In Japan, two leading chains of convenience stores are to pull 'adult magazines' from their shelves ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

As Japan is engaged in a nation-wide revision of its public image, anticipating a record year for tourist numbers, the convenience stores are undergoing their own clean up.

7-Eleven Japan Co and Lawson Inc have removed pornographic material from sale in a move that pre-empts the increase in tourist trade and a departure from their normal customer demographic.

7-Eleven, which was the first store to say it would no longer be stocking the magazines, said the stores have become "an important shopping destination for families." The upcoming sporting events have provided the perfect opportunity to change the image of the seedier late-night corner stores.

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"In the past, 7-Eleven was mostly used by male customers to buy beverages and fast food, and our product assortment was designed accordingly," the chain said in an email to Reuters.

"In order to create a proper shopping environment for all our customers, we decided to stop handling sales of adult magazines."

The company also gave as an important factor behind the move was "the increasing number of foreign customers during the upcoming Rugby World Cup and the Olympics."

Kydo News reported that Lawson Inc. has also made the decision to stop selling pornography at its stores.

Convenience culture: Rules have been revised over explicit magazines. Photo / Getty Images
Convenience culture: Rules have been revised over explicit magazines. Photo / Getty Images

There are around 20000 7-Eleven stores and 14000 Lawson shops across Japan.

In Japan pornography can only be bought by persons over the age of 20, but the magazines are readily available - particularly in newsagents and convenience stores.

Over the last three decades, the Tokyo Bureau of Citizens and Cultural Affairs found that over 90 per cent of convenience stores were stocking pornographic and sexually explicit "manga" comic books.

Over the past six years, Japan has been revising regulations over such comics and magazines. It was only in 2015 that a ban on the possession of child pornography was signed into law.

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Still the attitudes towards pornography in Japan are noticeably more liberal than in other developed nations. And in few places were these attitudes more obvious than when visiting Japanese convenience store.

The culture around sex and public availability of explicit materials can be quite a shock to foreign visitors.

If the corner stores are citing the impending sports events as an opportunity to move away from a business model serving single male customers, visiting after hours – it seems that they may have drastically misunderstood the rugby fan demographic.