Everybody knows it, but few are loathe to admit it publicly, but sex sells. It is, after all, the world's oldest profession, farmers included--and they're out standing in their field.
About 13 years ago, after joining a major telecommunications company, I was asked what sort of businesses the company should sink its teeth into next... and while some in the gathered thong, er throng said social media, others sports--both of which the billion dollar company did and continued to do, I said "pornography"... which garnered the necessary nervous chuckles as people wondered if this new hire was serious.
Noting the nervous chuckles, I laughed loudest, which made everyone else laugh loudly.
But deep down inside, I was laughing at the missed opportunity.
Back in 1989... just after I was accepted into the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, I was interning with a daily newspaper around the Toronto area (I was in journalism school at the time).
After I wrote a feature article on a traveling exotic dancer and her tiger, I was approached by a magazine publisher who wanted me to come and write for his publication that would feature stories on exotic dancers around Canada... a minor magazine with great photo spreads amongst poorly written stories... but one that could have used my youthful penchant for being able to make anything interesting.... even naked women in a magazine when real naked women were parading around selling dances for $5 a song.
Along with the JET Programme offer, I had also earned a spot as an intern in the Toronto Star Summer Internship program, being the first non-university journalism student to enter this prestigious "club".
Legitimate journalism and a free trip to Japan, or spend my nights surrounding by naked women and Metallica music... what should a poor, virgin young man do?
Obviously I chose poorly, and did the legit journalism thing and Japan, which is why I'm here making the mundane nature of Japan more interesting for... what are we at... 3,400,000+ visitors to this blog?
I know... not bad... but still... perfumed, naked goddesses walking around as I interview one of their own as I travel across the entire breadth of this country (Canada)... that could have been the sweet smell of success... or at least suck sex.
How do I know that sex sells? I don't know... I had a collection of porno mags as a teenager, none of which I paid for, and scads of VCR tapes with all manner of porn, taped from other tapes... I never paid for a porno movie, and I don't know anyone who did... but someone must have.
Someone still is.
Meet Kameyama Keishi, 56, married and a father of two, who is the king of Japan's porn industry and who has a net worth of US$3.5 billion.
I, not surprisingly, do not have such a net worth. I am rich in the things that count, but that doesn't mean I'm happy about it.
Kameyama, meanwhile, is Japan's ninth richest man, who rides his bicycle to work.
I both respect and hate Kameyama already.
His one quirk (besides the bicycle to work thing), is that he doesn't allow anyone to take a photo of, or publish an image of his face. He apparently values his privacy... at $3.5 billion.
In the early days of adulthood, Kameyama had wanted to try his hand in many types of businesses, but for years his lack of capital and a decent business plan had him rejected for bank loans and frozen out of business deals.
Nowadays, Kameyama and his www.DMM.com corporation has him considered to be an Internet pioneer, a role model, a growing media mogul and technology entrepreneur.
In 1980, Kameyama dropped out of accounting school, and was up for doing whatever it took to make money.
Odd jobs include being a semi-nude dancer at a gay Chippendale’s club even though he's straight, and a failed attempt to wash cadavers at a hospital... but like I said, he would do whatever it took to make money.
By the mid 1980s (and he in his late-20s), Kameyama owned several video rental stores... but when a huge chain of Blockbuster-like shops set up business, he decides he would stop renting videos, and start making them.
He began by producing porno movies... a slight diversion he thought because he needed start-up money to produce mainstream non-porno movies.
“I didn’t get into the adult movie business because I was a fan,” says Kameyama, "but it was an experiment that worked, and once I had money, I wanted to try other things, too.”
The experiment lasted for three decades.
While he says he has only ever stepped onto an AV (adult video) set maybe twice at the most, neither does he watch his own movies.
Like any smart dope dealer, you never sample your own merchandise.
He was smart enough to know that pornography was something you produced and sold... just like any other product people use.
In 1998 he launched Japan's first web-streaming AV service, noting that DMM was already Japan’s biggest producer of pornographic movies.
He just gave people a single place to watch all those porno movies without having to put on pants and leave the house to go and rent them.
And, while Kameyama might be have been content to sit on his own Laurels (and whatever porno name you might come up with), he wondered... now that I have this mostly male audience right where I want them, what else could I sell them?
That's right... he began to lay his eggs in multiple baskets by diversifying.
His first diversification came in 2009 when he bought an online stock brokerage business that had been struggling, purchasing it on the cheap.
Now it could have continued its downward financial plunge, but Kameyama sunk $100 million into the business, overhauled it, and built it into Japan’s most popular platform for retail investors trading foreign currencies.
Sex and money...
From there, Kameyama branched out into more family-friendly ventures.
Recall that in the past, even though he might have had a great idea, that no one would listen to him? Well... Kamyama was and is listening.
He created Kame-Direct, an on-line submission sub-site on DMM.com where anyone can try and sell him their idea or concept, product or even business. If you're selling, there's a chance Kameyama and DMM are buying.
Nowadays, Kameyama and DMM are involved in AV, a currency trading on-line platform, video games, an on-line English school, and solar farms.
And, while porn still sells, DMM harvest only one-third of its sales through porn... though that one-third still accounts for US$1.7 billion in sales.
In fact, DMM's revenues are growing at a rate of 30 percent every year... and while the porno industry isn't getting smaller, it is not growing at the same rate...
If you were to visit the DMM website (available in Japanese and English), you would find a buttload of interesting things that you might want to partake in.
I saw a platform selling robots... yeah the kiddie kind... but cool ones like Palmi, Chip, Tapia, and even a Stormtrooper (Star Wars) one. He doesn't make them, he just sells them as a wholesaler... I think. A one-stop shop of curious things people don't know they want until they see them.
How popular is DMM? I don't know... there are 27 million registered users... but Kameyama is still riding a bicycle to work.
But that might be because he's cool... or maybe (as his interest in solar farms projects) he is into reducing his own carbon footprint.
Kameyama has only become a known entity over the past few years, revealing his name as a means of assuaging the public's fears that DMM was a yakuza storefront.
He is now a respected individual in Japan's business sector, having given speeches to Keio University to discuss his investments in Africa; was asked to write weekly columns for Bunshun Online, offering parenting and relationship advice.
And this past April, undergraduates surveyed by the Nikkei newspaper picked him as one of Japan’s top 100 employers, ahead of IBM and Google.
Not quite Elon Musk, Kameyama might try and start his own space agency - if some one came up with a good business plan for him to invest in.
And it all started with porn.
Actually, it all started with Kameyama's incredible drive.
With 3.4 million hits on this blog, people keep asking me why I don't monetize it.
To be honest, I'm driven to write - not to make money. I don't want writing to become a tedious affair. I do this for fun. I am unsure if having more money makes for more fun... but no... I'll keep my motives pure.