Why Does Japan Get Different Pokemon TCG Sets and Cards?

Whether you’re a veteran Pokemon TCG collector or new to the scene, if you’ve seen Japanese cards you’re bound to notice a distinct difference between their cards and ours. The set names are different, the card backs vary from ours, packs contain only five cards, you’re not guaranteed a rare in a Japanese pack, and the cards themselves can vary slightly based on international censorship and other considerations. 



A Dripfeed of Releases

Outside of all the above mentioned variations between English Pokemon cards and Japanese cards, the biggest difference is how the cards are released. In Japan, Pokemon cards are released in a steady drip of small releases- these include smaller full sets, new starter decks with unique cards, micro sets, Pokemon Center promos, and Pokemon Gym promos.  The Pokemon Company International (TPCI), who is responsible for English Pokemon TCG releases, takes a combination of these releases to make up their full sets. For example, the English set called Pokemon Sun & Moon: Cosmic Eclipse, was made up of Pokemon Sun & Moon: Remix Bout and Pokemon Sun & Moon: Alter Genesis in Japan.

Crafted for an International Audience

Japanese consumer culture is familiar with and accepting of smaller (usually slightly more inexpensive), consistent releases with “chase” cards that push sales. In general, this kind of Gacha sale style (short for Gachapon, based on popular collectible vending machines) is less approved of if not outright regulated in international markets. It is then no surprise that TPCI focuses on releasing more “traditional” sets that more readily meet international needs, though it does make some Japanese releases particularly interesting collector’s pieces! In particular, unique promos are a serious consideration for interested collectors, such as the special Japanese Post promotional Pikachu!

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