It’s official: “Pokemon Go” monsters have invaded Japan, as evidenced by the legions of fans seen aimlessly wandering around the nation’s streets far and wide — smartphones at the ready — in search of the gaming app’s augmented-reality creatures.
And The Japan Times can confirm that Pokemon monsters have even been spotted inside the Prime Minister’s Office in the nation’s capital.
But there are also no-go zones where “Pokemon Go” characters are not supposed to be found: such as the nation’s nuclear power plants.
Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Co., operator of the heavily damaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, has asked that the gaming app maker Niantic Inc. not place the little virtual-reality monsters and Pokestops, locations where players can find special items needed to play the game, inside the compounds of its three nuclear power plants.
In addition to the damaged Fukushima No. 1 plant, Tepco operates the nearby Fukushima No. 2 plant and the massive Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture.
Tepco spokesman Tatsuhiro Yamagishi declined to comment on whether Pokemon characters or Pokestops have been spotted in any of its facilities.
But he did tell The Japan Times by phone, ” ‘Pokemon Go’ has already been banned inside our nuclear power plants,” adding that the facilities are tightly guarded with fences, making it almost impossible for ordinary people to enter.
“You can’t go inside to catch a Pokemon. We’ve taken measures for that purpose,” he said.
Still, concerns remain over areas surrounding Fukushima No. 1, where meltdowns occurred after the 2011 quake and tsunami disaster. Hundreds of workers are engaged in long-term decommissioning work around reactor buildings that are too dangerous to enter due to high radiation levels.
The problem is that players of the game, many with their eyes fixated on their smartphone screens, often pay scant attention to their surroundings and have caused a number of serious accidents around the world.
According to a spokesperson for The Pokemon Co., a Nintendo affiliate based in Tokyo, it is Niantic’s policy not to place any monsters inside nuclear power plants. But due to a software bug, Pokemon characters did pop up inside the compounds of some Tepco nuclear plants. This problem has been fixed, the spokesperson told The Japan Times on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Niantic has kept open some Pokestops and “Gyms,” where the monsters captured by the players can fight, in certain low-level restricted areas surrounding Fukushima No. 1 so evacuees can play the game when they temporarily return to their hometowns, the spokesperson said.
During a news conference Monday, Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori was asked how the prefectural government will stop Pokemon players engrossed in the game from entering evacuation areas, such as those that do not allow overnight stays.
The governor said he is considering issuing an appeal to players to avoid such areas as they could be dangerous.