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Japanese mom, son, seek compensation over 'distress' from '1 hr per day' gaming ordinance

The high school student who filed the lawsuit against the Kagawa Prefectural Government's ordinance aiming to limit gaming and internet time among young people, left, speaks to reporters after a court session on Dec. 22, 2020. (Mainichi/Nana Kita)

TAKAMATSU -- The Kagawa Prefectural Government on Dec. 22 indicated that it is prepared to battle a lawsuit filed by a mother and son against its ordinance aiming to curb internet and video game addiction among young people by limiting their screen time.

    The 18-year-old high school student and his mother, from the city of Takamatsu in Kagawa prefecture in western Japan, are demanding 1.6 million yen in compensation from the Kagawa government over the ordinance. They argue that it violates basic human rights and caused them emotional distress.

    The ordinance -- the first of its kind in Japan -- calls for game time to be limited to 60 minutes per day for prefectural residents under the age of 18 (90 minutes on holidays), and for smartphone use to be forbidden past 10 p.m. each day, or past 9 p.m. for those of junior high school age and under, and urges families to create household rules.

    In the first round of oral proceedings at the Takamatsu District Court on Dec. 22, the prefectural government called for the lawsuit to be dismissed.

    The mother and son, meanwhile, said that the ordinance has no scientific basis, and that parents and children have a right to freely decide home much time they will spend playing games. They argued that the ordinance violates basic human rights such as autonomy guaranteed under the Constitution.

    In its arguments at the court, the prefectural government said that the "responsibility" mentioned in the ordinance is no more than "a goal to strive for" or a "rough indication," and called for the plaintiffs to show specifically how it put them at a disadvantage.

    Presiding Judge Satoko Amano, meanwhile, instructed the plaintiffs to clarify whether they were arguing that the prefectural government's enactment of the ordinance was illegal, and to provide concrete details if they were arguing for it to be amended or abolished.

    After the court session ended, the high school student commented, "I feel like we've finally reached this point. I want to proceed steadily on this case with my mother and our lawyer."

    (Japanese original by Nana Kita, Takamatsu Bureau)

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