Hong Kong: Pokemon game fans picket to retain Pikachu’s Cantonese name

HONG KONG fans of the Pokemon gaming franchise are fuming over Japanese game maker Nintendo’s refusal to retain the names of some characters, especially the iconic Pikachu, in the Cantonese dialect by using Mandarin pronunciations instead.

The refusal prompted a group of 20 individuals to hold a picket outside the Japanese consulate there, urging its government to intervene into the matter. The group, led by radical “localist” group Civic Passion, urged Japanese firms to “respect local culture”.

Protesters gathered outside the Japanese consulate in Hong Kong to protest Pikachu's name change. Image via SCMP

Protesters gathered outside the Japanese consulate in Hong Kong to protest Pikachu’s name change. Image via SCMP

Although it may appear to be trivial, the issue stems from long-standing tensions between Hong Kongers who were estranged from their mainland compatriots. Mandarin is the official Chinese language of the mainland.

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According to Japan Today, Nintendo (Hong Kong) Co. had earlier this month announced a unified list of Chinese names of some 150 characters in Pokemon, while ditching some of the locally recognized names.

The changes included that of the main character Pikachu, a diminutive marsupial-like creature with electrical powers.

Nintendo is planning to change ‘Beikaaciu’, the Cantonese name of Pikachu, to ‘Pikaqiu’ which is in Mandarin.

Sing Leung, an organiser of the rally, said: “The Chinese names resonating with Cantonese pronunciation have been in use for some 20 years and fully reflected Hong Kong’s culture.

“Nintendo has now become an accomplice to the political agenda of ‘promote Putonghua (Mandarin), eradicate Cantonese’.”

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The South China Morning Post reported Leung pointing out that over 6,000 people signed an online petition in March urging the company to reverse its decision, which was ignored.

“This is not only a commercial decision, but relates to cultural exchanges [between Hong Kong and Japan]. We want to let the Japanese consulate know that a company from their country is disrespecting Hongkongers,” Leung said.

The group also warned to boycott Nintendo products if the demand was not met.