. Home to panoramic views such as the magnificent Napali Coast, Kauai will immerse you in an adventure like no other. Due to its isolated location, Hawaii has one of the highest populations of species endemic to its nation.

But if you have always preferred water-types to grass, then do not skip out on Maui. Voted the best U.S. Island by Condé Nast Traveler readers for over two decades, Maui is host to internationally adored beaches and marine life. No matter how you wish to unwind, Maui can make it happen. Day to night, this is one of the sweetest spots to watch the sun set.

Generation Eight (Galar) — United Kingdom

Yorkshire Dales.

Last on our list is Sword and Shield’s Galar region: an ever-green region that is the game’s equivalent to the United Kingdom (but mostly England). The player starts in a town called Postwick, a rural farming community where Pokémon and people live together peacefully. While its exact inspiration is difficult to pinpoint, Postwick captures the quintessentially British charm of many villages throughout the country. From Cotswold’s own Castle Combe, to the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales, Postwick embodies everything to admire about the British countryside.

More obvious inspirations are its major cities. Circhester is a clear take on the luxurious city of Bath, with its Roman Bathhouse similarly located in the heart of its city. Motostoke’s industrial port-city vibe feels like Manchester and Liverpool wrapped up into one, embodying the footie competition-driven and song-loving spirit of each city.

The game’s most significant location is, of course, based on London Baby! Wyndon — a bustling city of shops, centres, and salons — is the make-or-break point of your journey to becoming Pokémon champion, and looking good while doing it. Although it is unlikely that the O2 Arena will be hosting Pokémon battles any time soon, this stadium is an essential entertainment hotspot for any music geek.  And as for refreshing your look, Covent Garden and Oxford Street has got you covered. But with a ton of cultural history to explore, who cares if you look a little scruffy? This is London, not Paris, after all.

Starting from Skratch? Here are some links to help you get started:
If you're looking for other weird and wonderful adventures, check out our series on the world's wackiest destinations.

Japan / U.S. / France / U.K.- Facts before you go


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Hannah Douch
August 30, 2023

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