Sex toy maker's booth at anime festival in Suntec restricted to those aged 21 and older after outcry

Sherlyn Sim
The Straits Times
Nov 3, 2023

An announcement that a Japanese sex toy manufacturer will have a booth at Singapore’s largest Japanese pop-culture event has sparked a strong debate online, with some questioning the appropriateness of the move.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Anime Festival Asia (AFA) unveiled Tenga, one of Japan’s top adult toy brands, as an exhibitor at the three-day event.

More than 70 local and international exhibitors will be showcasing their latest merchandise, some of which are exclusive to the festival.

According to the post, attendees are welcome to explore its variety of products and try a dice challenge where they can win prizes from the brand.

By Friday afternoon, the post had drawn 1,000 likes, 1,200 shares and 264 comments.

AFA Singapore 2023 will be held at Suntec Singapore Convention Centre from Nov 24 to 26.

When first uploaded on Wednesday at 6.36pm, the post did not indicate an age restriction for attendees to visit Tenga’s booth.

However, following an outcry from fans, AFA stated at 9.45pm that day that attendees were required to be aged 21 and above to visit the booth.

Acknowledging that some have expressed concern over the accessibility of the booth’s contents, AFA told The Straits Times that the booth will be located at a corner of the event space and walled up to ensure the exhibit is presented in a “discreet and educational way”.

Personnel on-site will conduct verification to ascertain the age of the attendee before they are allowed to enter the booth. This includes requesting for a valid photo ID when necessary, the spokesman said.

“Tenga holds a prominent space in Akihabara - they have even launched rockets into space,” said the spokesman. Akihabara is a popular shopping area in Tokyo famous for its anime and electronics products.

“The decision to include Tenga into this year’s offerings stemmed from AFA’s goal to provide our attendees with an authentic insight into what J-Culture and Akihabara have to offer.”

Some fans reacted to the announcement with amusement, while some raised concerns about children and youths being exposed to the sex toy maker’s products.

Nanyang Polytechnic student Aloysius Oh, who has attended AFA for the past few years, said that he found it inappropriate for Tenga to be part of the festival, given the event’s large young demographic.

“AFA’s audience is mainly young teenagers and adults, so a huge percentage will be considered to be underage... They might be curious and may start to search for the brand,” he said.

Others welcomed the move.

Photographer Benni Matchap, 30, said that sexual wellness product booths are commonly seen at anime events overseas like in Japan and Taiwan.

“(Japanese drugstore) Welcia-BHG and Don Don Donki already sell Tenga products while Watsons and Guardian sells adult products and vibrators. I don’t see what the issue is since these products are already available in public stores,” the photographer said.

Mr Jaryl Lin, a warehouse assistant, 30, added: “While Tenga isn’t exactly anime-related, it is associated with Japanese pop culture and that’s what AFA has always been about.”

However, a teacher, who wanted to be known only as Ms Farah, 26, pointed out that “even in convenience stores, such products are (sectioned off) and have ‘age 18+’ signs displayed”.

“It’s not right for AFA to be having an exhibition on sexual wellness products,” she said, adding that she hopes that Tenga’s exhibition would be held at a covered booth, which are separated from other regular booths.

In 2022, the three-day event was sold out on the second day and more than 145,000 people attended on the third day.

The Straits Times

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