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Pokemon, Pele, and World Champions Galore!

Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort, Pele the Dolphin, Pikachu, Noor-un-nisa Koller, one of the winners, Canadian team, bearded hula dancer Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort, Pele the Dolphin, Pikachu, Noor-un-nisa Koller, one of the winners, Canadian team, bearded hula dancer

When the new millennium dawned, our daughter went straight from Jay-Jay the Jet Plane to all things Pokemon. Ash, Brock, and Misty, but most of all Pikachu, Squirtle, Charmander, and Raichu became her new heroes and she couldn’t get enough of the stories, in those days rented on VHS from the video store.

Noor-un-nisa is thirteen now, but her love of Pokemon has not diminished. Her laptop computer is festooned with stickers of these fictional animal characters that do battle for their trainers, but rarely expire or get seriously hurt. When Noor-un-nisa saw a video on the web about the Pokemon World Video Game Championships 2010, she immediately asked Wendy and I if we could go. Since the location was Hawaii (we’ve never been), and my wife managed to accumulate enough air miles to get us there, we said yes.

Little did we know that this meant being packed into tiny coach class seats without any leg room, while we waited for a drop of water from the stewardess, who was busy chatting in the back with her colleagues. All the while the first class passengers were served all sorts of drinks and food, in addition to having plenty of seat and leg room.

But after changing planes at LAX, and Wendy’s ears being painfully blocked from the two take-offs and landings, we arrived at Kona airport, on the Big Island of Hawaii. A pre-arranged florist lady put a fragrant, purple lei around Noor-un-nisa’s neck and we settled in to wait for the shuttle bus to take us to our hotel.

While waiting, we chatted with the distributor of all Pokemon products for the Netherlands, and he said that the Japanese animation characters were still very popular in Europe, in a wide range of age groups, from six to sixteen.

The Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort Ocean Towers, a Dolphin named Pele, Pikachu twice, players in the Pokemon World Championships, Noor-un-nisa Koller, hula dancers with coconut shell bras, Papa Koller with grass skirt and coconut shell bra.The Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort Ocean Towers, a Dolphin named Pele, Pikachu twice, players in the Pokemon World Championships, Noor-un-nisa Koller, hula dancers with coconut shell bras, Papa Koller with grass skirt and coconut shell bra.The shuttle drove us to the Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort, but it was after nightfall, so we had no idea what the landscape looked like. Later, we found that the Resort was like an oasis in the middle of stark, lunar terrain—black volcanic rocks for miles, with almost no vegetation. They still had an active volcano on the other side of the island.

The lushness of the 62-oceanfront-acre-Resort more than made up for the stark surroundings. Man-made lagoons bordered by palm trees swaying in the ocean breezes, a monorail and small boats carrying guests from the parking lot to the various hotel towers, several pools with waterfalls and wonderful animal statues all around them, and oriental and native art everywhere. Not to mention luxurious shops and expensive restaurants galore.

Due to the ingeniousness of my wife, we circumvented the need to spend way beyond our food budget. She packed a slow cooker in our overweight luggage as well as a single burner hot plate for rice. After lunch every day, she would put some chicken breasts and vegetables along with spices into the pot and by suppertime, we had a delicious meal ready. All I had to do was make some rice.

The Resort was buzzing with excitement about the weekend championships. The huge main lobby was filled with small groups of youth huddled around coffee tables playing the Pokemon trading card game, or sunk into plush easy chairs trying to beat another video game on their Nintendo DSi’s.

It turned out that both the Trading Card World Championships and the Video Game World Championships were held on Saturday and Sunday, August 14th and 15th, with Friday largely being put aside to trade cards and buy souvenir items from Japanese vendors who spoke little English and wanted nothing but cash.

By this time, hundreds of Pokemon enthusiasts were milling around the convention center. In fact, 375 players from 25 countries competed for the prizes and scholarships. We found out from a mother from New Jersey, that the Pokemon card game played at the championship level is more intricate than chess and that she plays it with her boys to encourage social interaction, strategic thinking, and concentration.

She wasn’t the only adult caught up in all the excitement. There were three levels in both competitions: the Juniors being mostly pre-teens, the Seniors embracing the younger teenagers, and the Master Trainers, including everyone born before 1994. This latter group had a sizable contingent of adult players.

The Grand Ballroom was filled to the rafters on Sunday afternoon, with everyone watching huge TV screens on either side of the stage, while a Japanese player and a young American guy faced off in the final game of the video championships. Each Pokemon has unique modes of attack, resulting in partial or complete incapacitation of the opponent. Back and forth it went for quite a long time, before the U.S. player’s Pokemon put the Japanese guy’s character out of commission!

Historically, the Japanese dominated these events, but this year the American, Ray Rizzo, won the video, while a Canadian guy, Jacob Lesage, won the Trading Card Game Championship! Executives of the Pokemon and Nintendo Corporations congratulated the winners, who included a young Japanese girl, Yuka Furusawa, for the first time in the Junior category.

Our daughter asked afterwards if we could make this an annual event in our lives. It was announced that next year the Championships will take place in San Diego, California. The Pokemon Corporation has a contract with the Hilton chain, so it no doubt will be held at one of the Hilton Resorts in that city. If they are anything like the Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort, it will be worth the trip.

An excellent summing up of the Pokemon World Championships

In addition to the Pokemon weekend, we managed to have Noor- un-nisa get up close and personal with a dolphin named Pele, who was named after the local volcano goddess. Wendy also took her on a submarine cruise around the coral reefs, and we all attended a luau. The latter featured ethnic dances from Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, and Samoa, as well as a scrumptious banquet including the traditional roast pig.

One day, we went on a glass bottom boat, where yours truly had a Heiniken and allowed a charming hula dancer to adorn him with a coconut shell bra and a grass skirt to attempt the native dance of Hawaii himself. Noor-un-nisa took dozens of shots of her father, probably intending to post them on the Internet when we allow her to have her own Facebook page sometime in the future.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 13 April 2011 11:15

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