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Hugely popular app 'Pokemon Go' released in Japan

A Pokemon appears on a smartphone screen in the game "Pokemon Go," in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on July 22, 2016. (Mainichi)

The popular game app "Pokemon Go," which has seen explosive popularity in the United States and other countries, was released in Japan on July 22.

"Pokemon Go" is a smartphone app based on Nintendo's "Pokemon" game. It uses location information on smartphones to turn the real world into a gaming area in which people can capture Pokemon, or "pocket monsters," that appear on their screens. The game has been hugely popular since it was distributed in the United States, Australia and New Zealand in early July.

When players visit the areas where Pokemon are located, they can capture them. "PokeStops," where players can buy eggs and other items, and "Gyms," where Pokemon can be pitted against each other, are also located in real world locations.

The app itself is free, but players can purchase "Incense" that lures wild Pokemon to their location, and "PokeBalls" to catch Pokemon.

An image from a mobile phone shows a Pokemon in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on July 22, 2016. (Mainichi)

McDonalds Holdings Co. Japan is tying up with Niantic, Inc. to have PokeStops and Gyms placed at 2,900 of its outlets nationwide, a move it hopes will attract customers. It's possible that through this type of business model, "Pokemon Go" could carve a new market for game apps.

However, while the popularity of "Pokemon Go" has heated up in the United States, the poor manners of some players searching for Pokemon at public facilities has emerged as a problem. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, for example, requested that visitors refrain from catching Pokemon there. It said that some visitors were playing the game without looking at the exhibits.

Concerns have also been raised about the danger of people playing the game in areas with heavy traffic while remaining focused on their smartphone screens. It is feared similar problems could occur in Japan.

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