• Kyodo

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An ordinance that bans the use of searchlights and laser beams, aimed at protecting starry nights for tourists and residents, was enacted Thursday in Tottori Prefecture in what appears to be the first of its kind at a prefectural level.

The ordinance, adopted by a majority vote at the Tottori Prefectural Assembly, bans the use of floodlights outdoors when they are not directed at a specific object. The use of such lights for purposes such as disaster prevention is still permitted.

Areas offering the best views of the night sky have been designated as “starry sky preservation areas” under the ordinance, with stricter rules set for the installation and use of lighting apparatus in those areas.

The prefecture has launched a “Catch the Star” campaign to attract tourists, saying the Milky Way is visible from any part of Tottori and that shooting stars can be seen even when a meteor shower is not taking place.

Repeated violators of the ordinance will face a penalty of up to ¥50,000 ($440). The ordinance is scheduled to take effect next April.

“It was great that (assembly members) recognized the value of a starlit sky and agreed to preserve it,” Gov. Shinji Hirai told reporters, adding that the prefecture wanted to promote its rich natural environment to many people.

The prefecture has a map on its website that shows recommended stargazing sites.

Similar ordinances to preserve starry night views have been adopted in the city of Ibara in Okayama Prefecture and the village of Takayama in Gunma Prefecture.

Ordinances set by Saga and Okayama prefectures to comprehensively conserve the environment have a clause restricting floodlight irradiation but not specifically for the purpose of preserving the night sky, according to the Tottori Prefectural Government.

Other local governments are also trying to attract tourists by promoting clear, starry skies.

The village of Achi, Nagano Prefecture, started holding an off-season stargazing tour at ski resorts in 2012. The tour proved popular, and the village now offers it throughout the year. Last year it drew around 150,000 people.

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