The personality cult surrounding Russian President Vladimir Putin is reaching new heights, and a growing number of Japanese are becoming curious about the details of his daily life.
A newly published 2017 calendar featuring the Russian leader, who is famous for shirtless horse riding, has become a hot-selling item in Japan, according to chain franchise store Loft, where the calendar has been exclusively available since late August.
Until this year the calendar has not been available in the nation’s stores.
According to Loft spokeswoman Koyumi Yokokawa, the calendars, which come in two sizes, ranked third and fourth in sales of some 3,500 kinds of calendars between Sept. 1 and Wednesday at its flagship store in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward.
News that the bizarre calendar is on sale in Japan spread swiftly on social media.
One Twitter user with the handle @remogura wrote earlier in October, “I want the Putin calendar for my birthday, I swear.”
The trend is likely to continue until the end of the year, when demand for calendars peaks.
The calendar, written in eight languages, including English and Japanese, is the product of Mednyi Vsadnik, a St. Petersburg-based firm, and is authorized by the Russian government.
Yokokawa said calendars featuring famous personalities such as Steve Jobs and former tennis star Shuzo Matsuoka have recently been huge hits. The firm started selling the Putin calendar after receiving customer inquiries amid increasing media coverage of him ahead of an expected visit to Japan in December.
“We expected some interest from our customers, but didn’t expect it to become this popular,” Yokokawa said.
The calendar’s cover bears a close-up of Putin wearing black sunglasses, with the Russian initials of his full name, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. Inside are photographs showing different sides of a man known in Japan as a masculine leader.
The photographs show Putin engaging in fishing and judo, or cuddling with an Akita dog sent from the Tohoku region in gratitude for Russia’s help after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Yokokawa said such rare pictures might be part of the appeal for Japanese customers.
“Sometimes you can hear customers, in particular women, saying (Putin) looks good or stylish,” she added.
Yokokawa said the company, depending on how long the public’s interest is sustained, may put the calendars on sale next year as well.