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Gotta Catch 'Em All: RCA Pokémon Scholars visit Japan

As part of winning the inaugural Pokemon Scholarship, Innovation Design Engineering student Amir Afshar and Information Experience Design student Jesse Cahn-Thompson were given the opportunity to travel to Japan to visit the Pokémon Studios.

The Pokémon Company organised the five-day trip, which included visits to their Tokyo-based studio where Amir and Jessie met CEO, Tsunekazu Ishihara alongside the innovation, gaming and toy making teams. Amir and Jessie experienced aspects of Japanese culture during their visit, including enjoying the Sakura season, dining at a traditional izakaya and visiting the Miraikan National Museum – museum of emerging science and innovation.

Read more below to find out about their adventures and of course, their favourite Pokémon.


Amir Afshar
Innovation Design Engineering student

Amir presents his work to Tsunekazu Ishihara, CEO and founder of The Pokémon Company
Amir presents his work to Tsunekazu Ishihara, CEO and founder of The Pokémon Company
Top three moments?

  1. Meeting and presenting our projects to Tsunekazu Ishihara, the CEO and founder of The Pokémon Company.

  2. Meeting and having discussions around narrative and world building with Ken Sugimori (the artist behind all the Pokémon), Junichi Masuda (the Director and Composer for the Pokémon franchise) and James Turner (the Art Director of Pokémon games) at GameFreak.

  3. Meeting Kinya Tagawa, IDE alumnus and founder of Takram at his studio and learning about the work they do.

Best meal?

A fantastic sushi restaurant, the name of which escapes me.

Key takeaway from the visit to Pokémon?

The Pokémon team explained the many thoughts and considerations that go into world building and narrative. They shared insights into how they develop their brand and how they continue to explore new avenues while keeping the identity and ethos of the company still present at all times. I was very inspired by how a singular brand can adapt to be everything from a game for young children through to high end designs for fashion week shows globally. 

Favourite Pokémon character?

Cosplay Pikachu

Why?

I am a real fan of her loyalty and also that she is able to be dressed in different outfits that allow her to be able to learn different moves. Reminds me of being a multidisciplinary designer and how we can put on different hats to adapt to new challenges.


Jesse Cahn-Thompson
Information Experience Design student

Top three moments?

I’m going to squeeze a lot in here...

Ken Sugimori drawing Pikachu
Ken Sugimori drawing Pikachu
  1. Meeting and presenting our projects to Tsunekazu Ishihara, the CEO and founder of The Pokémon Company and having discussions around world building with Ken Sugimori (the artist behind all the Pokémon), Junichi Masuda (the director and composer for all the Pokémon franchise) and James Turner (the art director of the Pokémon games) at GameFreak.

  2. 84 (pronounced hashi) – a “secret”  Nintendo themed members-only bar but with no pretentiousness – was so fun! It was the first evening we spent with the Pokémon team and it helped cut through some of the initial formalities of the visit and set the tone for the rest of the trip and the connections we built. It was an ideal setting for getting a glimpse into some newer projects like fashion collaborations and our arts initiative. We played around with piles of gaming stuffed animals and checked out one-of-a-kind memorabilia. While we were there, we also got to pick out a Pokémon character pattern for a tailor made shirt – a very fun, surreal first night.

  3. Meeting and talking at the Niantic office. We got an inside look at the formation of real-world gaming and a glimpse into the information and data strategies involved in Pokémon Go and similar platforms.

Best Meal?

I have to agree with Amir about the Sushi, it was unreal! If I had to highlight another meal, it would probably be the raw chicken and liver I tried (which I never plan to have again) while browsing a variety of izakaya shacks with some of our new friends from Pokémon as our generous guides.

Jesse Cahn-Thompson with Snorlax
Jesse Cahn-Thompson with Snorlax

Key takeaway from the visit to Pokémon?

The exposure and conversation helped reinforce the idea that innovation and impact comes from unexpected places. Continuing to apply that concept to my own work by reaching outside of my comfort zone will remain a constant. Increasing my awareness of the balance between randomness and formulation in the planning and making processes is something I gleaned from the experience and will have an impact on my future work. Learning to adapt, staying true to narrative principles, and being inspired by outside sources was something that was clear in the company ethos. I would sum up the impact as a reminder to keep fresh eyes for imagining new possibilities and that joy in art and design is an essential part of holistic, sustainable creativity.



Favourite Pokémon character?

Snorlax

Why?

A gentle giant. Snorlax reminds me to relax and smile!