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How To Get Started Collecting Japanese Pokémon Cards

Two major versions of Pokémon trading cards exist to collectors; Japanese Pokémon cards and English Pokémon cards. Japanese Pokémon cards are released by The Pokémon Company in Japan, while The Pokémon Company International publishes the English version.

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Japanese Pokémon cards are often regarded as the original and most authentic version, while the English cards are translated versions of the Japanese cards.

Despite this, English Pokémon cards have long held the spotlight. However, an increasing number of Pokémon TCG collectors are turning their attention to the unique charm and distinctiveness offered by Japanese Pokémon trading cards. The allure of Japanese Pokémon cards has quietly captured collectors worldwide.

These Japanese Pokémon cards bring an additional layer of fascination to the collecting experience. This article shall delve into the realm of Japanese Pokémon trading cards.

We shall discuss the growing appreciation for their exquisite cards, what sets them apart from the English Pokémon cards, and how to buy these Japanese Pokémon cards.

Japanese Pokémon cards

Japanese Pokémon cards are trading cards originating from Japan, the birthplace of the Pokémon franchise. These cards hold a special status within the global collector community. In recent years, Japanese Pokemon cards have soared in popularity. Japanese Pokémon cards are some of the most coveted cards in the hobby.

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What sets Japanese Pokémon cards apart from English Pokémon cards is their cultural origin, distinct features, exclusives, and artistic representation. Combined, these have made them highly coveted among collectors worldwide.

One of the defining characteristics of Japanese Pokémon cards is their unique artwork featuring illustrations by renowned Japanese artists. These cards showcase the creativity and skill of these artists, bringing a distinct aesthetic quality that resonates with both avid TCG collectors and casual fans.

The artwork on Japanese cards is known for its intricate details, vibrant colors, and a certain cultural authenticity that adds an extra layer of appeal.

Another compelling aspect is the exclusivity of Japanese releases. Generally, new Pokémon expansions debut in Japan before reaching international markets. Japanese sets often introduce unique cards that sometimes do not make it the English expansions.

Japan-exclusive sets, special edition releases, and collaboration cards contribute to the allure, making Japanese Pokémon cards stand out as coveted items. The popularity of Japanese Pokémon cards has continued to rise, solidifying their place as sought-after treasures in the expansive world of Pokémon TCG.

The appeal of Japanese Pokémon cards

Japanese Pokémon cards were first produced several years before their English counterparts. However, for long, there wasn’t any significant interest in them outside Japan.

While some collectors outside Japan occasionally collected Japanese Pokémon cards, they weren’t in any considerable quantity. This was due to several reasons, including a lack of awareness of the appeal of these cards, a language barrier, and distribution challenges.

However, there has been a discernible shift in the winds since a few years ago. There’s a growing inclination toward collecting Japanese Pokémon cards as collectors recognize the allure of these cards.

These Japanese Pokémon cards have entered the limelight and captivated collectors with an irresistible charm beyond strategic game play. The value of Japanese Pokémon cards has soared with this interest. Cards that could be purchased for $1 – $2 a few years ago are easily selling for over $10.

The recent appeal of Japanese Pokémon cards is due to a combination of several factors.

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Superior artwork

One of the most notable appeals of Japanese Pokémon cards is its design and layout. Japanese cards typically feature more intricate and detailed artwork than their English counterparts.

Japanese Pokémon cards boast artwork crafted by renowned Japanese illustrators. The creativity, vibrant colors, and attention to detail in Japanese Pokémon card illustrations resonate with collectors. Aside from the artwork, the layout of Japanese Pokémon cards often includes more text and information, such as the illustrator’s name and card description.

Overall, the Japanese Pokémon card art quality is nicer, has more texture, and specific holo patterns that don’t exist in English cards.

Superior quality

Aside from the excellent art quality, Japanese Pokémon cards have always been of superior quality to English Pokémon cards. Japanese Pokémon cards are made with better materials and better-quality production.

The perception of Japanese Pokémon cards as having superior quality has been consistent since the inception of Pokémon trading cards.

Indeed, Japanese Pokémon cards tend to be of higher quality than their English counterparts. They have no centering issues, perfect edges, and zero print lines. While some English cards might have rough cuts, Japanese cards have crispy edges and line up perfectly with each other.

The difference can be noticed when viewing pictures of the cards but is even more pronounced when inspecting the card in person.

This video compares the Japanese Lugia V versus the English Special Art cards, and the Japanese card looks much better than the English version, especially its texture.

YouTube video

Luckily for collectors of English Pokémon cards, the difference in quality between Japanese Pokémon cards and English cards is steadily reducing these days. However, the quality of older Japanese Pokémon cards is outstanding.

PSA Analysis

The Professional Sports Authenticators (PSA) population report of Plasma Storm (English) and Plasma Gale 1st Edition (Japanese) shows the difference in quality of certain cards very clearly.

English (Plasma Storm)Japanese (Plasma Gale 1st edition)
46 PSA 9 Mint Charizards  7 PSA 9 Mint Charizards  
8 PSA 10 Gem Mint (“perfect”) Charizards  34 PSA 10 Gem Mint (“perfect”) Charizards  

Limited editions

Typically, Pokémon sets debut in Japan before reaching international markets. However, Japanese Pokémon cards often feature exclusive releases and limited editions that are not released in English. Collectors highly desire these Japan-exclusive cards and collaboration releases.

Timing of releases

Japanese Pokémon cards are typically released before their English counterparts. Buying the latest Japanese Pokémon card expansion is like getting a sneak peek of what the English set will be like. This early availability attracts collectors who seek to stay ahead of trends and be among the first to acquire the latest cards.

From the brushstrokes of renowned Japanese artists to Japan-exclusive expansions and early releases, it’s easy to understand collector’s growing fascination with Japanese Pokémon cards.

Top Japanese Pokémon sets to get you started

With the popularity of the Japanese Pokémon cards growing, collectors are interested in which Japanese booster boxes are best to invest in. We shall cover our list of the top four Japanese booster boxes that are great investments.

To make this list, we considered factors such as the rarity of cards, collectable value, artwork quality, and overall collector’s sentiments. You can easily pick any Japanese booster box highlighted here and make substantial returns on your investments in a few months.

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Japanese Pokémon Card 151

Pokémon TCG: Scarlet & Violet—151 is the first Pokémon Scarlet & Violet Series expansion. It focuses on Generation I Pokémon, the first 151 Pokémon to be introduced. Released in June 2023, each booster pack contains seven cards with two guaranteed Holofoil cards, and common, uncommon, and rare cards have Mirror Holofoil variants featuring a Poké Ball pattern or a Master Ball pattern for very lucky collators.

The Japanese Pokémon card 151 has tons of high-valued cards, which has ensured booster boxes hold their value exceedingly well. Additionally, master balls are exclusive to the Japanese sets, which has guaranteed that there will always be demand for this set in the future.

This is a great set to invest in. Current prices for booster boxes range between $220 and $350. While this is more than the MSRP, it’s still very affordable, considering how much it will potentially cost in a few months. This set checks all the boxes for a truly legendary Pokémon set.

Recent eBay sales of top cards from this expansion

CardPrice
2023 Pokémon 151 Japanese MEW ex SAR PSA10 205/165 SV2a GEM MINT$246.5
2023 Pokémon 151 Japanese Pikachu Master Ball 151 Reverse Holo 025 SV2A PSA 10$510
2023 Pokémon 151 Japanese Zapdos EX SAR Special Art Rare SV2a 204/165 PSA 10$202.5
2023 Pokémon 151 Japanese Erika’s Invitation 206/165 Sv2a SAR PSA 10 GEM MINT$247
2023 Pokémon 151 Japanese Mewtwo 150/165 Master Ball CGC Pristine 10$232.5

Pokémon Dream League

Dream League is the 18th Pokémon card subset in the Japanese Sun & Moon series. The set holds 75 Pokémon cards and introduces more Pokémon Tag Team-GX, including a secret rare Reshiram & Zekrom-GX. This box features some of the best-looking cards in the entire Sun & Moon series.

Each Booster Box contains:

  • 30 Dream League Booster Packs
  • 5 Cards per Booster Pack
  • 1 SR or higher card per Booster Box
  • 2 CHR or more cards per Booster Box

The value of this box has risen rapidly, from below $60 to over $600 per booster box. However, it’s still a good investment as it’s full of incredible Pokémon cards. As the value of the chase cards in this set, such as Lillie and Rosa, increases, so will the box’s value. While the current price is somewhat high, this is one Japanese set that collectors cannot get enough of.

Recent eBay sales of top cards from this expansion

CardPrice
2019 Pokémon Japanese Sun Moon Dream League FA #063 Solgaleo Lunala GX PSA 10$345.75
2019 Pokémon Japanese Sun Moon Dream League #068 FA Lillie’s Full Force PSA 10$445
2019 Pokemon Japanese Sun & Moon Dream League #067 Rosa Full Art PSA 10$653
2019 Pokemon Sun & Moon Promo Dream League Full Art Clefairy PSA 10 Gem Mint 381$455

Pokémon Tag Bolt

The Pokémon TCG Sun & Moon Expansion Pack Tag Bolt Box was released in 2018. This set is the ninth expansion in the Japanese Sun & Moon Era. It includes 95 cards in its base checklist and 23 total secret rares, hyper rares, and ultra rares.

This box has several big hits, such as the Latios/Latias alt art, Pikachu/Zekrom AA and Erika’s Hospitality full art trainer. Tag Bolt features primarily 1st Generation Pokémon and was the first set to introduce tag team cards. All GX cards in this box are tag teams, and as we know, collectors love tag teams.

The set features 118 cards, including 9 Tag Team GX cards, 6 Pokémon-GX cards, and 2 Prism Star cards. Like the Sky Legend box, the Tag Bolt Box also includes the Prism Star mechanic, allowing for only one Prism Star card of a specific name in a deck.

The value of this box has also surged over the last few months, from just $250 to over $600. It went over $900 a few months ago. However, the price has stabilized around the $600 mark, which is excellent for collectors looking to grab a box.

Recent eBay sales of top cards from this expansion

CardsPrice
2018 Pokémon Japanese Tag Bolt #101 Pikachu & Zekrom GX CGC 10 PRISTINE$1,350
2018 Pokémon Japanese Tag Bolt Gengar Mimikyu GX 103/095 PSA 10$616
2018 Pokémon Japanese Tag Bolt BGS 10 Latias & Latios GX Alt Art 105/095 SR Pokémon JP – Tag Bolt SM9 – Pop 25!$1,725

Pokémon Eevee Heroes

Eevee Heroes is the sixth subset of the Sword & Shield Era. It focuses on the Evolution Pokémon Eevee and its various evolutions.

It was released in 2021 and contains 101 cards with a primary focus on the eight evolved forms of Eevee as of Generation VIII, which all feature as Pokémon V. Eevee Heroes includes several Trainer cards that support specific Eeveelutions.

The Eevee Heroes is one of the hottest Japanese Pokémon sets and has performed spectacularly so far. Impressive artwork, high-quality cards, guaranteed pull rates and the place of eeveelutions in TCG have combined to make this expansion very attractive for both collectors and TCG players.

While their current price of $450 – $510 per box is more than triple its price a few months ago, it’s retraced from the heights of over $700. There are enough chase cards, such as the Umbreon Vmax, to ensure continued collector’s interest and hobby boxes will hold their value very well.

Recent eBay sales of top cards from this expansion

CardPrice
2021 Pokémon Japanese Eevee Heroes Umbreon V Alt Art PSA 10 085/069 Secret Rare$235
2021 Pokemon Japanese Eevee Heroes Espeon Vmax Full Art #189 PSA 10 Mint$255
2021 Pokémon Japanese Eevee Heroes GEM Mint PSA 10 Umbreon V Alt SR 085/069 s6a$349
2021 Pokémon Japanese Eevee Heroes GEM Mint PSA 10 Leafeon V Alt SR 071/069 s6a$206.85

Memorable mentions include;

  • Miracle Twin
  • Double Blaze
  • Ruler of the black flame
  • Star Birth
  • Pokémon Go
  • Pokémon Raging Surf
  • Snow Hazard

Key differences between Japanese Pokémon cards and English Pokémon cards

We shall consider key differences between Japanese Pokémon cards and their English counterparts. There are several key differences between Japanese and English cards beyond the linguistic difference.

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Value

We’ll begin by examining how Japanese and English Pokémon cards differ in value. Vintage English Pokémon cards are often more expensive than their Japanese counterparts. This is one time where the superior quality of Japanese Pokémon cards works against them.

Since Japanese cards are of higher quality, they are less likely to be damaged or destroyed, and there are lots of vintage Japanese Pokémon cards today.

In modern sets, there’s a higher pull rate for rare Pokémon cards from Japanese packs. This has made most modern Japanese Pokémon cards less expensive than their English counterparts.

However, this isn’t always the case, as Japanese Pokémon cards usually have a smaller print run than their English counterparts. This helps balance the price, and recently, the increased demand for Japanese Pokémon cards has ensured they’re more expensive than most English cards.

Card design

Visually, Japanese and English Pokémon cards show distinct differences. The design for English Pokémon cards was improved in 1999 to include shadows around the illustration box, more vivid coloring, and bolder fonts. However, Japanese Pokémon cards have always had better design.

Vintage Japanese Pokémon cards have the coveted cosmos holo pattern, which the English cards only got from Base Set 2. Modern Japanese Pokémon cards also have exclusive reverse holo patterns that English cards do not have. Each Japanese expansion has a unique reverse holo.

Material feel

Aside from its superior card design, handling Japanese Pokémon cards introduces another layer of distinction. The cards’ unique texture sets them apart from their English counterparts. Japanese Pokémon cards are also renowned for their special holofoil effects.

This makes the cards shine when exposed to sunlight. While a few English cards might have this, this is more prevalent in Japanese Pokémon cards. Also, Japanese cards tend to feature a glossy finish, which gives the card a high-quality feel.

Release date, rarity and pack contents

Japanese Pokémon cards are released several weeks before their English counterparts. Additionally, the booster box content of both packs differs. Japanese booster packs have fewer cards than English packs.

Barring some exceptions, Japanese booster packs typically have five cards instead of ten, like the English packs. English booster boxes typically have thirty-six packs, while their Japanese counterparts have just thirty.

Lastly, Japanese cards have more rarity tiers than English. With English cards, we have a circle for common, a diamond for uncommon and a star for rare. Japanese cards take it a step further, so we know clearly when we’ve pulled a super rare or rainbow rare.

Pull rates

This is another crucial difference between Japanese cards and English cards. Chase cards are naturally elusive and hard to pull. However, Japanese booster boxes guarantee 1 Secret Rare card. This ensures collectors get value in every pack.

English booster boxes do not guarantee any Secret Rare card. Additionally, special Japanese sets also guarantee at least 1 hit per box. This wasn’t true for English Pokémon cards until last year’s Scarlet & Violet release.

Other key differences include:

 JapaneseEnglish
Card qualityHigherLower
ExclusiveMoreLess
BordersSilverYellow (Now Silver since Scarlet & Violet)
Pull ratesHigherLower
Booster packs5 cards per pack10 cards per pack
Grading difficultiesEasyHard
Reverse holo patternManyFew

Where to buy Japanese Pokémon cards

Now that you know the differences between a Japanese and English Pokémon set, we shall discuss where to buy Japanese Pokémon cards from outside Japan. We shall consider three major ways of getting Japanese Pokémon cards.

  • Online marketplaces and auction houses
  • Retailers
  • Direct from Japanese stores through proxies

Online marketplaces

Online marketplaces are the number one way to get Japanese Pokémon cards outside Japan. These online marketplaces are a virtual gateway to the expansive world of Japanese Pokémon cards.

Platforms such as eBay and Amazon offer a diverse range of cards, from the latest releases to rare vintage cards. One of the advantages of these online spaces is the global accessibility they afford, enabling collectors worldwide to make purchases.

However, navigating these platforms comes with certain risks. There is an increased risk of encountering counterfeit cards or fraudulent sellers on these platforms. Before making a purchase, thoroughly examine the product description. Also, buy from only reputable sellers with positive ratings and outstanding reviews.

Japanese Pokémon cards retailers

Various websites are dedicated to selling Japanese Pokémon cards to collectors outside Japan. These are run mainly by individuals who recognize the global demand for these cards.

Such allows collectors to access a curated selection of Japanese Pokémon cards without the need for proxies or navigating language barriers. However, while the convenience of purchasing from retailers is evident, several drawbacks exist.

Most are limited in the cards they have stocked, and the prices are always higher than other methods. However, the biggest issue with this method is finding the right websites to buy from. Ensure you buy from registered and reputable retailers, so you have consumer protection if there’s an issue. A few recommended websites include;

The selection might be tailored to a more general audience, with rarer or Japan-exclusive cards being less prominent. Nevertheless, these outlets are a viable option for those seeking a straightforward way to get Japanese Pokémon cards.

Remember that you might need to pay a shipping fee, and shipping from Japan to the US isn’t cheap. It costs at least $40, so it’s wise to make bulk purchases rather than single cards.

Direct from Japanese stores through proxies

While this method can be pretty technical, it offers the best value. You can get cards straight from the Pokémon Center Japan at their MSRP or other Japanese stores. This option involves using proxy services to buy these cards at very cheap rates from stores only in Japan.

You first must create an account on a proxy website like Tenso.com or Blackship.com. What they do is give you a Japanese address that you can use to create an account at your desired Japanese-only store (e.g. Pokémon Center Japan). So, the store ships the products to the proxy/reshipping company, and they forward it to your actual US address.

Tenso and Blackship charge a fee for these services, but the benefit is that you can get Japanese Pokémon cards at their MSRP and participate in Japanese Pokémon lotteries. This video tutorial by Holo Ponyta gives a step-by-step guide to purchasing using these proxy websites.

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YouTube video

How to recognize fake Japanese Pokémon cards

Spotting fake Japanese Pokémon cards is crucial for collectors new to collecting Japanese Pokémon cards. Many fraudulent sellers attempt to get naïve collectors to pay for counterfeit Japanese cards.

Collectors must know how to spot these fake Japanese Pokémon cards to avoid getting scammed. We shall discuss the top three ways to spot fake Japanese Pokémon cards.

Carefully scrutinize card colors

The easiest way to spot fake Japanese Pokémon cards is to analyze the quality of the colors and printing. Genuine Japanese cards feature vibrant, clear printing and accurate colors. The coloration on authentic cards is uniform and well-defined.

Counterfeit cards may display blurry printing, off-colors, inconsistencies, or pixelated hues. These fake cards also feel thinner than original Japanese Pokémon cards.

Compare fonts and rarity symbols

Authentic Japanese Pokémon cards have distinct and consistent fonts and symbols. Genuine cards have consistent and high-quality printing font with crisp, clear text. Fake cards often feature blurry and inconsistent printing.

Any significant deviations in font style and quality are indicators of a counterfeit card. Additionally, Japanese Pokémon cards have different rarity symbols. Fake cards often feature misprints or deviations from the standard symbols. Ensure you familiarize yourself with the correct rarity symbols to avoid getting ripped off.

Examine holographic elements

Japanese holographic cards have distinctive patterns and shine consistently. Genuine holographic elements exhibit a high-quality, well-defined appearance. Fake holographic cards may have irregular patterns, and the holographic shine may appear dull or inconsistent.

When buying Japanese Pokémon cards, stick to reputable and trusted sellers to avoid buying a fake card. Lastly, remember that if a deal sounds too good to be true, it’s likely a counterfeit card.

The bottom line on Japanese Pokémon cards

If you’re a collector who values premium cads, rarity, and exclusivity, then Japanese Pokémon cards would be perfect additions to your collection. They have more intricate designs, are made with better quality materials, and generally feature more exclusive artworks. These combine to make them a desirable addition to any collection.

From an investment point of view, there’s no better time than now to begin collecting Japanese Pokémon cards. The demand for Japanese cards reached an all-time high a few months ago, and prices mirrored the demand.

However, that has settled down now, and the prices have stabilized somewhat, presenting a favorable window to acquire some sought-after cards without the intensity of the previously inflated market.

You’re almost assured of making a profit on your investment as, unlike English sets, Japanese sets aren’t reprinted as many times; they have much better quality and are produced for Japan, which means limited supply.

For collectors, collecting Japanese Pokémon cards offers a unique and premium experience. The distinct quality, premium feel, and meticulous attention to detail set these cards apart, making them a prized addition to any collection.

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John Bassey

John Bassey

John is a freelance writer and founder of WordCraft Consult, a consultancy that provides expert writing services and enhances youth engagement in reading. With six years of writing experience and over 300 clients, He has made significant contributions as a content writer for several brands, such as Tech Triangle, KBO Bikes, Dolls Magazine, and, more recently, Cardlines.

John has a Bachelor's degree in Statistics and an enduring passion for creating content.  He is  currently dedicated to nurturing WordCraft while advancing appreciation for collectibles and literature through highly informative articles. 
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