Pokémon: How Slowpoke Became Japan’s Unlikeliest Governor

Many creatures from the Pokémon franchise show skills and intelligence that put the human characters to shame. With their massive mental prowess, it wouldn't be surprising to see a Malamar or even Mewtwo take on a role in local government. However, despite also being a Psychic-type, you really wouldn't expect to see a Slowpoke in a position of influence. And yet, a Slowpoke did indeed hold political office for a short period, its strange path to power paved with nepotism and puns.

The Kagawa Prefecture sits in the Northeast of Shikoku Island. The prefecture is known for many things, including the stunning Takamatsu Castle and its history as the endpoint of the Shikoku Pilgrimage route. However, the Kagawa Prefecture is most known for its Udon noodles, and many of the world's best-rated noodle shops sit within the prefecture. In fact, in many tourism promotions, Kagawa Prefecture refers to itself as the "Udon Prefecture."

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On April 1st, 2018, Yutaro Goja, the head of the Kagawa Tourism Department, hosted a press conference. At this conference, he announced a change in Kagawa Prefecture's governance, arguing that it was time for a change -- and this change came in the form of a new prefecture name and a brand new governor. Goja announced that Kagawa would now be known as the "Slowpoke Prefecture," named after the iconic Pokémon. Then, the new governor made his grand entrance. However, rather than a man, it was instead a man-sized Slowpoke.

Once the new governor arrived at the podium, the gathered press was keen to interview them. Alas, Slowpoke isn't the most vocal creature in the Pokémon universe, so after a few short answers, the host handled the rest of the questions, going as far as to inform the press that the new governor was about "action, not words." The province then unveiled a series of new Slowpoke-themed products, including fans, models and pink udon noodles, the latter of which was shown off via a music video that saw Slowpoke dancing with two idols.

While this may seem odd, this move into governance makes a lot of sense. In Japan, Slowpoke is known as Yadon, which sounds like Udon, making it the natural choice to rule over the prefecture famous for the noodles, even if some would argue that simply having a punny name isn't enough to rise to high office. But the more you think about it, the more the appointment makes sense. In the high-intensity world of politics, a cool head is required, and there is no Pokémon cooler than Slowpoke. This calm nature would definitely help in negotiating with other politicians and the public at large. Slowpoke's psychic abilities are also handy, allowing it to sense people's unspoken needs by reading their minds. Alas, its natural laziness will likely be a detriment to its long-term political ambitions. Though the upside is that it's hard to be corrupt if you're simply too lazy to engage in dodgy dealings.


Of course, the date of this announcement should make you pause. The whole show occurred on April 1st, a day infamous for pranks and publicity stunts. Despite being unveiled to the press, the official changeover never occurred, leaving Keizō Hamada as the prefecture's governor, a role he still holds to this day. Maybe Slowpoke realized that a political career would eat into its relaxing time and decided to stand down after a single day in office. Maybe other Pokémon petitioned the government, demanding that they should also get to name and run their own prefecture, forcing Slowpoke to stand down. Whatever the reason, Keizō Hamada should be thankful that he never had to run in an election against the world's cutest politician.

While Slowpoke Prefecture didn't come to fruition, Slowpoke did join Kagawa prefecture's tourism team in the December of 2018 as a member of Team Udon-ken PR. As part of this promotion, many of the items unveiled on April 1st became actual products, including Slowpoke-branded pink noodles. The collaboration has also included Slowpoke-themed manhole covers, special vending machines and a Slowpoke postbox.

While this stunt only lasted for a day, it does show how ingrained Pokémon is in popular culture. It is a franchise that has become so popular that it is universal enough to be used as part of a massive governmental promotional campaign. It also shows how the Pokémon regional initiative can help areas bring in tourism and help educate people about Japan's regions and their various specialty products.

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