While Japanese convenience stores carry a wide range of adult magazines, their floor space isn’t always so expansive. So while even though stores place their skin mags at the far end of the magazine rack, it’s still not uncommon for them to be just a couple of steps away from periodicals oriented towards children or female readers.
Osami Takeyama, the mayor of Sakai City (part of Osaka Prefecture), believes this just isn’t right. On March 16, Takeyama and a representative from major convenience store chain Family Mart entered into an agreement under which Family Mart pledged to start slipping plastic covers with obscuring sections over the pornographic magazines on its racks as of April 6.
The opaque green strips are to be 12 centimeters (4.7 inches) in width, and bear the message: "Sakai City has enacted the Sakai Safety Program in order to build a safe community free of violence towards women and children. – Office of the Mayor. In accordance with the Osaka Healthy Youth Development Ordinance, the sale to, or perusal of, magazines on this shelf by individuals under 18 years of age is prohibited."
A similar proclamation will be placed at the front of the section of the rack containing adult publications.
The initiative quickly drew protests, however, from both the Japan Magazine Publishers Association and Japan Book Publishers Association. Both organizations called the conditions excessive while also pointing out that though the Healthy Youth Development Ordinance referenced on the covering prohibits stores from letting customers under 18 buy or browse through pornographic magazines, it doesn’t say that the covers must be hidden from their view. The associations also expressed their concerns that the agreement is an infringement upon rights of expression as well as the freedom of adults to make their own choices about what media they consume.
However, Takeyama defended his position, saying that the agreement came about through the mutual consent of the Sakai government and Family Mart, and is not an exercise of official authority. Moreover, as the agreement only encompassed, as of the end of March, 10 Family Mart branches in Sakai, Takeyama argued that it did not infringe upon consumers’ freedom of choice.
This didn’t do anything to quiet the Magazine Publishers and Book Publishers associations, though. The groups assert that since the covers are being supplied by the city government, they do indeed represent the use of official authority. Their case is also somewhat bolstered by the fact that the agreement between Takeyama and Family Mart includes the statement that:
“If consented is received, gradually expand the program with plans to eventually enact it at all [Family Mart] branches within Sakai City.”
There’s also a bit of indirect pressure in that along with placing extra covers over their adult magazines, the Family Mart locations complying with the agreement display a 15-centimeter square sticker (see photo below)near their entrance.
The text translates as:
"We won’t show harmful publications to children. This is a store that is kind to women and children.
～Working towards a city free of violence against women and children～" Sakai Safety Program
The subtle implication is that stores not displaying the sticker (which are also the ones which haven’t entered into the agreement to use the city’s magazine sheaths) are just fine with violence against women and kids.
Thus, the Magazine Publishers and Book Publishers associations have resubmitted their request for the mayor to dissolve the agreement. Takeyama has yet to respond, meaning that for the time being, horny shoppers at certain Family Mart branches are going to have to find the courage to buy their porno largely sight-unseen.
Source: IT Media, Sakai City, Japan Book Publishers Association
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