Naked blondes, interviews with celebrities, hardboiled detective stories ... Up until it disappeared from newsstands last November, the Japanese version of American men's magazine Playboy -- Monthly Playboy, published by Shueisha -- was crammed with Japan's vision of the U.S.
The first issue of "the men's magazine of the world" went on sale in May 1975. Just 11 years after restrictions on foreign travel were relaxed, the U.S. was still something of a mystery in Japan, with just 750,000 people travelling there a year. Its 440,000 first print run sold out in a few hours; and after six months, it had a circulation of around 900,000 copies.
Chin Naito, 68, former writer of the famous column "Yomazu ni Shineru ka!" misses those days.
"Back then, anything from America was news. The pin-ups, the hard news, they were all 'letters from America.' That's why it sold."
For Japanese, America in the mid-1970s was far from ideal. Following the Watergate scandal of 1974 and the ignominious end of the Vietnam War in 1975, the rotten side of the nation that had inspired both yearning and fear during the 30 years following World War II was revealed, setting the stage for fighting out against traditional authority and values.
Among the young people of Japan, who'd been defeated in the university riots of 1968 and the political crises of 1970, there was both an affinity with the poor side of the United States, and a yearning for the vital idea of America. The content and production of Monthly Playboy reflected the deeply mixed feelings of the era.
Mystery always creates intrigue. The more you don't know about something the more you want to know about it. The Japanese knew nothing about the US but could get a sense of it through playboy. Blonde naked girls? WOW! American articles about sex? WOW!
The equivalent in Canada would those old CCCP guys! Remember them? In 1972 we heard that the Soviets had a decent hockey team that won many amateur tournaments. Let's have a friendship series that promotes the game and we can teach them a few things and improve them. The two teams nearly killed each other. The US miracle on Ice was the same too. It was our way or living against their way of living. Now what is there? Canada-Russia doesn't have the same impact. I'm sure the CCCP girls were hot and mysterious too behind the iron curtain. Now, not so much.
I guess North Korea is the mystery now? If you sent playboy to North Korea it would be really popular! And North Korean girls are mysterious to us too right?