Warm, cute and delicious – this is the type of Pokémon everyone in Japan wants to catch right now.
When it comes to rating Pokémon in terms of strength, Magikarp would be sitting, or more accurately, flailing about, right at the very bottom. Known in Japan as Koiking, which translates to Carp King, the fishy character receives a lot of flack from gamers putting up with its painfully ineffective Splash and Tackle moves, but for some that only makes this weakest of Pokémon one of the most endearing.
The creators of the hugely popular franchise are currently working to keep the love alive for Magikarp, with a special “I Love Koiking” campaign. And if the way to people’s hearts is through their bellies, Magikarp is winning over a legion of people in Japan right now, as he’s been transformed into traditional taiyaki (fish-shaped cake) as part of the promotional activities for a limited time.
▼ Known for popping up all over the place, Magikarp can now be found at one of Japan’s most popular taiyaki chains, Kurikoan, where he’s being cooked and served up as “Koiking-yaki”.
On sale from 23 December, we lined up to get our hands on the sweet Magikarp at Kurikoan’s original location, right outside Yokohama Station. With a long queue of people lined up outside the store, we weren’t the only ones with a sweet spot for the fish Pokémon.
The Yokohama-based purveyors of these traditional taiyaki sweets also have branches in Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa Prefecture, but Magikarp is only making an appearance at five locations in Tokyo and Yokohama.
As we edged closer to the head of the queue, we were impressed to see the special cast iron moulds used to create the Magikarp cakes (left) were very different to the more traditional fish shapes usually used for moulding taiyaki (right).
While the small cakes looked beautiful, the smell of the warm batter and sweet ingredients was just as enticing. Magikarp was outnumbered by rows of and rows of traditional taiyaki, but that just highlighted the exclusive nature of this limited release.
One of Kurikoan’s best-selling taiyaki varieties is filled with a creamy vanilla bean paste, while their signature offering comes filled with a red bean paste mixed with delicious chestnut pieces. Magikarp comes without any fancy trappings, and is filled only with high-quality koshian, a sweet, smooth red bean paste, using adzuki beans sourced from Hokkaido.
When it was finally our turn to order, we found that Magikarp was being displayed with its very own official Pokémon-branded signage. At 163 yen (US$1.39) plus tax, this freshly baked piece of limited-edition edible merchandise was an absolute bargain!
Every Koiking-yaki purchase comes with its very own specially marked packaging, which makes it look like the fish Pokémon is waiting to be released from its Poké Ball.
Coming face to face with the taiyaki, there was no mistaking that we were looking at Magikarp – in warm, delicious, freshly baked form.
Splitting him in two revealed his deliciously smooth red bean filling. Kurikoan’s taiyaki have a thicker-than-average cake that’s really fluffy, like a well-made pancake, and this one was incredibly tasty. While it’s advised that Magikarp should be eaten on the day of purchase, the best way to enjoy the edible Pokémon is as soon as possible, while the cake and its filling is still soft and warm.
On the back of the official packaging is the lyrics to the “I love Koiking” song which appears on the campaign website. It explores all the character’s details while lovingly poking fun at its remarkable weakness at the same time. Kurikoan branches usually have a small boom box playing a recording of the chain’s jingle, but right now the one at the Yokohama branch is instead playing the official Koiking character song.
The song’s lyrics might sound scathing at first, but the joyful, childlike way in which it’s sung, plus the fact that it’s called “I Love Koiking” fits right in with the crazy nature of the wide-eyed joke Pokémon. While the first verse and chorus below says it like it is, the song slowly builds to a happy, hilarious, love-filled ending.
“Unreliable, pitiable, famously weak.
Were you really strong a long time ago? That’s the rumour, but now you’re really weak. Your weakness is so sad.
Weak Pokémon Koiking, you’re the weakest in the world.
Weak Pokémon Koiking, your weakness is shocking.”
Now that the famously weak character has proved he’s all you need to beat the Pokémon Sun and Moon game, he’s making everyone eat cake, but only for a limited time. While the end date for the sale of the special Koiking-yaki cakes is yet to be announced,they’re only available from five Kurikoan locations, at Yokohama Station’s West Entrance, Yokohama’s Minato Mirai, and Asakusa, Akihabara and Kichijoji in Tokyo, so be sure to stop by to catch Magikarp while you still can!
Kurikoan (Yokohama Station West Entrance) / くりこ庵 (横浜西口店)
Address: Kanagawa-ken, Yokohama-shi, Nishi-ku, Minamisaiwai 1-11-1, Gobangai Yokohama Station West Entrance
Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Related: Kurikoan chain locations (Japanese)