According to the Mainichi Daily News today, local officials of the Saitama Prefectural Government have officially labeled Grand Theft Auto III a "harmful publication" and have implemented a ban on all sales of the game to consumers under the age of 18.
Earlier, the Saitama Prefectural Government had called for an investigation into the game. Prefecture officials made the "harmful publication" ruling on September 9, declaring the game contained scenes of "graphic violence" and "brutality," and stated they felt the game "promoted youth violence." Today marked the beginning of restrictions on sales of the game--an age-restriction that makes it a crime to sell the game to anyone under the age of 18.
"I've seen the game myself and it's far too violent and obviously harmful," the governor of Saitama, Kiyoshi Ueda, told the paper. "Freedom of expression is one thing, but the wholesome upbringing of youths is also important and this was the only option."
Reaction in Japan to prefecture governments instituting restrictions on the sale of the GTA game have sparked protests from gamers: The blog of Kanagawa prefecture Governor Shigefumi Matsuzawa was inundated with protests after that prefecture imposed a ban on the sale of GTA III to minors.
Saitama retailers face a 300,000 yen ($2,700) fine if they violate the ban.