Whether he’s nonchalantly lowering himself into the icy waters of Lake Seliger or making short work of weights in the gym, Vladimir Putin is setting pulses racing in Japan, where his latest calendar is outselling those featuring homegrown celebrities.
The Loft chainstore, which has exclusive rights over sales of the calendar, reported that those featuring Russia’s 66-year-old president were dominating sales at its outlets across Japan.
With just two weeks of the year left, Putin’s calendars were more popular than those of Japanese actor Kei Tanaka and, in third place, Yuzuru Hanyu, the reigning Olympic men’s figure skating champion.
SoraNews24 speculated that while some people were snapping up the Putin calendars as a sort of practical joke, others were genuinely interested in the his life and persona away from the Kremlin.
This isn’t the first time Putin’s testosterone-drenched calendars have proved a hit with Japanese consumers in the run-up to the New Year.
His 2017 calendar featured photos of playing in the snow with his dogs, including an Akita Inu puppy a gift from the governor of Akita prefecture in northern Japan to thank Russia for its help after the March 2011 triple disaster.
In 2016, the first year the officially sanctioned calendars went on sale in Japan, Putin was shown fishing again shirtless and practicing judo.
Media reports in Japan suggested many of the people buying the calendars, including a large number of women, were drawn to Putin’s unconventional style and unashamed machismo.
It wasn’t clear how Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, feels about his Russian counterpart’s celebrity.
Despite their reputed personal rapport, the two leaders have so far failed to solve a long-running dispute over ownership of a group of islands known as the Northern Territories in Japan and the Kurils in Russia.