Tag Archives: Japan

Street artist plasters anti-Trump stickers around Tokyo

Japanese graffiti artist “281 Antinuke” says his latest street art — politically-charged stickers plastered around central Tokyo — takes aim at U.S. President Donald Trump.

Amid the bustling night life of Shibuya, a major shopping and entertainment hub in Tokyo, the artist pastes stickers dealing with social issues to lamp posts and walls to attract the attention of passersby.

His latest postings target the controversial remarks made by Trump about women and minorities during his 2016 campaign.

The stickers show a figure resembling the U.S. president standing between figures in white capes, which symbolize members of the white supremacist group Ku Klux Klan, the artist told Reuters Television in a recent interview.

“My art was produced out of the fear of what may happen to Japan because of such a horrifying leader,” 281 Antinuke said, Trump “is saying white supremacist things, things that are much more than America first,” he said.

Wearing sunglasses and a white surgical mask, 281 Antinuke declined to give his name or reveal his face, saying he feared retaliation for the political views contained in his art.

Graffiti is also punishable by heavy penalties and frowned upon by Japanese society.

Much of 281 Antinuke’s previous artwork criticized nuclear power, inspired after the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that caused a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The artist said the more political a sticker — other works have criticized Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — the faster it is taken down.

On the busy streets of Shibuya, people who stopped to take a look were initially confused by the anti-Trump stickers.

“My first impression is that they are hard to understand, but once I get the context of it, it’s very expressive as an art form,” said Tokyo resident Manato Kato.

From Copa To Korea: Winter Games in Pyeongchang next up

Organizers of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, set up a virtual-reality ski simulator — complete with fake, blowing snow — on Copacabana Beach.

“Having sun and sand is normal here, but not snow,” said local Danieli Evangelista, stepping off the make-believe ski slope after waiting in line for 30 minutes for a taste of winter during the Summer Olympics held earlier this month in Rio. “Hardly anyone here ever sees snow. It’s very cool, a very real effect.”

It’s also about to get very real for the next hosts of the Olympic Games.

“We’re not ready to go today, but we’re getting ready,” Kim Jaeyoul, vice president of the Pyeongchang organizing committee, told The Associated Press.

South Korea’s games will be the first of three straight in Asia, joining the Tokyo Summer Games in 2020 and the Beijing Winter Games in 2022. These come after a run of difficult games in Sochi, Russia, and now Rio de Janeiro, with the International Olympic Committee looking for “a safe pair of hands,” as Japan labeled its winning bid three years ago.

Yet organizers in Pyeongchang have struggled with construction delays, local conflicts over venues and a slow pace in attracting domestic sponsorship. This contrasts with the smoother run-ups to the 1988 Seoul Olympics and the 2002 World Cup that South Korea co-hosted with Japan.

“Unlike the 1988 Olympics and the 2002 World Cup, it was not the central government but a province that led the efforts to bring the Olympics,” said Heejoon Chung, who teaches sports science at South Korea’s Dong-A University. “There is a sentiment that the Winter Games are more about Pyeongchang than the nation as a whole.”

The Pyeongchang organizing committee named Lee Hee-beom its new president three months ago. It was the second leadership change in two years, and that’s worried the International Olympic Committee.

Lee bowed to IOC President Thomas Bach, and then to almost 100 IOC members, before addressing the full membership just days before the Rio Olympics opened.

“I’d like to assure you that our preparations are fully on track,” Lee told them.

In introducing him, Bach called Lee a “very dynamic and reliable leader,” and joked that he “promised he will be with us” until the games take place.

Organizers say that after a rocky start, 90 percent of the sponsorship target of $760 million will be met at the end of the year. Sponsorship will provide about one-third of the 2.2 trillion won, or $2 billion, operating budget. Kim said the budget would be adjusted in the next few weeks, compensating for inflation.

Six new competition venues are about 80 percent complete, and a new high-speed rail line will be finished in June of 2017 and in operation the following January. The line will link Incheon airport to Pyeongchang and reduce travel time to 90 minutes from almost twice that much.

Pyeongchang is also building a controversial sliding center for bobsled, luge and skeleton, after rejecting an IOC suggestion that it use a complex previously constructed for the games in Nagano, Japan, to save money. The cost is 124 billion won ($112 million) for a venue that could be a white elephant if not managed properly.

Gunilla Lindberg, the IOC member heading the planning for Pyeongchang, said the sliding center and the International Broadcast Center are “slightly delayed.”

Meantime, competition is heating up between South Korea and China over whose Olympic ski venue might ultimately become a destination for Asian tourists. Beijing planners have picked Zhangjiakou as the ski site for the 2022 games. Pyeongchang has some advantages, as it gets more natural snow than Zhangjiakou.

“A ski resort built for the Beijing Games is not going to be enough, considering the population of China,” Kim said. “We want to attract Chinese, but also Southeast Asians.”

Pyeongchang is in South Korea’s Gangwon Province, and the central and provincial governments have been battling over who should pay the Olympic bills as skepticism grows about the long-term economic benefits of mega-sporting events, said Chung, the sports science professor.

“Pyeongchang mostly got what it wanted,” Chung said, noting the province has pushed off costs to the central government. “It has no choice. It’s still the Olympics, and you don’t want to look bad hosting it.”

Petition puts down profiting off child players of Pokemon Go

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood wants Niantic, Inc., producers of Pokemon GO, to protect children who play the popular new game from commercial exploitation.

CCFC, in a petition online, urged Niantic to not lure children under 13 to visit sponsored “PokeStops” and “Pokemon Gyms,” or deliver to them any targeted advertisements based on their location.

Pokemon GO is a location-based augmented reality game that requires players to visit specific real world places — called “PokeStops” and “Pokemon Gyms” — in order to capture, battle and train virtual creatures.

Niantic says Pokemon GO encourages players to “Get Up, Get Out, and Explore.”

But Niantic is selecting some PokeStops and Gyms based on paid sponsorships, using the game’s appeal to entice customers to brick and mortar establishments, and McDonald’s is one of the first sponsors.

In Japan, every McDonald’s is a Pokemon GO hot spot.

Once children playing the game arrive at the restaurant, they’re enticed to buy Happy Meals with Pokemon GO toys, the petitioners protested.

“No child should be lured to McDonald’s or any other sponsor’s establishment while playing Pokemon GO,” Josh Golin, executive director of CCFC, said in a news release. “If Niantic wants to cash in on the game’s enormous popularity by herding players to its sponsors’ locations, it should exclude children from this type of marketing.”

Angela J. Campbell, a Georgetown law professor and CCFC board member, stated in the release, “It is the height of hypocrisy for Niantic to tout Pokemon GO as a means to get children outside, then use the game to sell Happy Meals.”

Pokemon GO collects a wealth of data about its players, including their geolocation, as they play the game.

So CCFC also urged Niantic to refrain from delivering personalized ads to children based on the data.

Because all players are required to provide their birthdate at sign-up, Niantic can identify and protect players under 13, the advocacy group said.

In addition to advertising concerns, advocates and experts have noted that Pokemon GO presents a host of threats to users’ safety and privacy, particularly for younger players.

“This is a watershed moment not only for Pokemon GO, but for the burgeoning augmented reality industry,” Golin said. “Will Niantic take the precautions necessary to make Pokemon GO a safe environment for children? Or will AR just be another gimmick to make kids ‘Get up, get out, and go to McDonald’s?”

Diners at Michelin-starred restaurant in Japan get food poisoning

A Michelin-starred restaurant in Japan closed temporarily after 14 people got food-poisoning on a fancy Japanese-style meal there, and an investigation into the cause is continuing.

The Kanagawa prefectural government said six men and eight women complained of diarrhea and stomach pains after eating at Kita Kamakura Saryo Gentoan on June 11.

Their menu offerings included squid, jelly with sea urchin, pumpkin cooked with fish, eel and sweets, according to the prefecture.

A picturesque restaurant among the trees of Kamakura, a coastal town south of Tokyo, it is known for serving meals in quiet Japanese-style rooms. It serves kaiseki, or small, multiple-course dishes, and has one star in the latest Michelin guide.

The restaurant closed on its own June 14. The prefecture’s closure order was lifted Wednesday, although the cause of the food poisoning remains under investigation, prefecture official Takeshi Ishihara said.


5 years after the Fukushima disaster

The worst nuclear accident in history occurred five years ago at the Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant in Japan.

Following an earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, three out of four reactors on the site melted down and a hydrogen explosion released deadly radiation into the atmosphere.

Three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco), the owner of the Fukushima nuclear plant, were recently indicted for criminal negligence for failing to take action to prevent damage to the nuclear plant from a tsunami. Experts had warned Tepco about the dangers of an earthquake and a tsunami hitting the plant in June 2009.

Following an earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, three out of four reactors on the site melted down and a hydrogen explosion released deadly radiation into the atmosphere.
Following an earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, three out of four reactors on the site melted down and a hydrogen explosion released deadly radiation into the atmosphere.

At Fukushima

Approximately 150,000 people were evacuated in response to the accident. It is estimated that about 700 square miles of land in Fukushima Prefecture have now been contaminated by high levels of radiation. But the Fukushima nuclear disaster is far from over.

The damaged reactors continue to leak radioactivity into the surrounding soil and sea. To minimize further radioactive releases, vast quantities of cooling water are needed. This contaminated cooling water is accumulating at the site and being discharged into the Pacific Ocean. Moreover, according to the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, “failures in the makeshift cooling systems are occurring repeatedly. The damaged nuclear reactors and spent fuel ponds, containing vast amounts of radioactivity, are highly vulnerable to further earthquake, tsunami, typhoon or deliberate damage. Further catastrophic releases of radioactivity are possible at any time.”

Minimizing Fukushima

Nuclear proponents in the United States try to minimize the extent of the Fukushima catastrophe by claiming that no deaths have been attributed to radiation exposure.

However, this ignores the social impact of the disaster. Official data from Fukushima show that between 2011 and 2015, nearly 2,000 people died from the effects of evacuations necessary to avoid high radiation exposures from the disaster. The mass evacuation uprooted entire communities, divided families and resulted in the loss of social support networks. These deaths were from ill health, poor physical conditions and suicides, especially among older people.

There is also great controversy over the amounts and longer-term health effects of radiation exposures from the Fukushima radioactive fallout. For example, in April 2014, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation published its report on radiation exposure due to the nuclear accident and concluded that, “No discernible changes in future cancer rates and hereditary diseases are expected due to exposure to radiation as a result of the Fukushima nuclear accident.” The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War responded with its own critique, suggesting that the UNSCEAR  report was a systematic underestimation of the health and environmental effects of the disaster.

In particular, the total amount of radioactivity released by the disaster was underestimated by UNSCEAR because it only counted releases during the first weeks of the disaster and ignored all radioactive discharges to the ocean after April 30, 2011. Roughly 300 tons of highly contaminated water has been dumped into the Pacific Ocean every day for more than four years.

To focus on the lack of deaths from radiation exposure also serves to obscure the time lag between radiation exposure and deaths from cancer years later. New scientific research reported in The Ecologist from England indicates a 30-fold excess of thyroid cancer within four years after the disaster among over 400,000 young people below the age of eighteen from the Fukushima area. Thyroid cancer is a frequent occurrence as a result of acute exposure to radioactive iodine 131, a product of nuclear fission. The authors of the study note that the incidence of thyroid cancer is high by comparison with the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 at the same time following exposure and warn that more cases are likely to emerge.

Naoto Kan, who was Japan’s prime minister when the Fukushima nuclear disaster began is now calling for the abolition of nuclear power. Kan compared the potential worst-case devastation that could be caused by a nuclear plant meltdown as tantamount only to “a great world war. Nothing else has the same impact.”

Al Gedicks is emeritus professor of environmental sociology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.


Green self-driving cars take center stage at Tokyo auto show

Visions of cars that drive themselves without emitting a bit of pollution while entertaining passengers with online movies and social media are what’s taking center stage at the Tokyo Motor Show.

Japan, home to the world’s top-selling automaker, has a younger generation disinterested in owning or driving cars. The show is about wooing them back. It’s also about pushing an ambitious government-backed plan that paints Japan as a leader in automated driving technology.

Reporters got a preview look at the exhibition ahead of its opening to the public Oct. 30. 

Nissan Motor Co. showed a concept vehicle loaded with laser scanners, a 360-degree camera setup, a radar and computer chips so the car can “think” to deliver autonomous driving. The Japanese automaker called it IDS, which stands for “intelligent driving system.”

Nissan, based in Yokohama, Japan, said it will offer some autonomous driving features by the end of next year in Japan. By 2018, it said vehicles with the technology will be able to conduct lane changes on highways. By 2020, such vehicles will be able to make their way through intersections on regular urban roads.

Nissan officials said they were working hard to make the car smart enough to recognize the difference between a red traffic light and a tail light, learn how to turn on intersections where white lane indicators might be missing and anticipate from body language when a pedestrian might cross a street.

Nissan’s IDS vehicle is also electric, with a new battery that’s more powerful than the one currently in the automaker’s Leaf electric vehicle. Although production and sales plans were still undecided, it can travel a longer distance on a single charge and recharge more quickly.  

A major challenge for cars that drive themselves is winning social acceptance. They would have to share the roads with normal cars with drivers as well as with pedestrians, animals and unexpected objects.

That’s why some automakers at the show are packing the technology into what looks more like a golf cart or scooter than a car, such as Honda Motor Co.’s cubicle-like Wander Stand and Wander Walker scooter.

Instead of trying to venture on freeways and other public roads, these are designed for controlled environments, restricted to shuttling people to pre-determined destinations.

At a special section of the show, visitors can try out some of the so-called “smart mobility” devices such as Honda’s seat on a single-wheel as well as small electric vehicles.

Regardless of how zanily futuristic and even dangerous such machines might feel, especially the idea of sharing roads with driverless cars, that era is inevitable simply because artificial intelligence is far better at avoiding accidents than human drivers, said HIS analyst Egil Juliussen. It just might take some time, such as until the 2030s, he said.

Such technology will offer mobility to people who can’t drive or who don’t have cars, and it can also reduce pollution and global warming by delivering efficient driving, he said.

Other automakers, including General Motors, BMW, Mercedes, Toyota and Tesla are working on self-driving technology, as are companies outside the industry, such as Google and Uber.

Cars already can connect to the Internet. Automakers envision a future in which cars would work much like smartphones today, to have passengers checking email, watching movies or checking out social media and leaving the driving to the car.  

Honda Chairman Fumihiko Ike, who is also head of Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association which is organizing the show, said the Japanese government was putting tremendous pressure on Japan’s automakers to perfect self-driving features.

Japan is eager to showcase such technology in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, such as having driverless cars pick up athletes from airports and taking them to Olympic Village.  

But Ike acknowledged he had doubts. Unexpected things could happen on roads, like a package falling out of a van, and the human brain has better powers of the imagination than the best artificial intelligence, he said.

“We have to see,” Ike said on when self-driving cars might become common. “The final answer will be from the whole society.” 

Toyota President Akio Toyoda said the technology has clear benefits but also shared Ike’s reservations.

“It’s not that easy,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the show. “We are pursuing the technology, but we are also just being realistic.” 

Toyota driven to eliminate gasoline cars by 2050

Toyota, under ambitious environmental targets, is aiming to sell hardly any regular gasoline vehicles by 2050, only hybrids and fuel cells, to radically reduce emissions.

The automaker promised to involve governments, affiliated companies and other “stakeholders” in its push to reduce average emissions from Toyota cars by 90 percent by about 2050, compared with 2010 levels. 

Electric cars weren’t part of their vision, outlined by top Toyota Motor Corp. officials at a Tokyo museum, striking a contrast with rivals such as Nissan Motor Co., which has banked on that zero-emissions technology.

Toyota’s commitments come at a time when the auto industry has been shaken by a scandal at Germany’s Volkswagen AG, in which it admitted it cheated on diesel emissions tests covering millions of cars.

Toyota projected its annual sales of fuel cell vehicles will reach more than 30,000 by about 2020, which is 10 times its projected figure for 2017.

Fuel cells run on hydrogen and are zero-emissions. Toyota’s Mirai fuel cell went on sale late last year. Toyota has received 1,500 orders for the Mirai in Japan, and it just went on sale in the U.S. and Europe.

Annual sales of hybrid vehicles will reach 1.5 million and by 2020 Toyota would have sold 15 million hybrids, nearly twice what it has sold so far around the world, it said.

Hybrids switch back and forth between a gasoline engine and an electric motor to deliver an efficient ride.

The Toyota Prius, which went on sale in 1997, is the top-selling hybrid, with about 4 million sold globally so far. Toyota is promising to develop a hybrid version in every category, including usually gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicles, as well as luxury models.   

“You may think 35 years is a long time,” Senior Managing Officer Kiyotaka Ise told reporters. “But for an automaker to envision all combustion engines as gone is pretty extraordinary.”

Ise acknowledged some gasoline engine cars would remain in less developed markets, but only in small numbers.

He and other Toyota officials insisted on the inevitability of their overall vision, stressing that the problems of global warming and environmental destruction made a move toward a hydrogen-based society a necessity.

Experts agree more has to be done to curtail global warming and pollution, and nations are increasingly tightening emissions standards.

But they are divided on whether all gasoline engines will disappear, or they’ll stay on, thanks to greener internal combustion engines, as well as the arrival of clean diesel technology.

Tatsuo Yoshida, senior analyst at Barclays Securities Japan in Tokyo, said Toyota’s goals weren’t far-fetched.

“The internal combustion engine is developing and metamorphosing into hybrids,” he said. “Toyota has been working on this technology for a long time. When officials speak out like this, it means they are 120 percent confident this is their scenario.”    

As part of its environmental vision, Toyota also promised to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from production lines during manufacturing in 2030 to about a third of 2001 levels.

Toyota said it will develop manufacturing technology that uses hydrogen, and will use wind power at its Tahara plant, both by 2020. It also promised to beef up various recycling measures, including developing ways to build vehicles from recycled ones.

When asked why Toyota remained so cautious on electric vehicles, they said they take too long to recharge, despite battery innovations that have made them smaller, restricting them for short-range travel in cities. 

Toyota Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada, known as the “father of the Prius,” said the company was taking the environment seriously because it has always tried to contribute to a better society.

“We have the same principles since our founding,” he said, showing on stage a photo of Sakichi Toyoda, the Toyota founder’s father, who invented a textile loom in 1891. “That is Toyota’s DNA.”   

Events marking 70th anniversary of atomic bombings of Japan

The 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will be marked with memorial services, peace concerts and art exhibits.

More than 200,000 people died in the two blasts, which were the first wartime uses of nuclear weapons. The U.S. dropped the bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945. World War II ended with Japan’s surrender days later.

An annual government-sponsored memorial service marking the end of the war takes place on Aug. 15 at Tokyo’s Budokan hall, with Emperor Akihito, Empress Michiko, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and top ministers expected to attend.

Here are some of the events in Hiroshima and Nagasaki planned to commemorate the bombings, along with related points of interest. 


An annual ceremony is held on Aug. 6 at the Hiroshima Peace City Memorial Monument in Peace Memorial Park. A peace bell is rung at 8:15 a.m. to mark the moment the bomb was dropped, followed by one minute of silent prayers. Details at http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/spot/festival/hiroshimapeacecrmn.html . Reservations for campsites near the peace park: http://www.city.hiroshima.lg.jp/www/contents/1428909370849/index.html.

Hiroshima also has a Peace Memorial Museum, http://www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/index_e2.html . For self-guided walking tours to peace-related facilities and sites that survived the bombing, including trees, along with information on volunteer tour guides, visit http://www.pcf.city.hiroshima.jp/images_e/courses.pdf .

Other events include:

• Aug. 5 and 9, annual peace concerts.

• Aug. 6, lantern festival in the evening of the anniversary, http://www.urban.ne.jp/home/tourou/index_e.html.

• Aug. 6, concert organized by New York-based United Nations staff and citizens chorus.

• Throughout August, free showings of films related to peace and A-bomb, including Akira Kurosawa’s “Rhapsody in August” and Isao Takahata’s “Grave of the Fireflies,” at Hiroshima City Cinematographic, http://www.cf.city.hiroshima.jp/eizou/.

• Sept. 4-6: Hiroshima 70 Peace Seminar, an international conference to discuss peace, constitution, diplomacy and security, at Hiroshima City University.

• Sept. 19-Oct. 3: Hiroshima Art Document 2015 international art exhibit at former Bank of Japan Hiroshima branch.

• Nov. 3: Hiroshima international peace marathon.


The Nagasaki Peace Memorial ceremony is held annually on Aug. 9 in Nagasaki Peace Park at the peace statue, a large bronze figure with one hand pointing up and the other extending sideways. Nearby is the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and a black obelisk marking the hypocenter of the blast, along with a small wall section from a cathedral destroyed in the bombing. Details at http://www.peace-nagasaki.go.jp/english/information/index.html . A visitors guide to Nagasaki is available at http://www.city.nagasaki.lg.jp.e.jc.hp.transer.com/kanko/index.html .

Other events include:

• Aug. 1-2, play about life in Nagasaki the day before the bombing.

• Aug. 6-12, mural painting project “Kids’ Guernica” at peace park, to be painted by 200 children and students.

• Aug. 2-9, international peace art exhibit at Nagasaki Brick Hall, Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum and Nagasaki University.

• Aug. 22, musical event for children at Nagasaki city cultural hall. 

• Sept. 5-6, opera “Inochi” (life) based on atomic bombing, organized by prefectural opera association and performed at Nagasaki Brick Hall.

• Sept. 22-23, requiem chorus project at Urakami church.

Tokyo ward recognizes same-sex partnerships as ‘equivalent of a marriage’

With a landmark vote on March 31 by the assembly of Tokyo’s Shibuya ward, the district famous as a mecca for trendy youngsters became the first locale in Japan to recognize same-sex partnerships as the “equivalent of a marriage,” guaranteeing the rights of married couples.

The new ordinance applies only to Shibuya, and it’s technically not legally binding, though violators will have their names posted on the ward’s website.

Shibuya — an area with a population of 217,000, including 9,000 foreigners — is also planning an aggressive educational campaign on LGBT issues.

Japanese conservatives, including the powerful politicians of the ruling party, have been unwilling to back the initiative, and protest rallies have popped up in Shibuya.

“A great social ramification will be expected from such a decision,” Mari Sato, a ruling party ward legislator opposed to the move, told the assembly ahead of the vote. “We need much more time to discuss this issue.”

The vote passed, with the majority of the 34 ward’s legislators standing up to show their approval.

The first certificates are expected to be issued in July.

Shibuya ward Mayor Toshitake Kuwahara says accepting diversity matches the friendly, vivacious character of the area — a bustling place known for boutiques, live music and a Silicon Valley-like cluster of startups.

Nintendo apologizes for excluding gay relationships in ‘Life’ game

Nintendo is apologizing and pledging to be more inclusive after being criticized for not recognizing same-sex relationships in English editions of a life-simulator video game. The publisher said that while it was too late to change the current game, it was committed to building virtual equality into future versions if they’re produced.

Nintendo came under fire from fans and gay rights organizations this past week after refusing to add same-sex relationship options to the game “Tomodachi Life.”

“We apologize for disappointing many people by failing to include same-sex relationships in ‘Tomodachi Life,'” Nintendo said in a statement. “Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to change this game’s design, and such a significant development change can’t be accomplished with a post-ship patch.”

The game was originally released in Japan last year and features a cast of Mii characters — Nintendo’s personalized avatars of real players — living on a virtual island. Gamers can do things like shop, play games, go on dates, get married and encounter celebrities like Christina Aguilera and Shaquille O’Neal. Already a hit in Japan, “Tomodachi Life” is set for release June 6 in North America and Europe.

Tye Marini, a 23-year-old gay Nintendo fan from Mesa, Arizona, launched a social media campaign last month seeking virtual equality for the game’s characters.

“I want to be able to marry my real-life fiancé’s Mii, but I can’t do that,” Marini said in a video posted online that attracted the attention of gaming sites and online forums this past week. “My only options are to marry some female Mii, to change the gender of either my Mii or my fiancé’s Mii or to completely avoid marriage altogether and miss out on the exclusive content that comes with it.”

Marini said Saturday that he was “very happy” with Nintendo’s response. “I don’t believe they are a homophobic company at all,” Marini said. “I think that the exclusion of same-sex relationships was just an unfortunate oversight.”

Yet the issue does mark a cultural divide between Japan, where gay marriage is not legal, and North America and Europe, where gay marriage has become legal in some places. It also highlights the problems with “localization,” the process when games are changed to suit different locales and customs.

The uproar prompted Kyoto, Japan-based Nintendo Co. and its subsidiary Nintendo of America Inc. to pledge to create a more inclusive “Tomodachi” installment in the future.

“We are committed to advancing our longtime company values of fun and entertainment for everyone,” Nintendo said. “We pledge that if we create a next installment in the `Tomodachi’ series, we will strive to design a game-play experience from the ground up that is more inclusive, and better represents all players.”

While many English-language games don’t feature gay characters, several role-playing series produced by English-speaking developers, such as Electronic Arts, “The Sims,” Microsoft Studios’ “Fable” and Bethesda Softworks’ “The Elder Scrolls,” have allowed players to create characters that can woo others of the same sex, as well as marry and have children.

After Nintendo said this past week — in response to Marini’s growing campaign — that it wouldn’t add same-sex relationship options to “Tomodachi Life,” the publisher of such gaming franchises as “The Legend of Zelda” and “Mario Bros.” was called out by fans and organizations such as the gay advocacy group GLAAD.

“Nintendo has taken a first step, but if the company’s longtime values are rooted in ‘fun and entertainment for everyone,’ then it needs to catch up to peers like Electronic Arts, which has been inclusive of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) gamers for years,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement.