In a possible first for Japan, the city of Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, will urge convenience stores to cover up adult magazines to keep them out of sight of children, a municipal official said Wednesday.
The city hopes to start the initiative next month, which will deal with explicit magazines and manga designated by the prefecture as harmful to children under 18.
A Sakai official said the municipal government believes there is a high degree of “overexposure” to racy material by youngsters.
Most convenience stores place such magazines off to the side, often in a separate section marked “For adults.” But their covers, which often have explicit images and headlines, are still visible to all customers.
“We wanted to do something to tackle the situation where those images are in the full view of children almost automatically,” municipal official Seiji Miura said.
The city’s idea is to place a plastic veil over the magazines but leaving the title visible.
Japan is notorious for its lukewarm attitude toward curbing adult-oriented material, especially child pornography.
Although a revised child prostitution and pornography law took effect last year to outlaw private ownership of material featuring child abuse, critics and rights advocates say DVDs and images featuring nude preteen children are still readily available.
Miura said he believes Sakai is the first Japanese municipality to undertake such a project, which he said was inspired by similar efforts overseas.
The city is in talks with only one convenience store chain about it at the moment — Miura declined to say which — but it aims to get more companies to join as it rolls out the campaign citywide.
Miura acknowledged that adult customers should not be discouraged from buying such magazines, and because of this the titles will likely be left visible.
The city also plans to ask stores to install shields on shelves that carry the magazines to keep them out of sight of small children.
The project is part of Sakai’s contribution to the United Nations-led Safe Cities Global Initiative, which aims to eradicate sexual violence and harassment in public. The U.N. says these are an “everyday occurrence” for women and young children.
The city says on its website that it was Japan’s first municipality to accede to the global initiative, which it did in March 2014.
For the cover-up at convenience stores, it has requested ¥950,000 in the budget for fiscal 2016, Miura said.