Just last week while picking up milk at my local 7-Eleven, I found myself chuckling at the sight of a teenage boy trying to peek at the adult magazines arranged on the rank right beside the comic books. I had to admire his technique as he stood holding a weekly manga collection open in front of him while staring, unblinking and open-mouthed, at the covers of the naughty magazines to his right.
Alas, this young man and thousands like him could soon be reduced to checking out
far more explicit and abundant images of girls via the internet as “a certain convenience store” is rumoured to be clearing its naughty magazine section away very soon.
Pretty much every convenience store in Japan has a small section dedicated entirely to adult literature. The magazines are usually sealed, thus preventing tachiyomi (lit. “stand and read)” and any non-seijin (mature/people 20 years or older) from riffling through their pages, but publications with covers far more risqué than many countries would allow are openly displayed and in reach of even the shortest horny schoolboy.
As we discussed last week, sex is present in some form or other– though often ignored– throughout Japanese society, but it always struck me as odd that publications like Mature and Busty should be positioned just a couple of inches from fashion and cooking magazines, separated by just a tiny strip of card reading “adults only”.
According to internet chatter, however, these naughty corners may soon be a thing of the past.
“I’ve heard from a source directly associated with the industry that one of the largest convenience stores has begun limiting the number of magazines they carry featuring nudity or sexual content, with some stores making the decision to remove them altogether from their shelves,” came a tweet from a man with close ties to the Japanese publishing industry.
But what has prompted the sudden move? Has one of the big three stores simply decided to throw out the smut and pursue a more wholesome image?
Many suggest that the recent trend of convenience stories stocking fresh foods is to blame.
Although in the past convenience stores mainly stocked simple household items, canned goods, magazines, toiletries and the like, in more recent years many have introduced more and more fresh foods, ready-meals and even fruit and vegetables. These additions have helped the stores through difficult financial times and, in some cases, actually been the catalyst for an increase in profits, resulting in the gradual expansion of fresh foods sections. With adult magazines being a comparatively poor seller, the conbini naughty corner has, according to some internet commenters, found itself targeted as shelf space that could be better used.
Others, however, believe there to be much more sinister reason for the removal of the titillating titles.
Writer and adult video director Jin Toriyama among others suggests that, rather than convenience stores being influenced by public or political opinion, large global conglomerates with capital invested in them are pushing the decision forward, which is worrying to say the least.
The decision to cut sales of adult-oriented magazines in convenience stores is also reportedly having an adverse effect on many publishing houses, who look set to lose a large chunk of their business should convenience stores no longer carry their cheekier publications.
But how are the general public taking to the news that conbini porn shelves may soon disappear?
Some are surprisingly optimistic, suggesting that “If adult magazines are pulled from convenience store shelves, regular bookshops might be able to win back some of the custom they’ve lost over the years…”
Indeed, despite there being so many high quality bookstores in Japan, an estimated 40% of the country’s magazines are believed to be sold through convenience stores. While they’re undoubtedly not quite the type of sales many bookstores would actively seek, patrons unable to buy their copy of Naughty Nurses Weekly may just return to their local book emporium, boosting flagging sales.
Others internet users, meanwhile, simply feel sorry for the middle-aged men who would be deprived of their okazu (lit. “side-dish”, sometimes used as slang to refer to material used to assist sexual arousal), saying: “But what about all those old guys who used to enjoy picking up a little okazu and alcohol on their way home!?”
Whether the rumour turns out to be true, and whatever the real cause, Japan is a resilient country, and we’re sure that people will soon bounce back from the setback, however devastating at first. Besides, as one Twitter user suggests, while waving goodbye to porn mags in convenience stores might well be sad for some, “there’s plenty of filth to be found for free on the internet…”