Pop into any convenience store in Japan and you’ll see at least three things: cigarettes, food and magazines. As you walk away from the door, the subjects of the latter will change from “women’s” to “men’s” to “probably kids manga” to “definitely not kids manga” to “saucy” to “that’s definitely pornography” in less than five meters.
Coming from a country where the naughty magazines (if they’re there at all) are hidden up on the top shelf and covered except from the name, this seemed especially brazen to me during my first visit to Japan.
It seems I was not alone in this thought all those years ago. On January 21, major Japanese convenience stores Lawson and 7-Eleven announced that they would be pulling adult magazines from their shelves by August of this year. The move apparently comes out of consideration for women, children and —you guessed it — foreign visitors, whose droves only look to increase in the run-up to Tokyo 2020.
As usual, Polandball art summarizes it best:
— ST (@sns_muitenaai) January 21, 2019
Since the oft-overlooked convenience store brand Ministop already banned adult magazines in 2017, now people who find themselves in need of such journalistic rigor will need to start shopping in B-listers Circle K Sunkus or Daily Yamazaki.
With the Olympics subsuming just about every aspect of policy (governmental and corporate) at the moment, this move isn’t wholly surprising. After all, many tourists come from places where such magazines are rarely seen, even if that’s mainly because they’ve all gone bust thanks to the Internet.
Print is dead
Reaction online was not overwhelmingly positive or negative, though this may well be because the people buying such magazines in the first place are not the sort to be surfing the information superhighway.
“The Ozeki One Cup pensioners really need to learn how to use the internets,” writes Reddit user Abenomics101.
“Who’s still paying for printed erotic content??” commented another.
Perhaps the ban could have benefits beyond the sensibilities of those who would rather not get a lesson in female anatomy every time they want to get some cash out from the ATM.
Twitter user Dai writes:
— DAI (@never_be_a_pm) January 23, 2019
“If konbinis stop selling adult magazines, IT literacy among the elderly will increase. This is pretty serious. We could see more people buying smartphones for lewd reasons.”
Some wondered whether this would be just a temporary move until after the Rugby World Cup and the Olympics.
On the GaijinPot Facebook group, one member commented:
“After 2020, the porn will return. It’s all pre-Olympics preparation. Then, it’s back to business.”
Another agreed, writing;
“So let’s get real..as SOON as the olympics are over..odds are things will go back to what they were.”
Motivations and unexpected consequences aside, this looks to be a positive move on the whole. Japan isn’t doing great in terms of gender equality, and the prevailing wisdom is that magazines like these don’t exactly represent the peak of sex-positivity or female empowerment.
With all eyes on Japan in the next couple of years it does seem that the country is really starting to care about its image. Perhaps in ten years time, like Twitter user @arima argues, people won’t believe you could find pornography so out in the open.
“Three major convenience stores decided to stop selling adult magazines. In ten years, people’s conversations will go like this:
‘In the past, adult magazines with erotic front covers were displayed at convenience stores as if it was normal.’
‘Er … why the hell at convenience stores?? I don’t understand… Heisei [era] is gross…’
I am so happy about this change,” she tweeted.
What do you think about the decision to remove adult magazines from Japanese convenience stores? Is it just a PR stunt? Let us know in the comments!