The other day, while I was dashing around between lessons, running a few errands and the like, I stopped by the local convenience store, otherwise known here as a konbini. While there, I saw a most unusual sight; a Japanese man, that busiest of breeds, finding time for a moment of relaxation in his otherwise busy schedule… to peruse the porn.
For a country with a declining population, a youth apparently less and less interested in sex and a general lack of privacy Japan is surprisingly open about its pornography.
I remember when I used to work in a petrol station mini-supermarket the elaborate dances people would go through in order to somehow, “stumble” across their chosen fare. First to the fridge at the back of the store, then a slow and meandering stroll past the pet food and then… “oh, how did I end up here?” Indeed one of the saddest sights I ever saw was a lorry driver whose basket was filled with a single can of extra strong beer, a pack of ten party sausages with dipping sauce and a Nuts magazine. I almost directed him to where we kept the man sized tissues.
In Britain the more risqué magazines are of course generally kept out the reach of the young and the unusually short by dint of their location on the top shelf. Yet, in Japan the magazines in convenience stores aren’t lined up against a wall in a tower of glossy mediocrity and z-list celebrity gossip. Instead they are kept on a rack just below the shop’s front window where passers by and those parking their cars out front can see who is reading them quite clearly. Generally, these magazine racks are seen as a local library and it’s not unusual to see four or five people standing in front of them enjoying a leisurely leaf through the pages of a magazine. That they choose to do so even with porn continues to astound me, as I live in a country where the adjective most people would use to describe themselves is, ‘shy.’
Although, I should note that there is a place in my town to buy porn away from the prying eyes of children, a shop that the bus always passes on its way out of town that loudly declares itself as being for, ‘Adults Onry.’
However, this behaviour is not only confined to the konbini. When my father came to visit me last summer I’d mentioned in passing to him about how dirty Japanese men could be and in particular how flagrant they’d be about it. After his first few days in my sleepy little town we hopped on a bus bound for Tokyo. Some hours into the long journey he nudged me and said, ‘Matt I see what you mean, look over there.’ Across the aisle and a few seats ahead was an older Japanese man, admiring the centerfold in his porno mag, holding it vertically so as to fully appreciate the two-page spread.
A friend of mine while visiting Japan was rather stunned by just how visible pornography is here and asked me, “Why on earth don’t they have a top shelf like everywhere else?”
In a country with an average height of five foot seven, the more pertinent question might just be; how would they reach it?