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We traveled to the disaster-stricken Tohoku region to see the effects of Pocket Monster Lapras’ real-world healing powers.

For the most part, the Pokémon franchise keeps its storylines pretty bright and cheery. Go to Place A, catch Pocket Monster B, battle Rival Trainer C, become friends after your victory, then head to Place D to start the process all over again in new surroundings.

So it was kind of startling to find out that water/ice-type Pokémon Lapras has a pretty somber backstory, dealing with poaching and extinction. Now, though, Lapras is part of a project to spread a little cheer to a region that could definitely use it.

From now until November 23, Pokémon GO developer Niantic is increasing the encounter rate for the hard-to-find Lapras in coastal communities in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures. Even if you don’t have a firm grasp of Japanese geography, those names might ring a bell as the three prefectures that suffered the worst damage in the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March of 2011.

It’s hoped that increasing the Lapras encounter rate will draw travelers to the region, and since travelers need places to eat and sleep, that this will in turn give a boost to the local towns and economies which are still in the painful process of recovering from the disasters. Presented with an opportunity to do a good deed and bolster our Pokémon stable at the same time, we headed north to the Miyagi port town of Ishinomaki, where five years ago thousands of residents lost their lives in the tsunami.

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Sure enough, right outside Ishinomaki Station we spotted clusters of Pokémon Trainers. We fired up Pokémon GO on our phone, and before long, a Lapras appeared on the map!

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It’s extremely tough to track down a Lapras in Tokyo, so we silently congratulated ourselves as we captured the Pocket Monster. But the night was still young, so we continued our Pokémon hunt, falling in step with the crowds of other players who were strolling about the streets.

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Two hours later, we’d caught four more Lapras

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…plus an Abra, a Cubone, a Drowzee, male and female Nidorans, a Clefairy, a Jigglypuff, a Machop, a Shellder, a Vulpix, a Squirtle, and an Eevee.

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And it wasn’t just the streets that were full of people, but the hotels as well.

▼ One of the many hotels that was booked solid during our trip to Ishinomaki.

【衝撃真実】石巻のホテルが全部満室なことが判明! 野宿か!?

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While video games’ primary purpose is to provide entertainment, it’s nice to see that with some clever thinking, they can also provide hope for a recovering community.

Images: RocketNews24
[ Read in Japanese ]