Poke-hunt finally begins in game’s native country

By LEON COOK | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 22, 2016

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Pokemon Go is finally a go on U.S. military installations in Japan.

The smash-hit smartphone game, in which players explore real-life locations to capture virtual pocket monsters, or Pokemon, had its long-awaited launch Friday in the media franchise’s native country.

Military Poke-hunters in Japan had a taste of the augmented-reality sensation last week, when Pokemon Go was briefly active for a server test, so there was plenty of anticipation in the lead-up to Japan’s official launch of the game, which has been playable in the U.S. and some other countries since early this month.

It took only a few hours for word of the game’s activation to spread around Yokota Air Base. Light rain didn’t deter crowds of rookie Pokemon trainers as they wandered the base in search of cute, animated creatures to capture with Pokeballs.

“I heard it was working about two hours ago,” said Airman Cameron Parsons of the 730th Air Mobility Squadron, who was taking advantage of a lure placed at a “Pokestop” in front of the 374th Airlift Wing headquarters just before lunch. “I’ve caught 12 since then, although four are Pidgeys.”

Pidgeys, turkey-sized bird Pokemon, are one of the most common characters; trainers can expect to find hundreds of them while searching for rarer creatures.

On the other side of the flight line, Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard Mahoney, 29, of Geneva, N.Y., was out hunting with his daughter, Julian, 6. The pair, along with other young players, congregated at a Pokestop near the Sakura Shell outdoor stage in Yokota’s east-side housing area.

By the time the lure expired after a half-hour, Mahoney and his daughter had caught 30 of the virtual characters, including a rare Eevee, a creature that resembles a small dog that has the ability to evolve into multiple types of Pokemon.

Mahoney, a network technician with Yokota’s 374th Communications Squadron, said he and his daughter went Pokemon hunting soon after a friend told them the game was live.

“We went to the Pokestop and set a Poke Lure so we were just able to sit there and hang out and catch a bunch of Pokemon,” Mahoney said.

The popular game has not been without its problems and controversy. A Wyoming teenager’s Pokemon pursuit led her to a dead body in a river, and Missouri police said four teenagers used the game’s geolocation feature to lure robbery victims, according to The Associated Press. Players have also reported injuring themselves as they search for Pokemon while wandering about with their eyes fixated on their smartphones.

Others take a more positive view of the game.

“It’s getting people to go out and exercise,” said Tech. Sgt. Charles Carson, who was searching Yokota’s east-side housing area with his pregnant wife in tow. “It gives me and my kids a great reason to walk around together.”


Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard Mahoney, 29, of Geneva, N.Y., hunts for Pokemon with his daughter, Julian, 6, at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Friday, July 22, 2016. The pair congregated with others at a "Pokestop" near the Sakura Shell outdoor stage in Yokota's east side housing area shortly after Pokemon Go went live in Japan.

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