Today is April 1, which means that we can expect a lot of April Fools jokes and pranks all over the internet, and yet we see things that should be jokes but are indeed disturbingly real.
Today a new ordinance pushed by the prefectural assembly of Kagawa Prefecture, in the Japanese island of Shikoku, went into effect, and it definitely could qualify as a great April Fools prank. Only, it isn’t.
The “Net Game Addiction Measures Ordinance” was passed on April 18 and forbids minors under 18 years of age from playing games more than 60 minutes a day, with the limit increased to 90 minutes in the Holidays.
On top of that, students up to junior high school cannot use their smartphones after 9:00 pm, while older students (but still under 18) have that limit increased to 10:00 pm.
While the title of the ordinance mentions “net games,” it actually applies to all internet and computer games played at home and in public, including home and portable console games, online games, and arcades.
Of course, many reacted in disbelief, pointing to the possibility of an April Fools joke, so Harada-san had to explain that it is indeed real, questioning the educational background of the members of the prefectural assembly and commenting sarcastically on the prefecture’s ability to actually enforce the ordinance.
Harada-san also mentioned concern that other prefectures may follow suit despite negative reactions, and explained that the effect on developers isn’t relevant because most sales nowadays are in the west. Yet, he argues that this ordinance has a negative effect on Japanese culture.
As Harada-san mentioned, the ordinance does not affect all of Japan, but is a local law that only involves Kagawa prefecture, which is the smallest in the country, with a population of approximately 957,000. It shouldn’t be confused with the much bigger Kanagawa prefecture, near Tokyo, which has a population of approximately nine million people.
The ordinance has been widely criticized prior to its implementation, due to its dubious scientific basis and lack of transparency. 2,686 opinions from the public were allegedly gathered and examined, but they were not publicly shared in their entirety. Of course, many also cast doubts on how it can actually be enforced.
Public reactions have been overwhelmingly negative, but they did not sway the local government’s decision, at least for now.