What’s the difference between Japanese and English Pokemon cards?

Em Stonham
Gardevoir Pokemon cards (one in English and one in Japanese) with anime background and sparkles.

There are lots of different categories and classifications to be mindful of as a Pokemon card collector, especially if you’re someone concerned about card value.

Understanding the difference between a SIR card and a SAR card can be hugely important, as can understanding how a card might slot into a BDIF in the current meta. One element of card collecting that’s often overlooked is the differences between languages.

It may sound obvious, but there are a surprising number of differences between English and Japanese designs in Pokemon. With stunning expansion sets like Stellar Miracle on the way, it’s good to know the differences between English Pokemon cards and Japanese Pokemon cards.

English and Japanese versions of Gardevoir ex from Paldean Fates.
Gardevoir ex (217/091) and Gardevoir ex (328/190) Pokemon cards.

Are English and Japanese Pokemon cards different?

Yes, they are. English and Japanese Pokemon cards have different rarity classifications, they fall into different expansion sets, and they can even feature different designs to one another in some cases.

Based on this, they can also hold different levels of value for collectors, making this a worthwhile endeavor for people looking to make money off of Pokemon cards.

Firstly, rarity categories are noticeably different between English and Japanese Pokemon TCG expansion sets. Check the table below for the equivalent categories and their rarity symbols, accurate as of the Scarlet & Violet classification changes.

English Pokemon classificationJapanese Pokemon classification
Common (Common)Common (C)
Uncommon (Uncommon)Uncommon (U)
Rare (Rare)Rare (R)
Double Rare (Double Rare)Double Rare (RR)
Ultra Rare (Ultra Rare)Super Rare (SR)
Illustration Rare (Illustration Rare)Art Rare (AR)
Special Illustration Rare (SIR Pokemon card symbol.)Special Art Rare (SAR)
Hyper Rare (Hyper Rare)Ultra Rare (UR)

These classifications are only applicable to the Scarlet & Violet era of the Pokemon TCG, mind, so there’ll be other types to take into consideration when looking back at older sets – like Galarian Gallery cards from the Sword & Shield era, for example.

There are other examples of classifications that are a little more niche, like ACE SPEC cards, Black Star Promos, and SSR cards. The categories in the table apply to the vast majority of modern cards, so use that as a base point when analyzing your recent pulls.

Do English and Japanese Pokemon cards have the same schedule?

English and Japanese Pokemon cards have equivalent expansion sets as well as rarity categories. Night Wanderer is the Japanese counterpart for the upcoming English Shrouded Fable set, for example, and the Japanese dual release Wild Force & Cyber Judge can be found in the English set Temporal Forces.

This can make staying up to date with every Pokemon TCG release a little confusing at first. The majority of Japanese cards end up in English expansion sets, though, so if you see cards you like in Stellar Miracle then expect to see them in the Stellar Crown release.

Stellar Lapras ex and Hydrapple ex from Pokemon TCG Stellar Miracle.
Lapras ex (019/102) and Hydrapple ex (012/102 Pokemon cards from Stellar Miracle.

The debate over whether English cards are more valuable than Japanese cards has been a consistently hot topic in the Pokemon TCG, especially with the wide variety of exciting expansion sets in the 2024 release calendar currently.

Some collectors view the smaller amount of cards in Japanese Booster Packs as a positive (5 cards versus the usual 10 in English Booster Packs), removing the chance for repeated cards. Others view English Pokemon Booster Packs as more valuable due to their higher quantity of cards.

It’s a matter of personal preference here. Some collectors firmly stand by Japanese cards having better quality and production value, too. The differences between the two types of cards in this regard are small but noticeable in person, mainly due to the card stock and thickness.

It’s worth keeping up with both release schedules if you’re a collector as the differences in prices and value between English and Japanese Pokemon cards can be drastic. There can be exclusive releases for the different languages, too, extending to other languages like Chinese and Korean.

As an example of price differences, the Greninja ex from Twilight Masquerade is notably more expensive than the Greninja ex from Crimson Haze. They’re functionally the same card, but the English iteration is currently priced a lot higher on the resale market.

If you’re looking to learn more about Pokemon cards as a whole and potentially sell some cards, make sure to review our grading guide. Getting your cards graded is a great way to help the selling process go smoothly and it can give you a better understanding of how rare and valuable your card is, too.