You'd hardly know it from watching the news, but researchers estimate there may be as many as 15 other countries on Earth, and perhaps dozens more, besides the United States. And people in these other "nations" enjoy Web porn, too!
KUKI Group's http://xcity.jp is one of the largest sites in the smut-hungry nation of Japan, and offers porn-hounds of any nationality access to thousands of film clips, pictures, and VoD with text translated into Japanese, Korean, and English, as well as translation services for Western Webmasters eager to tap into the lucrative Asian market.
AVN Online recently caught up with Tadasu Isogawa, the Chief Operations Officer of Alchemia, the Internet division of KUKI Group, and we chopped it up Karate-style about Eastern vs. Western porn, and the future of the adult Internet.
AVN Online: How long has your company been in business? Tadasu Isogawa: KUKI, Inc., the core corporation of our enterprise, was established in 1977. In the spring of 1995, KUKI's digital entertainment division started a Website, www.kuki.co.jp, that was the predecessor of X CITY. Six months after that, the division became an independent company, Alchemia, Inc., to vigorously start a Web business.
AO: How many employees do you have?
TI: Alchemia, Inc., running X CITY, has about 20 employees. KUKI is involved in multiple businesses including production and distribution of videograms, satellite and cable TV, and operation of retail shops and restaurants. The entire group consists of more than 100 employees.
AO: When did your site launch its English sister?
TI: We launched our English site in 1997, two years after the launch of our Japanese site. We also launched our Korean site in 1998.
AO: How does porn that is made in Japan differ from porn made in America?
TI: The biggest difference between the two types is the moral standard. As you know, Japanese law prohibits exposure of genitals on media completely, and a pixilated filter masks all genitals on media.
The moral standard in a particular area is judged by primary religions and social circumstances in the region. Influenced strongly by Confucianism, the East Asian countries think of genital exposure as anti-ethical and therefore prohibit it.
However, Japanese are very generous about pornographic expression compared to the other Asian countries - sometimes more generous than America - due to the loss of a central religious nature and the rise of liberal thinking, both outcomes of the rapid societal change brought by the loss of World War II and the economic growth after the war.
AO: How do cultural differences between the East and West affect porn distribution?
TI: Expressions of violence and anti-social behaviors are accepted generously in Japan compared to the world standard, regardless of it being a fortunate or unfortunate thing. This moral standard characterizes the Japanese pornography. The moral standard differs from one area to another; this can cause a problem when one tries to bring pornography from one country to another.
American pornography is strongly restricted by its law except for genital exposure, therefore it has become the world standard for pornography. For example, to distribute American pornography in Japan, the only change needed is genital pixel-masking, and the content of the videos is not changed.
On the other hand, to distribute Japanese pornography in Europe and America, the [existing] pixel-masking is a problem, and the generous moral standard in the content is not welcomed. Therefore, Japanese pornography has rarely been exported to other countries including the East Asian countries. It is a domestic industry. Most Japanese pornography found in Hong Kong and South Eastern countries is pirated material.
Since we started our Website eight years ago, Japanese pornography has started to become known by Europeans and Americans, but the circumstances have not changed much.
AO: How do the two countries' business models differ?
TI: The cost of Japanese pornography is very distinctive. The total cost of a Japanese video is about the same as an American video. However, the actresses' fees are extremely different between top stars and unknowns. The top pornographic actresses in Japan charge much higher [rates] than those in other countries. Most of the high-cost videos use their budgets for the actresses' fees, and there is not much difference in the other costs between high-cost and low-cost videos. Therefore there are not many high-quality Japanese [features] like [there are in] America.
AO: What do Japanese people think of the girls who star in porn?
TI: In the early 1990s, when Japan's economy was in its peak, Japanese society became very open and the status of pornography in the society had rapidly improved. In this period, the porn star Ai Iijima became very popular, not only among men who watched her porn materials, but also among the general public, including young women who supported her as a fashion leader. Iijima and her followers contributed largely to removing the anti-social image of women starring in pornography. She has retired from the porn business and now is active as a TV star.
As I said, top pornography actresses' fees in Japan are very high compared to other countries, and this makes it easy for actresses to earn high income, even compared to others in the sex industry. This attracts many women to becoming porn stars, and thus the quality of pornographic actresses in Japan is the highest in Asia and is by no means inferior to movie stars and fashion models in Japan.
AO: Do Japanese customers want porn without the pixilation on genitals, or have they just gotten used to it?
TI: As the thirst for breaking taboo is a fundamental human desire, there are people who are not satisfied with the pixilation. However, for most people, seeing the genitals is not all they want from viewing pornographic materials. They accept the pixilation as long as the total quality of the pornography is satisfactory; they will not accept pornography if the quality is low, even it shows genitals.
Ten years ago, exhibition of genital hair started to be allowed in photos. Photo collections that showed genital hair sold explosively. However, these types of photo collections have become standard and the market is not as enthusiastic as it was right after the change of law.
AO: How will American companies benefit from having their Websites translated into Japanese?
TI: Japanese people who are not satisfied with the Japanese standard in pornography may show interest in American Websites. There are a few things that they have to pay attention to in order to receive the most possible benefit from translation.
First, they have to know that most people show sexual interest for [people of their own] race. Therefore, for most Asians, Western pornography is not as appealing as Asian pornography. This tendency is especially notable as Japan is a single-race nation. In fact, Western pornography with the pixilation is not expected to sell satisfactorily in the Japanese market.
Also, Japanese customers' preferences for Websites are different from American customers. The Websites have to be modified to suit their preferences in order to attract them.
In the case of offering the content that is illegal in Japan, the Web managers and the customers both should know the risk.
AO: What do you see as the main problems that face the adult Web?
TI: There will be problems, dependent on [a company's physical] location and the category [of their Website]. The biggest problem in the view of content is the violation of copyright that has become very easy to do because of media digitalization. The amount of damage in the adult category is enormous. The industry should unite and deal with it strictly, as the music and movie industries do.
AO: What do you have coming up next?
TI: We think personal computer-based Websites are products of the transition period from linear service to interactive service. We think network appliances, STB, and digital broadcasting will become more important than PC-based Websites, and we are researching and developing this area. Currently, KUKI group has two different companies to manage Websites and broadcasting; however in the future, they will be combined or will work together very closely.
We also have a strong interest in China, the last gigantic market. Of course, the country does not allow us to genuinely start a pornography business there yet, however, we are offering materials in the mobile market that are accepted by their regulations to build the foundation of the future business.