New guidelines over use of public parks for gravure swimwear shoot events

When does a debate over gravure photography become a debate over public space, civil rights, freedom of speech, and other lofty notions? When it involves parks in Saitama.

A surprisingly big controversy last year involved the withdrawal of permission to use public parks in Saitama for gravure swimwear events, where models would pose for fans to take photos. Such events are particularly popular for fans to take photos of idols up-close and for freelance models who don’t get the lucrative cover shoots in the weeklies to make some much-needed yen.

But the events were planned for pools located inside parks, and local politicians complained about the use of public facilities for commercial events, not to mention the moral issue of “lewd” poses and risqué swimwear in an area where families are present.

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The controversy seemed to come out of nowhere, since such swimwear photo shoot events had taken place at the water parks many times in the past. For whatever reason, the stars were aligned in a certain way in 2023, and it became a local flashpoint that then gained wider traction on social media.

In the end, even the prefectural governor weighed in, asking that the parks not cancel such events but also calling for clearer, shared guidelines to prevent such problems in the future.

Well, the association that manages Saitama’s parks have dutifully reported back with proposed guidelines of use of water parks.

The guidelines were compiled by an “expert panel,” which we presume means experts in legal matters of public space, not gravure (we certainly didn’t get a request to join!).

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Members of the public also weighed in, and the panel has taken comments from 171 individuals and organizations into consideration. Of those, reports the Mainchi, 31 criticized gravure swimwear shoot events as “offensive to public order and morals.” Fifteen said they were “against restrictions without legal basis.”

A few championed the right of the models to wear what they want. “Placing too many restrictions on the types of swimsuits undermines women’s rights.”

The proposed guidelines seem to have avoided addressing these bigger questions, instead requesting “swimsuits and poses that may expose nipples or genitals be disallowed” and that both models and photographers “should be at least 18 years old.”

The former, at any rate, is surely a matter of course, since actual nudity would almost certainly be against the law and result in arrest for public indecency, whether you are in a Saitama prefectural park or not.

But we are pleased that the panel did take aspects of the pro-gravure lobby into account. Six comments submitted to the panel argued that it was too much to categorize such modeling as a “harmful service.” This part of the proposed guidelines was deleted (the only change made to the guidelines based on the public feedback).

The Saitama Parks and Greenery Association will finalize the conditions for permission to hold a photo event by the end of March. Let’s hope the events can take place this summer without a hitch.

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1 Comment

  • Enzo March 6, 2024

    Glad to see all the other problems in Japan were already solved so they could move down the list to deal with this issue.

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