• Chunichi Shimbun

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A little over a month has passed since the smartphone game “Pokemon Go” was released in Japan, but people are still found wandering around Nagoya’s Tsuruma Park — a magnet for its players — until late at night.

Pokemon fever has ebbed slightly, but people now gather there even if there are no events, and nearby stores are enjoying strong sales of items related to the game.

Many teenagers are caught loitering in the park at nights, forgetting the time as they devote themselves to capturing the virtual monsters central to the game.

The park in Showa Ward has become a sort of holy ground on the internet because the shape of a fountain there resembles the “monster ball,” a tool used to capture the digital creatures, when viewed from above.

At its peak on July 28, about 5,000 people flocked to the park, which is more than it gets each year when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, the police said.

The fountain, a two-minute walk from JR Tsurumai Station, is surrounded by players with smartphones trying to capture the characters. Chinese can also be heard in the crowd.

In the daytime there are usually only a few dozen people, but that climbs to over 500 when night falls.

“It’s worth coming here because it’s where people gather,” said a 29-year-old resident of Naka Ward who stops by the park almost every day on his way home from work.

In the game, the use of charged items makes characters easier to catch in designated spots for a certain period, and that benefit can be enjoyed by players other than the owner who are nearby at that time. As the weather cools, people arrive at night looking for those opportunities.

“Our daily sales have increased by ¥20,000 to ¥30,000,” said a 67-year-old woman who owns a nearby drugstore.

Bottled tea and bug repellent are selling well, and it also sells battery chargers for smartphones near the cashier.

Tsuruma Ikkokuya, a ramen shop next to the park, saw traffic triple right after the game’s release. Even now, patronage is still 50 percent above normal.

A convenience store in JR Tsurumai Station set up a Pokemon section at the end of July stocked with 10 types of related goods, including decorated purses, after sales doubled. It also puts out a board in front to advertise the goods and draw customers away from its rivals.

The park’s newfound popularity has also caused problems.

On Aug. 8, police arrested a 40-year-old man suspected of touching the thigh of a woman in her 20s who was playing the game while sitting at the edge of a flower bed.

Illegal parking was common right after the game was released, but that was basically solved by placing traffic cones along the streets around the park and constantly patrolling the area.

On July 29, sometime after midnight, the police found seven teenagers loitering in the park.

“We were so engrossed in the game that we lost track of time,” one of the young men said.

Even now, they are still finding many junior high and high school students in the park at night.

This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on Aug. 29.

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