Beautiful girls save the Japanese countryside

Beautiful girls save the Japanese countryside

Bishojo Zukan -- 'Picture Book of Beautiful Girls' -- are 'free papers' that give provincial readers exactly what they want: color photos of adorable young women
bishojo zukan
The Bishojo Zukan is filled with lots and lots of 'girl next door'-types -- who may literally live next door.

Diamond Online has an interesting article highlighting an incredibly popular 'free paper' in Saitama called the "Saitama Bishojo Zukan" -- 'Saitama Picture Book of Beautiful Girls.' The print handout is filled with photos of attractive, real-life women exclusively from within Saitama's borders.

The article claims that 500 copies of a recent issue were passed out in less than ten minutes -- with men actually lining up beforehand to snag a copy. What's the appeal? The models are not professionals posing in a glossy magazine but women who actually may live in the readers' neighborhoods and work in their area shops. This is like a catalog of local treasures.

Saitama was not the first prefecture to pioneer this incredibly obvious media model of giving men exactly what they want. The first 'Picture Book of Beautiful Girls' started in Niigata back in 2002, spreading later to Okinawa in 2005, and now -- on a license-based business model -- all 47 prefectures. And now with their websites collecting pictures from the entire nation, you don't even have to be in the local area to pursue the quiet and serious study of demure young women.

The free papers' popularity has made them a great vehicle for local advertising and a legitimate rival to the domineering Tokyo-based mass media. And if the talent agencies keep offering relatively normal looking female stars, it makes sense that the normal-looking females across the country want in on the action.

The Bishojo Zukan may have finally hit upon a business model that revives interest in local community. Now the only issue is, can the magazine survive if most young people are all fleeing to Tokyo and the other big cities? Will the Bisho Zukan eventually become the 'Picture Book of Elderly Women' after the great demographic crisis?

(Hat tip Adamu of Mutant Frog Travelogue)

W. David Marx was CNNGo's initial Tokyo City Editor. His writing has also appeared in magazines such as GQ, Brutus, Weekly Diamond, and Nylon, as well as his web joural Néojaponisme.

Read more about W. David Marx
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