‘Pokemon Go’ craze leads to spate of accidents, traffic offenses across Japan

Kyodo

Meta

Soon after Friday’s release of the smartphone game “Pokemon Go” in Japan, the craze resulted in numerous traffic accidents and other incidents nationwide, police said Monday.

“Pokemon Go” is an augmented-reality game in which users visit real-life locations in search of virtual creatures that appear superimposed on smartphone screens.

Among the incidents, a 27-year-old man from Chiba Prefecture was arrested for allegedly assaulting a woman in her 20s who was playing “Pokemon Go” near JR Shibuya Station in Tokyo, according to the Metropolitan Police Department.

The man was arrested Saturday night at the scene after he grabbed the woman’s arm in the mistaken belief he had been photographed when she took a picture of a rare game character, and demanded that she delete the image, the police said Monday.

In Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, on Monday morning, a 21-year-old company worker drove into a line of cars waiting at a red light while he was playing the game. The driver of one of the other cars may have sustained minor neck injuries.

“I was focused on the game and did not notice the car in front of me,” the man was quoted as telling the police.

In Sapporo, an elementary school student who was playing the game while cycling crashed into another bicycle Sunday morning, the police said. The student suffered minor injuries.

A 22-year-old university student in Nagoya reported her bag was stolen from the basket of her bicycle by a man on a motor scooter Sunday afternoon while she was playing the game.

“I was so wrapped up in the game I didn’t notice the motor scooter coming,” she was quoted by the police as saying.

In Tochigi Prefecture, a 20-year-old student from Utsunomiya who was playing the game while driving her car collided with a vehicle that was stopped at a red light at around 9 p.m. Saturday in the city of Mooka. No one was injured.

Also in Tochigi, an accident occurred in the town of Mibu where a 45-year-old woman playing the game fell off her bicycle after bumping into a flight of steps in a park. She sustained a minor head injury.

On Sunday, a 24-year-old Brazilian man was found wandering on an expressway in Mino, Gifu Prefecture, searching for game characters and was cautioned by police. The man had earlier attended a barbecue with others at a nearby river and was not familiar with the local area, according to the police.

The police have been issuing traffic tickets to people caught playing the game while driving, a violation of the traffic law.

Using a smartphone or similar device while driving is subject to a fine of ¥5,000 for motorbikes, ¥6,000 for standard vehicles and ¥7,000 for large vehicles.

All of the drivers ticketed for violation of the law were either caught playing or admitted to having been playing the game while driving.

Meanwhile, in Hokkaido, a university student encountered a wild animal while he was playing the game Friday night.

The student reported seeing a brown bear, but given the absence of any bear paw prints, police say the animal could have been a deer.