Yes, you read that headline right, and this story is as true as it is ridiculous.
Earlier today a 43-year-old office worker was taken into custody and placed under arrest by the Saitama Prefectural Police Department on charges related to the manufacturing of fake Garigari-Kun popsicle sticks. The sticks, which were part of a promotional campaign for a limited-edition Pokémon Trading Card Game card, were allegedly counterfeited a total of 25 times by the individual and sent into Garigari-Kun parent company Akagi Nyugyo in the hopes of receiving the campaign-exclusive prize card. The campaign which was launched in late-2020 was aimed at promoting the upcoming Pokémon Coco film ahead of its theatrical release, and for those lucky enough to pull a winning stick, would net them a limited-edition Zarude promo card.
While news of arrests pertaining to the bootlegging of commercial products in Japan is nothing new, it’s not too often you hear of arrests pertaining to Japan’s summer darling, Garigari-Kun. Originally released in 1981 in Japan, the flavored ice block is perhaps most commonly known for its original soda flavor and distinct blue coloring. Usually found at convenience stores across Japan, the popsicle became a summer go-to for its sub-100 yen price tag, as well as one unique surprise: the chance at the fabled ‘atari’ (winning) stick. For those lucky enough to purchase a popsicle with this distinct mark, simply bringing it back to the conbini will net you another free of charge.
What was distinctly unique about this Pokémon Coco collaboration, however, was that the ‘atari’ mark meant that, instead of taking your stick to the conbini for a second-helping, the lucky winner would be sending their stick to Garigari-Kun’s parent company Akagi Nyugyo in exchange for the aforementioned Zarude trading card. With the recent global hype surrounding the Pokémon Trading Card Game, it should come as little surprise that the collaborative card is fetching big money domestically. Quickly scanning through market services such as Mercari will yield listings asking for prices as high as 36,999 yen, with many already shown as sold. There are even individuals listing their winning stick for as high as 50,000 yen, though it’s currently unclear whether those will be selling any time soon.
At this point in time, it is not known whether the bootlegging of these popsicle sticks was financially motivated by the high asking price of the card, or if the individual was just an avid collector of Pokémon cards. According to the police department, their team was contacted by Garigari-Kun’s parent company after ‘a large number of sticks from the same person had simultaneously arrived,’ perhaps more than anything highlighting the unlikeliness of winning for the average person.