Night time illuminations are now synonymous with the cold winter season. In Sydney, this took the form of Vivid which was positioned as a light, music and ideas festival, to encourage locals to venture out despite the drop in temperatures. Here in Tokyo, some really popular ones are the Marunouchi, Midtown and Roppongi Street Illumination, all conveniently located around shopping districts. As a vehement hater of the cold though, it takes a lot to get me excited or interested enough to leave the warm nest of clothes and blankets I’ve made just to look at some bright, albeit often pretty, lights. I basically need mega distractions to stop me thinking about how my fingers have gone numb, my face is tingling and the sheer number of layers I’m wearing is making me look and feel like the Michelin man. Of course when Sagamiko Resort announced their Pokemon-themed illumination for 2020/2021, that changed everything.
Sagamiko Resort Pleasure Forest might be a long and weirdly suggestive name but its sheer variety in attractions probably deserves such a title to capture everything. That it offers. Situated in Kanagawa Prefecture, it has almost every form of entertainment possible including an amusement park, camping grounds, an onsen and even something called Muscle Monster, a kind of athletics-based jungle gym on steroids. Within these attractions, one can unpack them even further, think thrill rides, a food stall and food truck area and a huge souvenir store. All of this, overlooks the picturesque Lake Sagami, which is actually a popular all-seasons destination for locals.
From Tokyo, we made our way to Shinjuku Station to catch the Keio Line towards Takao which takes around 40 minutes. After Takao, the train changes into the JR Chuo Line which takes you to Sagamiko Station. From there, it’s a 40-45 minute walk through the town and some winding roads but you can also get a bus that will get you there in 10 minutes or so. A roundtrip may cost you about 1500 yen. We arrive around 4 – 5 pm just as the sun was setting so we could enter at peak illumination time. The amusement park itself is probably geared more towards young children, with rides that are much slower and a little lo-fi. I’m also not really sure what the deal is but Padding Bear seems to be a permanent mascot of this area, alongside other random signage to give the place a fake British vibe. We came here with friends who are from the UK so they found this part highly amusing.
The ticket we had purchased was the Night Free Pass which includes unlimited rides along with our entry after 4 pm. We’re here on a Sunday and it hasn’t even been a week since Pokemon Illumination started so the place is rather packed and mostly families. To humour ourselves, we actually try some of the attractions like Paradise Pilot, Fort Karakuri and Shuppatsu Paddington. Of the three, Fort Karakuri, a three-dimensional wooden maze, is actually quite interesting and made significantly harder when having to navigate in the evening.
But enough distractions! We’re here for Pikachu. The majority of the Pokemon illuminations take place above the park though, so you can get a ride on the Rainbow lift to the top or walk up like a peasant. The view is quite stunning as you can have a bird’s eye perspective of the flower field of light as well as the first illumination, Eevee’s friends. My age is going to show when I say that Gen I Pokemon are my favourite and I don’t even know the names of the Fairy and Grass Eeveelutions. Jolteon will always be best boy for me!
The rest of the area will basically just make you go catch’em all as you’ll be walking around trying to spy Pokemon either in plain sight or hiding in lit-up tall grass. Despite my Gen I preference, I did like how they blended Pokemon across generations together rather than segregating them based on the year they were conceived. Some illuminations had sensors which would trigger them to light up only when someone walked past. Others had buttons at the front to create a slight moment of interaction between attraction and guest. Some other favourites for me are the sleeping Charmander, Magikarp lying on its side and seeing the Galar region starter Pokemon, Scorbunny, Grookey and Sobble gather together. The overall atmosphere is wonderful, and it’salso nice to see that adults-only groups were here too presumably reminiscing on their childhood.
Following the street of glowing Pokemon will take you to the heart of it all, Pikachu’s light forest. There are easily 20-30 Pikachu all waiting for you, with a ginormous inflated Pikachu at the very centre. At a timed moment, the “forest” will come alive with a full on laser light show accompanied by remixed Pokemon themed music and Pikachu sounds. I’ve never been to a rave or EDM festival but this is how I imagine it would be like if Pikachu was the headline.
As we were only there for a few hours that night and specifically to see the Pokemon Illumination, we didn’t manage to check out the rest of Sagamiko Forest. To be completely honest, I’m not sure if I’d be rushing to come back but it’s a place I’ll recommend friends and families visiting to check out if they have young children. If you’re travelling to Japan with children, it might be worth spending an entire day here, from the morning to really see everything. You could even stay overnight for a camping experience in one of the resort’s cabins or caravans, thus ensuring no long train ride back to Tokyo when the kids are probably tired. When you’re booking your tickets, make sure to check out the discounts page and other package deals, especially if you’re planning to visit other theme parks like Fuji-Q. While Sagamiko Forest isn’t hitting quite the same level of theatrics as places like Disneyland or DisneySea, it’s still a refreshing and rustic escape away. Watch my 15-second speed run below!