According to my friend, her head teacher told her that ‘someone in the neighborhood’ complained about her using Pokemon Go on her way to work this morning. She was walking, not driving or riding a bike. She was on public sidewalks. This head teacher gave her Japanese oranges to soften the blow, and told her to stop playing it on the way to and from school. My friend will comply with this, but I’m just wondering if it’s legal to control what an employee does in their personal time like that if the activity isn’t otherwise illegal or morally questionable.
ANSWER – No, the school, or any employer, cannot order someone to stop playing a game like this in their free time.
Legalities aside though, we should look at why the teacher head teacher asked the person to stop playing.
Pokemon Go has been the cause of at least 80 traffic accidents in Japan, and is suspected as being the cause of two deaths. (see Japan Times) As a result, many schools have placed a ban on students using the game on their way to school. In fact, many schools already had a ban on mobile use while walking to school prior to this for the same reason.
Teachers in Japan are expected to set an example for children so while legally we don’t believe such a rule is enforceable it makes sense within the culture. By “softening the blow” with the oranges, the head teacher is demonstrating that they know this and trying to “smooth things over”.
Of course it is up to the individual to decide but we believe your friend has made a good move to accommodate the request. Some things are worth standing your ground over but sometimes demonstrating that you understand the role of the teacher within Japanese society is more important.