Where in Japan is Pokémon’s Vermilion City modeled after? An official video reignites a decades-old debate

The Pokémon Company has announced that next year’s Pokémon World Championships will be held in Yokohama, Japan. But while fans were excited to see that the event will be coming to Japan, some trainers were surprised by the video suggesting that Vermilion City is based on Yokohama.

Pokémon is an RPG series that sees players capturing, raising, and battling Pokémon on their quest to become a Pokémon Master. The world of Pokémon is divided into regions, with each new generation generally introducing a new region.

For example, the first generation of Pokémon, the Kanto region, is modeled after Japan’s Kanto region. The next generation’s Johto region was modeled after central Japan and the Hoenn region which came after that was modeled after Kyushu, with each one taking inspiration from the area’s geography and culture. Starting with Pokémon Black and White, regions also started to be modeled after locations outside of Japan like the United States and France.

And when you overlap the modeled areas with a real map, you can see a strong resemblance between the topography. Many fans also believe that the cities in the games get their names and characteristics from the actual locations they match up with. One example is how Saffron City in the heart of Kanto is thought to be the central area of Tokyo.

Kanto, Japan
Pokémon’s Kanto region

If we compare Vermilion City to a real map, it lines up with Chiba prefecture and geographically makes sense that it would be modeled after the Port of Chiba. On the other hand, when you think of an international port city with luxury ferries, the theory that it’s based on Yokohama also makes sense. It could also make sense to think of it as being based on the Port of Chiba’s location with Port of Yokohama elements added in. At any rate, the idea that Vermilion City is Chiba is strong among fans.

However, the official Pokémon side threw a wrench into that idea and got fans fired up. The impetus was a video shown at the closing ceremony of the Pokémon World Championships. For a long time, the event was mostly held in the United States, with it being held in London, England starting with WCS 2020. At the closing ceremony of WCS 2022, the location of the next event was revealed to be Yokohama, Japan, but the announcement video contained a moment fans were quick to take notice of.

The video showed gameplay from the first generation of Pokémon with the protagonist walking around none other than Vermilion City. The screen then went dark, showing the words “VERMILION CITY” on the screen. The text then changed to “YOKOHAMA” which fans responded to in excitement.

The announcement left the theory that Vermilion City was Chiba on not so solid ground. On the Pokémon map, it clearly falls on the Boso peninsula that encompasses Chiba prefecture. Yokohama actually lies on the opposite side of Tokyo Bay which sits between Chiba and Yokohama. Nevertheless, swapping the words Vermilion City out for Yokohama feels intended to suggest Vermilion City was modeled after Yokohama.

In addition, the video had a star marked on a map of Japan to show where the next WCS will be taking place. But it doesn’t fall in either location and is instead near the border of Kanagawa prefecture and Shizuoka prefecture, around the whereabouts between Atami and Odawara. If Vermilion City were modeled after this area, it would likely resemble a place with hot springs like Lavaridge Town in the Hoenn region. While a charming location, it’s not likely somewhere the lavish S.S. Anne would stop at.

Image taken from the WCS location announcement video

The shock of the announcement could be seen reverberating across social media in Japan. “クチバシティ” (Vermilion City) was even briefly trending on Twitter in the country, and if you searched the name of the city, suggestions like “クチバシティ 千葉” (Vermilion City Chiba) and “クチバシティ 横浜” (Vermilion City Yokohama) popped up. The community was in disarray. And because of the marking on the map we mentioned earlier, some users joked that it wasn’t either and is actually based on Odawara, giving birth to a new theory.

Not everyone lost their composure at the news, though. Because of other ways Vermilion City and Yokohama are similar, many fans seemed satisfied with the idea that Vermilion City is modeled after Yokohama. It might be rash to say it’s modeled after Yokohama alone, as it is a fictional city made by the game’s developers after all. It wouldn’t be contradictory to say the geography is based on Chiba and the culture is based on Yokohama.

Ultimately, the video was to reveal the next location of the Pokémon World Championships, but it was one tiny detail that rippled through the community. Part of the reason why the video caused such a huge response from fans is likely due to how  The Pokémon Company has avoided officially saying the areas the games are modeled after, although they might have taken that approach to not break the illusion of their fictional world.

Written by. Nick Mosier based on the original Japanese article (original article’s publication date: 2022-08-22 14:36 JST)