Are Pokemon Cards Cheaper in Japan: [Price, Pull Rates]


I moved to Japan years ago, and at the time, I didn’t expect Pokemon card prices to be any different in Japan. Only when I settled in and started paying more attention to the Japanese currency, did I begin to wonder if Pokemon cards were cheaper in Japan than they were back home. 

On average, Pokemon cards are cheaper in Japan with Japanese packs being $0.10 cheaper per card. An English pack of Pokemon cards contains 10 cards for $4, whereas Japanese packs contain 5 cards for $1.50. However, the average price of Pokemon cards in a pack may change depending on the set.

Of course, there is a lot more to the story that you need to know to fully understand the pros and cons of buying Japanese Pokémon cards and if it works out cheaper for you in practice. 

That’s because a comprehensive answer when it comes to Japanese Pokémon cards can be like finding a rare card itself, exceedingly difficult to do.

Luckily, you won’t need to risk the tall grass and chance a bad encounter if you are curious about stepping into the world of Japanese Pokémon cards. 

After years of living in Japan and picking up more than my fair share of cardboard, I’ll provide some tips to help you figure out if collecting Japanese cards will save you any money and if it’s right for you. 

How Many Cards In A Japanese Pokemon Booster Pack?

On average, Japanese Pokemon booster packs contain 5 cards per pack. There are no energy cards inside Japanese booster packs and each pack isn’t guaranteed to contain a rare. However, some special expansion sets contain more cards per pack and will include both special energy and rare cards. 

This is completely different from what we normally see from English booster packs which almost always contain 11 cards per pack, 1 energy card, and 1 guarantee rare. 

However, in the world of collectible trading card games, Japanese Pokemon cards are probably the most underappreciated hidden treasures for Pokemon card collectors! 

If you have never cracked open a Japanese Pokemon pack before, you may be somewhat confused or even concerned by the fact that you aren’t guaranteed a rare and are only getting 5 cards. 

But there is more here than meets the eye.

As with all things Japan, there are occasional expectations to the rule. Sets like Legendary Heartbeat which contained 7 cards per pack and guarantee a Rare. There are also “Holiday Sets” that have “High-Class Packs” containing a Rare and an energy card in each pack. 

Fun Fact: In “High-Class Packs” the energy card normally included is premium; either being holographic or a super rare energy card. 

However, the real value in Japanese Pokemon booster packs is not in buying the individual packs, but in buying Japanese booster boxes.

How Much Is A Japanese Pokemon Booster Box

On average, Japanese Pokemon booster boxes are priced at 4,950 Yen ($45.50). Each Booster box will have 30 packs containing 5 cards each with a total of 150 cards per booster box. Japanese Pokemon booster boxes are $0.10 cheaper per card on average compared to English Booster boxes.

A standard English language booster pack of Pokemon cards will cost $4.00 for a pack of 10 cards from a retailer such as Target. That works out to approximately $0.40 per card.

A comparable set of Pokemon cards from Japan will be approximately $1.51 (165 Yen) per pack of 5 cards, $0.30 per card. Making Pokemon cards $0.10 cheaper in Japan.

It’s important to mention that some Japanese booster boxes like “Legendary Heartbeat” contain only 20 packs per booster box, but contain 7 cards a pack. 

This can change the maths slightly if you are trying to work out if Japanese Pokemon cards are cheaper. However, as a general rule, the retail price for Pokémon cards in Japan is cheaper.

No matter where you are in the world, you will tend to save money by buying Pokémon booster boxes rather than individual packs. But the cost isn’t everything when it comes to getting the most value out of Pokemon booster boxes. 

Japanese booster boxes are a lot different from what you have come to expect from your English Pokemon booster boxes. Not only in terms of the number of cards but also how card rarity works differently for Japanese cards. 

Japanese cards come in a wider variety of rarities than their English counterparts.

For English Pokémon cards you will commonly see the rarities of:

RaritySymbols
CommonCommon
UncommonUncommon
RareRare

However Japanese cards have a different system in place for rarity. 

  • C = Common
  • U = uncommon 
  • R = Rare
  • RR = V cards
  • RRR = V max cards
  • SR = Super rare
  • HR = Hyper Rare
  • UR = Ultra Rare (Gold Pokemon cards)

To make matters slightly more confusing to the uninitiated, these rarity orders can change slightly depending on the Japanese Pokemon expansion you are opening. 

Let’s take the “Sun and Moon” collection of cards for an example where the “RRR” rarity does not appear to be present. 

  • C = Common
  • U = uncommon 
  • R = Rare
  • RR = Double Rare
  • SR = Super Rare
  • HR = Hyper Rare
  • UR = Ultra Rare (Gold Pokemon cards)

I have heard a lot of confusion about Japanese Pokemon packs, which is understandable – Pokemon expansions work differently here in Japan.

However, the most important thing to keep in mind when trying to decide if it is cheaper or more valuable for you to buy Japanese Pokemon cards is the Japanese booster box pull rate.

Japanese Pokemon Booster Box Pull Rates

As a general rule, the Japanese Pokémon booster box’s pull rates are stated on the official Japanese Pokemon website for each set. Each booster box is guaranteed to contain the stated number of rares making the booster box pull rate more consistent than English Pokémon booster boxes.

This is a huge fundamental difference between Japanese Pokémon booster boxes and English boxes. With the rate at which you pull rares from Japanese boxes being far more consistent, it can drastically affect the value proposition of buying Japanese Pokémon cards.

are Pokémon cards cheaper in Japan?

For example, let’s take a look at the pull rates of Rare cards from the expansions themed around Sword and Shield. 

In a Sword and Shield Japanese Pokémon booster box you are almost guaranteed to find:

  • 7 R Cards 
  • 5 RR Cards 
  • 2 RRR Cards
  • 1 SR/HR/UR Card

That means when opening a Sword and Shield Japanese expansion you are highly likely to receive 15 cards that are R rarity or higher. 

are Pokémon cards cheaper in Japan?

Likewise, for Sun and Moon expansions you will almost always receive the following 15 rares:

  • 11 R Cards 
  • 3 RR Cards
  • 1 SR/HR/UR Card

This is already great value for those of us that want to cut down on the number of bulk cards that you open and takes out some of the uncertainty of what you can expect to receive when opening a Pokémon booster box. 

However, the value of opening Japanese Pokémon booster packs shoots through the roof when we start to look at the pull rates for special sets such as “Legendary Heartbeat”. 

Although “Legendary Heartbeat” only contains 20 packs per booster box, the officially stated hit rate on this expansion is very generous. 

In a box of “Legendary Heartbeat” you are likely to receive:

  • 17 – 18 R/RR/RRR Cards
  • 1 – 2 SR/HR/UR Cards
  • 1 Amazing Rare (Exclusive Rare for this set)

That works out to be 20 R cards or higher per Japanese box of “Legendary Heartbeat“.

Not only are Pokémon cards cheaper in Japan, but Japanese booster boxes present some great value to the collectors among us that are just trying to complete their collection. 

When weighing up the pros and cons of trying to decide whether to buy Japanese or English Pokémon Booster boxes, I can only think of a few reasons as to why someone would pick English over Japanese.

Reasons Not To Buy Japanese Pokemon Cards

Pokémon Trading Card Game Competitive Play

If one of the main reasons that you are cracking booster packs is because you are looking for cards to complete your newest standard deck, buying Japanese Pokémon cards may not be for you. 

There are a handful of issues and rules when it comes to using Japanese cards in competitive play outside of Japan and it’s honestly best to avoid them if you are serious about playing in sanctioned tournaments. 

Pokémon TCG Online Codes

When you crack open a Japanese Pokémon booster pack you will not find a card that has a redeemable code for a virtual pack in Pokémon’s online card game.

The sets that get released in Japan are different from those released in the rest of the world. The sets that are released in English are the sets also used for Pokémon’s online card game. 

Due to this, if you are an avid online Pokémon card player and enjoy opening up booster boxes as it gives you more virtual in-game packs, you may want to pass on buying Japanese booster packs. 

Shipping Pokémon Cards From Japan

This is an obvious one, but I thought it best to mention it anyway. Depending on where you live in the world, you may have access to a local shop that stocks Japanese Pokémon booster boxes. 

If not, you can always order them online from Japan, but that is going to be an additional shipping cost compared to buying local English booster boxes. 

On average, a Japanese booster box is around 300 grams in weight and so shipping costs aren’t normally too bad.

Since Japanese booster boxes are cheaper to buy at around $50, my recommendation would just to buy 3 booster boxes at a time or however much you would normally spend on buying a booster box locally. 

That way, you will probably end up saving a little on shipping rather than having each booster box shipped over to you one at a time. 

If we were to ignore the fact that I actually live in Japan for a moment, if you were to ask which I would prefer to buy, I would buy Japanese Pokémon cards. 

Not only are Japanese Pokémon cards cheaper than English Pokémon cards, but as someone that doesn’t often play matches of paper Pokémon anymore, Japanese cards make more sense for my needs.

As I’m no longer an active player of the game, I don’t feel like I miss out on much with regards to not getting the free virtual packs for Pokémon TCG online and I haven’t played in an officially sanctioned tournament for a couple of years now.

If you are like me and are more into the collecting aspects of the Pokémon trading game, then I would recommend that you give collecting Japanese Pokémon cards a try. 

Be careful though, once you start it’s hard to turn back!

Nicholas Lloyd

Hi, I'm Nick, a professional writer living in Japan, and have been a part of the Trading Card Game community for over 20 years. I share tips, answer questions, and anything else I can do to help more people enjoy this wonderful cardboard hobby.

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