Thursday, August 15, 2002

Coco Kubota
Deutsche Press-Agentur

Internet helping to boost sex-based businesses in Japan

Christie Hefner, chief executive officer of Playboy Entrprises, speaks at the opening of a Playboy store outlet. Photo: dpa Features
Christie Hefner, chief executive officer of Playboy Entrprises, speaks at the opening of a Playboy store outlet. Photo: dpa Features

TOKYO — The proliferation of Internet users in Japan has helped to boost sales in sex-related businesses such as adult films, how-to books and toys for sexual pleasure.

The delivery of erotic content is possible via high-speed broadband connections, and Internet subscribers can watch blue movies on computer screens for a monthly fee of about 3,000 yen (25 dollars).

Takashi Kadokura, an economist at Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute who studies Japan's underground economy, says more and more Japanese are watching illegal adult films via the Internet.

"There are several new trends in Japan with the Internet, such as the increase of viewers of illegal porno films," he says. "The market for this illegal business is roughly 20 billion dollars."

In Japan, it is illegal to show the genitalia of men and women in adult films and magazines. If materials contain nudity, these parts of the anatomy must be censored over.

Kadokura says Japan's uncensored adult films are generally sold on the black market and distributed to customers through the Internet.

"Japan's pornographic film industry is very competitive and many go bankrupt easily, so it is not hard for such providers to obtain those contents," says Kadokura.

Japan's XXX film industry is second in output only to the United States. Japan produces roughly 5,000 adult titles a year compared with America's 7,000 blue movies, even though its population is about half the size.

Internet users in Japan totalled 55.9 million at the end of last year, a gain of 8.9 million from 2000. The 18 per cent rise means Japan's web-using population is second only to the U.S., according to government data.

Sales of self-pleasure instruments have also grown, particularly among Japanese women, thanks to the great increase in the number of people now using the Internet.

In Tokyo, the Love Piece Club sells sex toys to women. Before online shopping emerged, sales were hard to come by, says general manager Minori Kitahara. Now, roughly 20 per cent of sales are conducted over the Internet.

"This is a big improvement because women who buy such goods used to be almost zero before the spread of the Internet," Kitahara says.

However, while the World Wide Web has boosted adult film and sex- toy sales, the economist Kadokura notes it has also pried business away from pornographic magazines as free-of-charge websites proliferate.

According to ABC Associations, which compiles figures on magazines in Japan, the popular Weekly Playboy sold an average 408,000 copies per week in 2001, down from 516,000 in 1995.

This trend is not only reflected in Japan, as Playboy Enterprises in the U.S. has shifted its focus from magazine publishing to electronic-based erotica.

The U.S. firm purchased three XXX-rated pay-per-view video networks last year to satisfy a burgeoning market. The franchise is also expanding internationally, as witnessed by deals with German and Korean partners in 2001.

Playboy has also expanded its business to the apparel industry, opening a two-story clothing store in Tokyo's trendy Aoyama district, selling Playboy-brand clothes adorned by the trademark rabbit head.

"We think there is an opportunity to leverage the store in terms of further growth both in Japan and Asia," said Christie Hefner, chief executive of Playboy Enterprises, said at the store opening.

Online shopping has also given rise to Japan's sex literature industry. Customers shy of buying sex-related materials at bookstores are now able to purchase items without embarrassment.

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Created: January 17, 2004
Last modified: January 17, 2004
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