The Japanese porn industry is estimated to be worth more than $20 billion, which shouldn’t be surprising once you consider that Japan produces twice as many X-rated movies as the United States. According to one veteran porn performer, this comes out to over 5,000 titles a year or 14 pornographic films being released in Japan every single day. What’s even more impressive, though, is that many people pay for those films. Japan actually ranks second in the world (behind South Korea) when it comes to how much money its citizens spend on adult entertainment. Eventually, the country’s porn producers decided to express their gratitude towards their fans and their deep pockets with the Japan Adult Expo (JAE).

The JAE markets itself as an “Adult Video Fan Thanksgiving Festival” where XXX studios from all over the country gather every year to promote their new releases and let people get closer to their performers. I visited the JAE in November 2017 and learned a few interesting things about the world of Japanese pornography.

1. Some Fans Collect Porn Stars Like Baseball Cards

A few minutes after I arrived at the expo, I bumped into a Japanese fan holding a peculiar camera. After talking to him for a while, I learned that it was a Fujifilm instax camera that produces small instant pictures called cheki. Japanese music/sports fans often use these cameras to take mini Polaroids of their favorite celebrities, which they can later get signed and trade amongst each other. And, well, it turns out that some people do the same thing with their favorite adult performers.

The young fan I ran into told me that he was mainly at the expo to expand his collection, which already consisted of hundreds of cheki of Japanese porn stars, many of them autographed. To him, it was no different than collecting baseball cards (except you probably shouldn’t put porn cheki in the spokes of your bike.) And he wasn’t alone in his hobby. Plenty of fans walked the expo area with instant cameras, and those who didn’t bring their own could simply buy a cheki set and have it signed by bikini-clad models at the expo’s many studio booths. The average price was about ¥500 (less than $5) per three-cheki set.

2. The Big Thing In Japanese Porn Is Virtual Reality … For Now

At the JAE, there were about five different companies offering VR porn experiences to those willing to wait in line for about 15 minutes. I didn’t try them all but that’s all right because all of the available VR porn scenarios were reportedly the same: after strapping the headset on, you saw “yourself” from the neck down being, erm, attended to by one to three women. You can probably already guess the problem with that.

Unless, like the male body model in the pre-recorded video, you too have a tiny frame and are virtually hairless, you probably won’t get too swept up by the video. This was most definitely a good thing in a public setting like the JAE, but it doesn’t bode well for Japan’s emerging VR porn market. Which is why some studios have tried to make their VR experiences less erotic and more intimate, with their VR actresses simulating kisses and whispering words of encouragement or declarations of love into your virtual ear. Even so, one representative I talked to said his studio doesn’t see a future in VR, and that the fad will probably die down in a year or so.

3. Japan Basically Has No Such Thing As Professional Male Porn Actors

There are few things rarer in this world than a Japanese male porn actor. Some sources say there are only 30 to 70 men working fulltime in the Japanese XXX industry. And, no, those numbers aren’t missing one or two zeroes. Neither is the ¥1,000 per movie pay that male actors can expect to earn upon entering Japan’s porn industry, which might explain why there are so few of them.

The JAE reflected this state of affairs faithfully by featuring virtually no male performers anywhere at the expo. However, that all changed near the end of the first day when famed male porn star Taka “Goldfinger” Kato made his appearance, and was immediately swarmed by scores of thrilled fans. Their excitement was understandable, considering that, in the world of Japanese porn, a male performer is even rarer than an albino Bigfoot.

4. Geeks Are a Surprisingly Lucrative Porn Market

Some of the busiest booths at JAE included Saikyō Zokusei and GIGA. Both companies specialize in (and make insane amounts of money from) “geek” porn with actresses dressed up as superheroines, princesses, fantasy warriors, and so on.

The people at GIGA claimed that their average fan can spend up to $100 per month on their porn DVDs and other merchandise, which puts them way above Japan’s average per capita porn spending of $157 per year. GIGA’s most popular films include various Sailor Moon-esque magical girl productions, though they hope their superhero-themed series of movies will be their next big seller.

The Saikyō Zokusei fantasy-themed models were something else, though. The company’s “gimmick” is that all of the performers are geeks themselves, and the girls certainly do play the part. You can ask them anything about popular anime, comic books, or video games, and they will hold their own in that conversation. This apparently helps some fans feel “closer” to the models and, consequently, “enjoy” the porn starring them even more – and the less we say about that the “better.”

5. People Will Gladly Pay Money to Get Just a Little Bit Closer to Their Favorite Porn Star

Every booth at the JAE had DVDs, photos, T-shirts, and so on for sale. But some companies went beyond that. Lammtarra in particular had some of the most interesting “services” available at their booth.

For ¥1,000, the company’s models offered to interact with clients in interesting ways. Some of their services included blowing in the client’s ear, petting them on the head, slapping them on the behind, or putting them in a headlock. I spoke to one guest who got the headlock service, and he could not have been happier about the whole experience. For him and other fans like him, getting this close and, well, intimate with a performer they’ve admired for years is a dream come true.

Another popular service that you could win in a vending machine draw was a slap on the wrist from a porn performer. The tickets cost about ¥500 and the service, as I personally learned, delivered exactly what was advertised: a two-finger slap on the hand from a porn model. For those who wanted a slightly more permanent memento of their time at JAE, there were also porn companies like Momotaro which, for ¥3,000, allowed you to purchase their models’ freshly worn underwear. Because, of course, you can buy that sort of thing at a Japanese porn expo.