Officials from the Japanese prefecture (an organisation of local government roughly equivalent to a U.S. state) of Kanagawa have banned stores from selling or renting the game Grand Theft Auto III to anyone under the age of 18. The large Kanagawa prefecture lies just south of Tokyo and includes major cities such as Yokohama and Kawasaki.
The game is already subject to the highest general rating available in Japan, but will now received the additional product label of “harmful” and will have to be displayed separately from other titles in the prefecture. According to child welfare official Takahito Hayashi the game contains acts of violence that teens might try to mimic.
Rockstar’s controversial games was first published in Japan in September 2003 by Capcom and has sold roughly 350,000 copies in Japan – a highly significant number for a Western-developed title. Sequel Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (which does not yet appear to be under the same restrictions as its prequel) proved to be even more successful in Japan, a relative rarity for a Western title, and Capcom plans to publish Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas in the territory later this year.
Although hentai titles regularly face similar restrictions due to their explicit sexual content, this is the first time in Japan that a game has been restricted in this manner purely due to its violent content.