Not Selling Sex on the Japanese Wireless Internet
We finally filmed the introduction to our latest video program – outside an establishment called “Sexual Harassment Corporation” – one of four or five adult industry vendors, including a brothel and a “Love Hotel” in a side street off the main drag, where prostitutes jump out and routinely proposition drunk salarimen (and the happily married author). There isn’t a station on the Yamanote line that isn’t crowded by similar scenes, and there there’s hardly a carriage on the JR line that doesn’t have, shall we say, full-blown advertisements for adult mags and manga that show Japanese girls seemingly as young as 14 flirting and flaunting themselves. Let’s face it, sex sells in Japan. Which brings us to wonder why Playboy.com is being blocked from the official Mobinet space.
The opening paragraph of this Viewpoint isn’t aimed at being lurid or sleazy. In Japan, the pornographic exploitation of women is a fact of life and the sex industry in one form or another is not hidden behind closed doors, it’s actually assaulting the Japanese consumers’ space almost at every turn in Japan’s big cities.
Playboy’s unspoken point was summed up in one crucial statistic: The company believes that 77% of 20-40 year old i-mode users in Japan have received an e-mail for an adult site, or, to put it even more bluntly, from brothels offering under-age prostitutes. The only unsolicited e-mail the author has received in the last 6 months have been from brothels, more often than not offering services from prostitutes advertised as middle-school girls.
At the same time, the mobile phone has proven a huge boon to prostitution, both organized and ad hoc in Japan. When the author arrived, “dates” between “Johns” and “Junkos” were usually organized via the hundreds of stickers put up in telephone kiosks, or from “Terekura” (or ‘Telephone Clubs’.) These days, the mobile revolution has taken the industry to the next stage of convenience in Japan’s “convenience” loving society.
Japan’s carriers have worked hard to eliminate the problems of “wan-giri” for example, and just last December, Vodafone K.K. announced its latest measures to counteract spam by limiting sending access for 21 hours to those who send more than 120 mails over a 3-hour time span initially, or cut them off if the problem persists.
While it seems unfair to hold DoCoMo, KDDI and Vodafone here responsible for all the unscrupulous uses of the Mobinet and email, their policies toward adult content do seem a bit confused.
Let’s take Playboy, for example. Watchers of our most recent video program with Marcus Grindel will know that the Germans LOVE fiddling with Playboy on i-mode, and we are assured by Vodafone that adult content is flying off the servers in Vodafone Live contents as well.
Yet in Japan, Playboy is effectively barred from Japan’s premium ‘official’ menus because carriers do not allow, at least for Vodafone Live in Japan at least, “pictures/ video/ text relating to sexual acts, nudity (full or partial), obscenity, minor solicitations and child pornography.”
DoCoMo is even more explicit. According to the “Official i-mode Menu Contents Criteria,” DoCoMo expressly forbids, well let’s just take 11 examples:
=> 1. Contents that offend public order or morality, or that may have a significant negative impact on them
=> 2. Contents the purposes of which are unclear
=> 3. Contents that include false or incorrect information
=> 4. Unscientific and superstitious nature that may cause users anxiety
=> 5 Contents that employ a “insensible” method to appeal to users’ unconsciousness, such as “subliminal” messages
=> 6. Contents that may cause negative feelings for some i-mode users
=> 7. Contents that include pornography or sexually disturbing nude pictures
=> 8. Contents that advocate or may cause discrimination in terms of race, nationality, occupation, gender, circumstances, belief, religion, or physical or mental disabilities
=> 9. Contents that may arouse a passion for gambling or excessive consumption
=> 10. Contents using expressions that affirm or apotheosize violence or other anti-social activities
=> 11. Official i-mode contents shall not hinder the healthy growing-up of youth
So, logically, after a quick browse through DoCoMo’s i-mode menu of September 2003, the company should strip a good chunk of contents off immediately.
Let’s take a look at the Fortune-Telling guide: most intelligent people, if they think about it, would agree that the junk astrology sites at least fall foul of 2, 3, 4, 5, and possibly 9, and 11, and certainly 6 for the author. Or perhaps the house of Lobster reflecting in the Planet Pluto of the lay line that runs through Stonehenge is having bad vibes on the reincarnation of one of my previous lives that is causing my Tarot card to come up with the Hanged Man?
Forget the Evil Powers of Rock and Roll, I am sure Final Fantasy Death Killer Shoot Murder Blowing Up Drive By Shooting Kung Fu Kick Sailor Moon Buy Goods games violates just about every category on the above list including, last but not least, point 11, which is why Sony it has such a hard time selling PS2 software to the puritanical and mass murdering Chinese government.
But DoCoMo is proving flexible with adult content to Japanese providers, even if it is not so open to Playboy in Japan yet. For example, in the stack of new contents about to be offered on the 900i series, we spotted such services such as the Masaaki Miyazawa Photo House whose main contents seem to be pictures of what appear to be teens in lingerie and “teenie” itsy bitsy little bikinis.
==> Another company, Index Corporation, proudly advertises its 300 yen per month 100K FLASH “U-15” beautiful little idols girls service that allows users to see strip images of very young looking girls. It also features an up-market section with Noboyoshi Araki, whose adult-content photos are not considered pornography by many, because they are real works of art.
Before people really start getting their knickers in a twist, there are no nude images. There is no indication of models being under 18, but then in Japan, it seems having all but naked girls of 14 dressed in their underwear or flashing their panties is not deemed illegal.
These are just a few examples of what a priss or a parent might call part of the flood of meaningless and offensive crap that’s coming on the 900i series. There’s some hard-core evidence, if you will, that many of Japan’s key contents players are gearing up for a full-frontal selection of “idols” sites that obviously somehow mysteriously don’t fall foul of any of the above rules mentioned, despite the fact that many in the West might find the portrayal of the breasts, thighs and crotches of teenagers something other than “cute.”
What’s the point? Well it’s Playboy’s point, not graphically made in our program but alluded to for those who have eyes in their head, is that the wireless contents space is a MESS, both technologically and ethically.
Those who pay good money for Vodafone Live in Japan can go to Germany, but the ability to see adult contents is hardwired out of their phones. Germans can watch blondes go all the way in Frankfurt, yet their mates might think them perverts or sad loser/ loners if they could get their hands on some of the stuff that’s official contents here in Japan.
Playboy talks of a “vast, captive, lucrative and still almost untapped market” in the Mobinet space that could be worth up to $7 billion in 2006. A more cautious estimate by Strategy Analytics last week states that the Mobile video entertainment market could top $5 billion in 2008. The company adds that 2004 could be the year that Thin Multimedia, HelloNetworks and Oplayo, which provide low cost, proprietary solutions could be quids (Euros) in helping carriers break into the mass market.
Playboy’s Grindel made a de facto plea for the 3G industry to get its act together to come up with some ideas to standardize both the technology and billings strategies to allow more contents providers with major brands easier access to the Mobile space, for the good of everyone in the business.
Of course, that’s because the development of the Mobile web is in some ways where the Internet was in 1996 Anyone remember the South Park episode when our little darlings dug up a primitive human specimen from 1996 who smashes his PC in angst while struggling with dailup to gain Internet access?
Grindel’s arguments were compelling: Visiongain estimates that the value of the global adult entertainment market will b
e $70 billion by 2006 and that $4 billion will come from through wireless: it could be so much higher.
While we don’t see much logic in Japan’s approach to adult content one thing is clear: everyone has to work out some form of DRM to make sure that adult content is made as secure as it can be. Adult contents are always going to leak into minors’ hands, just like parent’s pornographic magazines got stuffed furtively in between mattresses and videos got discovered hidden in shoeboxes. The genie is out of the bottle.
For more on this topic, here’s a link to what the BBC recently had to say.
— Paul Kallender