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Japan’s Aso: Pokemon Go successfully lured out shut-ins, otaku

Pokemon Go was released in Japan on Friday
Pokemon Go was released in Japan on Friday

TOKYO (TR) – Finance Minister Taro Aso has long made headlines for his colorful gaffes, but he used the launch of Pokemon Go on Friday as a chance to spotlight the game’s social ramifications — namely for hikikomori shut-ins and otaku geeks.

“Shut-ins and otaku are all out there now playing Pokemon, which is doing what psychiatrists couldn’t — just look at what’s happening overseas,” Aso told reporters at Narita Airport ahead of his upcoming trip to a Group of 20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors in China, Sports Nippon reports (July 22).

When asked what his expectations were following Pokemon Go’s long-awaited release in Japan, Aso said, “Isn’t the most noteworthy thing the fact that cartoons are way more effective than psychiatrists?”

Aso is known for liking anime and enjoys heightened support from otaku, according to the Sankei Shimbun.

“Lord Rozen”

Aso, who is also deputy prime minister, once made headlines overseas as Japan’s “otaku prime minister” for his vocal advocacy of subculture and manga. At home, he even earned himself nicknames like “Rozen Aso” and “Lord Rozen” for being a fan of Rozen Maiden — a popular manga and anime centered around living dolls.

Yet on September 19, 2008, Aso was pictured laughing at a man looking for work during his visit to a government job center in Shibuya.

“What were you doing until now?” a laughing Aso was quoted as saying by Sports Hochi. “It’s hard on the agency side if you don’t have a clue what you want to do. You’ll struggle finding a job if you just show up asking if there’s something out there for you.”

The young man said he came to Tokyo from Hokkaido to seek a “job in a cool place like Roppongi.”

Aso sternly shot back: “People aren’t going to hire you if you don’t have a sense of purpose. You need to decide what you want to do or getting a job is going to be tough.

“Glamorous jobs don’t pay well. Manual labor and exhausting jobs, that’s where the money is at.”

Suga: I don’t play games

Pokemon Go is already starting to impact societies around the world — which, in turn, is watching how the smash hit by developer Niantic Inc. will capture Japan.

Even Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga found himself being quizzed about his thoughts on the global hit during a press conference on Friday, the Sankei reported.

“I don’t play games,” Suga said as he chuckled in an unusual display of levity.

“I do wish for caution to be exercised thoroughly so people who enjoy the game can safely carry out their activities, since there are also people who are concerned about safety and manners in public.”

He added: “For content from Japan to be so popular, including overseas, is very welcome.”

When told that Pokemon characters can be caught around the Prime Minister’s Office, Suga said, “I would like to caution people not to wander into dangerous areas and places that are off-limits.”