Entertainment

Who Buys Porn Magazines Anymore? We Asked the Editor of One

Porn magazines once lined the aisles of Japanese convenience stores. Usually tucked away to one side, cover models clad in minimal clothing smiled down at customers and enticed them to pick up a copy, until internet porn gradually took the place of nudity printed on dead trees.

And then there is the Olympics.

In the years since Japan won the bid to host the 2020 Games, complaints mounted that the magazine covers were offensive to women and inappropriate in front of children. In 2017 and 2018, some of the country’s biggest convenience store chains—MiniStop, Lawson, and 7-Eleven—said they would stop selling the publications altogether, accelerating the titles’ demise.

Akira Ikoma, editor in chief of the porn magazine My Journey, said Japan is “hiding this part of the culture because they’re embarrassed.” 

The cover of an issue of The cover of an issue of “My Journey,” Akira Ikoma’s magazine. Photo: Courtesy of Akira Ikoma

“Even sex stores with really dirty signs have been made to change or get rid of them in preparation for the Olympics. They have to make Japan look like a developed country, and if they have these magazines out, the society looks underdeveloped,” he told VICE World News. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has cast uncertainty over whether the Tokyo games this summer will have any overseas spectators, the decisions to pull the adult publications off the shelves seem to be irreversible.

Even cancelling the Olympics would have “no effect on the discontinuation of conbini porn,” a representative from Lawson told VICE World News. Conbini means “convenience store.”

porn, convenience store, Japan A cover of a “general” magazine sold at a Japanese convenience store. Photo: Hanako Montgomery

Still, visitors to a Lawson outlet today will still be greeted with magazines featuring scantily clad women on their covers. Ikoma said that’s because these publications, despite featuring adult content, are classified as “general” magazines.

“They exist purely because of a grey zone. If there’s content other than erotic images, then they’re allowed to keep the magazines in stock. So there’ll be articles about society, politics, restaurants and then a bit of erotica,” Ikoma said. 

But apart from the changing public view of conbini porn, technological innovation has been a bigger factor in disrupting the once $5 billion adult business much as it has decimated the sales of print books.

“Since the 2000s, people haven’t really been buying print. The convenience stores once served as local bookshops in the suburbs, where bookstores are hard to come by. But now, with digitalization, it’s harder to make sales,” Ikoma said.

The golden days for conbini porn magazines were before the 2000s, when stores earned roughly 500 billion yen ($4.6 billion) a year from sales of pornographic titles, according to Nippan Publishing, a Japanese publishing company. A copy of the magazine cost about 1000 yen ($9). “It’s more profitable than selling a 100 yen can of juice. And the magazines won’t expire, like the bento boxes,” Ikoma said. 

Now, profit is at a fraction of what it once was. According to Business Insider Japan, sales of porn magazines made up less than 1 percent of Lawson’s total sales in 2019. At 7-Eleven, paper porn sales account for a third of what they did 10 years ago.

But Ikoma remains optimistic that adult magazines will live on.

“There’s something about holding those paper copies in your hand that can’t be replaced. These magazines aren’t just erotic—if they were, then they’d never survive alongside adult videos. What these copies give you is the opportunity to explore a new world, to go on an adventure,” he told VICE World News.

“Take, for instance, the old men in hospitals who want the magazines. They can’t go out physically to buy them, but that desire is still there. I want to deliver that pleasure in some way, without embarrassing them in front of nurses. Maybe they can download the books on their smartphones, who knows. But we still have fans. There is still demand, no matter how small.”

Follow Hanako Montgomery on Twitter and Instagram.

Source: Who Buys Porn Magazines Anymore? We Asked the Editor of One

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