Tokyo Begins Moralizing of Manga

Many of you have asked information regarding Tokyo’s recent decision to brand Imōto Paradise! 2 as harmful minors under the new guidelines that were created when Bill 156 was passed in December of 2010.

I’ve provided my feedback on this issue at the CBLDF website:
Tokyo Government Declares Imōto Paradise! 2 Manga Unhealthy

I highly recommend supporting the CBLDF as they follow this issues continually.

I am currently very busy with numerous projects as of now, some of which I hope you’ll be able to enjoy overseas sometime soon.

Posted in censorship, harmful material, news, nonexistent youth, public morality and media | 9 Comments






C85冬コミにはちょっとした予告本を用意させて頂きました。いつもお世話になっている高永浩平さんと合同誌で、『Witches Confidential』(ウィッチーズ・コンフィデンシャル=魔女たちの秘密)と題してこれまで書き溜めた設定や次号の掲載予定の原稿を一部紹介します。いつもお世話になっている水無月十三さんの新作キュンメルイラストも掲載しております。高永さんの魔王ちゃん、ナオちゃん、ウルスラにニパも必見ですよ!



コミックマーケット C85 東京ビッグサイト 2013/12/31(三日目)
第8装甲連隊 O-15a (東館2ホール)
土鳩団 ヌ-37b (東館6ホール)



■サークル「Firstspear」様の片方の新刊を英訳しました。艦娘写真集です。日英併記しているから英語勉強に丁度いいですよ?艦娘はfleet girls。覚えておきましょう。




Posted in 8th Panzer Regiment (doujinshi circle), doujinshi, Japanese, Lionheart Witches, The Lionheart Witch | 2 Comments

2013 Draws to a Close

Well the year is almost over, and I certainly won’t miss it. 2013 was a tough year. I only hope 2014 will be a little easier on the nerves.

To say I have been busy would be a slight understatement. As you have noticed, I have not had a chance to update my blog in a couple of months. In those couple of month, a lot has transpired. I worked on multiple projects, some I can mention and some I can’t. I went to New York Comic Con to help CBLDF’s efforts to educate and encourage dialogue regarding censorship of manga and anime. I also helped CBLDF’s appearence at Comitia 106 in October. I will be heading out to Comiket 85 now. This year’s winter Comiket will run right up to Dec. 31st, so I may not have a chance to write an entry into this blog again this year. Happy holidays and happy new years.

Some interesting stuff:
I wrote and translated all the artist profiles included in khara’s latest 2014-2015 calendar.
I see people are already talking about it in the English language forums. I am not sure how orders can be placed from overseas, but the calendar will be available from many Japanese retail outlets, so I would assume one of them might be willing to ship them overseas. I looked around a little and noticed that Amazon Japan has them for sale.

Takeshi Nogami will be publishing two Kankore books at Comiket 85. I translated one of the books, a faux fleet girls military photo chronicle into English. I tried my best to replicate the faux military historical narrative touch of the text written by Mr. Jofuu Kuroda. They match Nogami’s artwork wonderfully. I hope my English text will do so as well.
Check out Takeshi Nogami’s Twitter account for more information.

I’ve also done a bunch of other work, but let me just skip ahead to my trip to New York. The last time I was in New York was over 25 years ago, and this was my first New York Comic Con. I had wonderful discussions with many people and appreciated the enthusiasm people had for this unique medium. I would like to expend my sincere gratitude to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Here’s some more information about that trip.

Well the Japanese Diet was back in session for a couple of months, and Prime Minister Abe had his hands full. The consumption tax will be raised next year. A huge economic relief package is also being prepared. The negotiations over the Trans Pacific Partnership is in full swing. A Special State Secrets Protection Law has passed the Diet and that brought about storms of protests as being authoritarian and being overly broad. Strange. That reminds me of a few other laws of Japan. The issue of collective security has been brought about into the forefront, as China and Japan’s confrontation near Okinawa has raised the stakes.

With the initial economic boost from the new fiscal policies adopted by the Abe Administration losing steam, there has been much discussion about how to prop up the Japanese economy that’s still very weak after the Great Recession. And then there is the utter mess of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant cleanup efforts and major lags in the reconstruction of Northeast Japan after the great earthquakes and tsunami.

In other words, revision to the Japanese Child Pornography Law did not have a chance to come up with so many things on the legislative agenda, but you can fully expect it to return next year. The new session of the Japanese Diet will start on Jan. 28th and last until June 26th. There is a very good chance something big will happen soon.

That’s all for now.

Posted in censorship, events, everyday life, news, public morality and media, translation and intercultural issues | 14 Comments

Quick Update: Kanemitsu will be at New York Comic Con 2013

I am very sorry that this is so last minute, but yes, I am heading out to New York this weekend. I’ll be taking off to the airport in a few hours, actually.

The CBLDF has been generous enough to help with my attendance there, and we do have a presentation planned. Unfortunately, not all the details have been finalized, so please stay tuned to my Twitter feed @dankanemitsu as that will be probably be the easiest way for me to make updates. The CBLDF website might make an announcement as well.

Also, I plan on being at the CBLDF booth for at least one hour each day. The tenative plan is that I’ll be at the booth from 12 – 1 on Friday, 5 – 6 on Saturaday, and 12 – 1 on Sunday.

I’ll see you there!

Posted in events, news | 9 Comments

Censoring Heritage

In my last entry, I discussed how elements within the Japanese police force are effectively bullying parts of the adult entertainment industry by leaving the line that separates what is legal and illegal very vague and prone to whims of the police. This creation of a very large zone of legal ambiguity impacts visual arts culture acutely. Leaving creators unsure about legal boundaries tends to sap artists’ confidence of artists and entire communities tend to swing between exuberant euphoria (“The police haven’t come after us. We must be in the clear.”) to excessive self-censorship following police action. (“I’m not sure how far the police will go, so I’ve got to make sure not to stand out.”)

For more information about how this chilling effect functions, please read this entry of mine. I describe in some detail about how this phenomena manifests itself in Japan.

It is not rare for chilling effect to create some very strange situations. In today’s case, the legal ambiguity of obscenity has brought about a situation where Japanese museums and artistic institutions are shunning their own country’s cultural heritage, they very heritage that is being celebrated in the West by major institutions.

The British Museum is currently putting together a major exhibition of Japan’s early modern sexually explicit artistic print culture, known as shunga. Shunga: Sex and Humor in Japanese Art, 1600-1900 is a wonderful opportunity to examine sexual attitudes and erotic visual arts alien to the European traditions. By examining something very different from ourselves, we learn something about ourselves and how diverse cultures can be.

Unfortunately, as it stands now, it appears the Japanese public will not have an opportunity to examine and learn from this exhibition that deals with their own heritage since no major institution in Japan is willing accommodate it.

The Tokyo Shinbun newspaper reports the exhibition organizers have yet to find a Japanese institution willing to host the exhibition. This is especially ironic since Japan created the legal framework of obscenity in the late 19th Century in part to meet Western demands that Japan become enlightened and civilized.

In yet another bizarre twist in over self-censoring, a Japanese junior high school cancelled a speech by the English translator of Barefoot Gen, who the school had originally invited. I will quote from the English article reported by the Mainichi Shinbun, but the principle’s statement is very strange. “I have not read Barefoot Gen. The students have not studied it, either, so I thought they would not be interested in the lecture. When I asked that Gleason not focus the speech on Barefoot Gen, he refused.”

I have had someone mention to me that the newspaper misquoted the person, and that the principle requested that the translator not talk exclusively about Barefoot Gen, but even that sounds rather strange.

Posted in censorship, news, public morality and media, translation and intercultural issues | 4 Comments

Orwellian Obscenity

‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’
-George Orwell, 1984

On April 19th, the offices of Core Magazine were raided by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. The news regarding the police bust was not publicized for many weeks. Only rumors circulated about. But then, in May, it was clear that something had changed. Books and magazines published by Core Magazine were censored far more than before. News rippled about how the sexual organs were completely covered up with black or white blots. Authors started complaining about the sales of their books were falling because of this new policy by Core Magazine.

It appeared that the police had declared war on genitalia in adult material marketed and sold to adults. Previously, the police arrested and penalized material that were uncensored but left alone material if the genitals has been partially obscured by black boxes or filters. But after May of 2013, it appeared that the police was demanding more self-censorship out of the publishers.

Of course, this was pure speculation. For months, no new information came into light regarding what had taken place. All that was known was that Core Magazine was forced to shut down operations regarding some magazines. What made this case harder to understand was that, as far as I can recall, all previous arrests pertaining to obscenity involved only one publication. But in the case of Core Magazine two publications–a manga magazine and a photo pictorial magazine, both adult publications marketed for adults–were said to be targeted. This was very strange. Why two? Was there some reason why police had to get both manga, which is pure fiction, as well as photographs of real people involved?

The logic involved in the raid was unclear, but the adult publishing industry noted that the raid had taken place and publications from companies other than Core Magazine started to self censor their material more.

Weeks turned to months, and come July, people were starting to think that perhaps the police had given up. Perhaps the prosecutor’s office declined the case because it was too weak, especially in the age of the Internet when so much uncensored pornography is available by the click of the mouse. Also, while censoring of the genitals was considered lax in the photographic pictorial, the manga magazine’s self-censorship standards followed industry protocols that had been in place for nearly a decade.

Then in July 29th, a full three months later the raid had taken place, news broke that arrests were made. The charge was obscenity, and the case was going to court. It was clear the police wanted to make an example out of this case as the police alleged both the manga magazine and the pictorial constituted obscene material.

What was especially disconcerting was the fact that the arrests took place immediately following the electoral victories of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP,) a political party known to have strong connections to the police and has campaigned on the platform of stronger law and order for Japan. The revision of the Child Pornography law and nationalizing restrictions of minor’s access to media have been part of the LDP agenda for quite some time.

A police force is supposed to be a neutral party and dutifully go about enforcing law regardless of what party is in power, but this timing was very troubling.

What is even more troubling is the fact that the police had effectively re-written its own rules for what constituted obscenity and they were not afraid to hide it.

For nearly 10 years, the industry standard was that obscuring the crown of the penis (the part that funnels out near the tip,) and clitoris, and instances of physical contact that constitutes sexual intercourse (i.e. insertions of objects into the vagina or the rectum) would absolve the depiction as being obscene. The police seemed also to reinforce this mantra, as they encouraged censorship of the kari (crown,) kuri (clitoris,) and the setsugou-bu (point of contact) and no more.

This was relatively straightforward, and while publishers and authors may deviate from this norm, the norm itself was fairly clear.

The standards for magazine aimed at adults sold in convenience stores were more nebulous. Theoretically, convenience stores do not sell adult publications. That is what is touted publicly, but the reality is that both the retailers and the publishers want to have magazines aimed at adults stocked at one of the most numerous retail outlets available in Japan. For this reason, convenience store franchises have guidelines that have effectively allowed soft-core material, taped closed so that minors would not have access to them without purchasing the material. The logic here is that the store can make sure no one too young was buying the magazines. There are numerous guidelines regarding content (some of them are rather laughable) but one important guideline pertains to how the genitals are supposed to be censored more heavily to lessen their erotic appeal. And thus, a type of differentiation was in place–Adult only publications would be self-censored less, while publications sold to general audiences would be self-censored more.

But with Tokyo Metropolitan Police’s arrest of the editors of Core Magazine, this system no longer makes any sense. The police had helped construct this system and yet they were now casting it away, blurring the lines of what constitutes illegal speech.

I can only imagine the interrogation that took place between the police and the editors.

“We’ve always demanded that the genitals be completely censored. If you can see the genitals, it’s obscene, isn’t it?”
“But self-censoring the crown, the clitoris, and the contact points used to enough for adult only publications.”
“We never publicly said that. Genitals are obscene.”
“Then what of the precedence created by the police for the last decade?”
“There is no such precedence.”
“Then why didn’t the police demand self-censorship beyond obscuring the crown, the clitoris, and the contact points?”
“We never said we were not demanding more. You simply were not aware of our demands.”

What does this exchange remind you of? It sounds a lot like the following passage.

“Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia.”

That, of course, is a passage from George Orwell’s 1984.

Personally I have deep reservations over a philosophy that would treat parts of the natural human body as shameful and obscene, but the major issue here lies elsewhere. The fact that authorities can change standards of what is illegal and legal on a whim is what concerns me the most.

Article 175 of the Japanese Penal Code restricts the distribution of obscene materials. Any material found to be afoul of 175 is obscene and thus illegal, therefore those associated with its distribution are criminals and the work is shameful contraband, something that must be restricted from society. Any material that is not considered violation of 175 is legal and its existence is permitted. The line that separates the two realms is arbitrary. It all comes down to who is prosecuted for what reason by the authorities. The authorities do not want to have the courts rule something is legal under 175, so they will only go after material they are certain they can win a conviction. There have very few cases where an Article 175 prosecution has failed in the Japanese courts.

Normally, it would be better if the line that demarcates illegality is set unambiguous and transparent. It would be easier for citizens to understand what is illegal and avoid skirting the law, especially in cases where the element that is considered illegal is part of their own bodies. In fact, citizens could even aid law enforcement if they have a clear understanding of what is illegal and why it is illegal. It simply improves citizenship. But when it comes to Article 175, the law is extremely vague.

“Those who have distributed obscene text, drawings, electromagnetic recordings contained om storage mediums, or such, or have publicly displayed the same material will be sentenced to two years of imprisonment or less or must pay a fine of no greater than 2,500,000 yen, or a combination of such penalties.”

Notice how what constitutes obscenity is completely left out. As of 2013, the court precedence that is still in effect arises from Japanese Supreme Court’s ruling over the Sunday Goraku Case of 1953.

“[Obscenity is defined as any material] that recklessly excites or stimulates sexual passions, and offends a normal person’s shamefulness against sexuality and is contrary to virtuous sexual morality.”

If the words “recklessly” were replaced by excessively, that part of the passage would make more sense, but I have faithfully translated the ruling from Japanese into English. How does one ascertain if something offends “a normal person’s shamefulness against sexuality?” Who determines “virtuous sexual morality?”

I confess that I am a layman, and being a layman I find it very difficult to comprehend how blots of ink on genitals have anything to do lessening a normal person’s shamefulness against sexuality and being contrary to virtuous sexual morality.

In other words, the current construct of obscenity in Japan is largely determined by the police and only by the police. It is possible to remove all references to sex from a work, and thereby guarantee immunity from Article 175, but that would be like throwing out the baby along with the bath water. The entire point of having freedom of expression is to be able to engage in a free and open discussion of ideas, to talk about our existence and what it means, and sexuality just happens to have a lot to do with our existence on this planet.

In other words, Article 175 is an over-broad law that can ensnare nearly anyone that engages in creation of artwork involving the human condition.

Had the police and other moral authorities made it their prerogative to slowly move toward ensuring more freedom, then this law is easier to accept. While I do not see concealing the human body serves the public good, it would make sense to moderate acceptance of new sexual norms. Perhaps everything should not be made free at once, but instead done incrementally.

And consequently, liberation and gradual relaxation of regulation of sexuality is exactly what has been taking place in the half century since the end of World War 2. There is no doubt the material that is available today is more explicit then what was available in 1955, but make not doubt about it–What was available in 1955 was revolutionary compared to what was available in 1935.

Mr. Ishihara Shintaro became famous for breaking contemporary standards regarding depictions of sexuality in his novels published in the 1950s. Later, he would publish a book in the 1970s claiming no text could coax a child toward crime or delinquency, and thus he felt perfectly fine having sexually explicit material available for his children to read. But come 2010, as Tokyo Governor and an advocate for passage of Bill 156 which increases restrictions on material available for minors in Tokyo, he refuted his own previous claims, stating “I was misguided back then…These days, the world has become a lot more crazy…Back then books that affirmed perversion was few and far between.”

It is amazing that Mr. Ishihara, who authored sexually explicit passages at a time when their existence would have raised a storm a mere 10 years ago, was now claiming Japan had reached a state that was “too uninhibited.” But since he could claim authority as Tokyo Governor, and since this authority was backed up by the police, for those who are not familiar with history or representations of sexuality in popular culture could find little reason to doubt his statements. Mr. Ishihara never fully explained why it was acceptable for depictions of sexual violence against minors to be included in his novels, but should not be tolerated within manga. Any hard questioning tending to end with him stonewalling the question or getting angry over how literary works such as his novels should be compared equally to manga.

And thus, it is very clear that the passage of time does not automatically guarantee acceptance nor relaxation of depictions of sexuality within fiction. The police and other authority figures can and have acted as guardians of public morality, ready to influence public culture in the image they see fit.

This has happened independent of Tokyo’s bid to win the Olympics for 2020 and unrelated to manga or any form of published or displayed entertainment. On May 29th, Mr. You-Ichi Furuya, the head of the Public Chief Division of the National Police Agency, gave a speech to an pachinko trade group meeting. Pachinko is Japan’s legalized form of gambling and its operations are heavily regulated by the police to ensure players are not exploited financially and organized crime do not get involved. But on this occasion, Mr. Furuya talked about how recent images and graphics displayed on pachinko machines could be found contrary to public morals and threaten healthy environments. He specifically talked about how erotic or grotesque imagery should be avoided. Had Mr. Furuya been talking about theme parks frequented by children or public displays exposed to the general public, this would sound sensible. But minors are forbidden from playing pachinko in Japan. In effect, Mr. Furuya was acting as the public moral guardian over adults.

In his article about the police raid against Core Magazine, Mr. Hiruma mentioned detectives talking about how Core Magazine was being made an example, i.e. the police intends to interfere and direct how pornography is created for adults. This sounds Orwellian to say the least. Some of you might write this off as fanciful writing on the part of this reporter, but Mr. Hiruma backed up this claim with a follow-up article, and I personally have also confirmed this story from multiple sources as well. Here is an example by Jin Toriyama, an author and editor of adult novels.

Since September 17th, at least three publishers of erotic manga have been directed to report to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police to “discuss” how publishers should self censor their material and what subjects should be avoided.

It is very clear that the Japanese police and perhaps other parties are aspiring to become more involved with shaping the nature of Japan’s adult entertainment industry.

In the near term, this intervention by the Japanese police will primarily impact Japan’s creators. While the logic behind this intervention will always be about protecting Japan’s public morality, restricting the production of sexually explicit material will have little impact on a public which can easily access uncensored erotica from abroad, however if the police’s power to direct and influence the Japanese creative community is left unquestioned, the authority of the police to direct public morality will be further entrenched.

There is talk of making United Kingdom an opt-in state regarding Internet pornography, where any citizen who wishes to have access to erotica would have to specifically request their Internet service provider to turn off their filtering software. That could also happen in Japan, especially if fantasy regarding sexuality is deemed fall within the domain of state intervention.

Article 175 is both the symptom and a root cause behind how the moralists authorities in Japan wield power over the public. As a taxpayer and a voter in Japan, I am saddened to think valuable public resources that could otherwise be spent toward repairing the damage of the Great East Japan Earthquake or other such pressing public needs are being diverted to the entrenchment of a state bureaucracy that self-perpetuates itself through the diminishment of citizens’ rights.

But people overseas can also make a difference, by making their protests public online and not letting the subject die. Donations to organizations that rigorously address free speech issues, such as the National Coalition Against Censorship and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, will allow these groups to continue asking hard questions against the Japanese establishment.

While this debate might be taking place in Japan, the outcome of this debate may impact the quality of entertainment you enjoy in your own home nation. After all, many agree that Japan is at the vanguard for many forms of visual entertainment. Even those that dislike Japanese erotic fantasy will agree, Japan boasts tremendous diversity in the realm of fiction that is unavailable else where.

Alas, if one of the most liberal lands of fiction is muzzled, what will become of lands that are less liberal?

2010 “Our nation was at war with anti-social erotic fiction. Our nation has been always been at war with anti-social erotic fiction.”

2014? “Our nation was at war with erotic fiction featuring minors. Our nation has been always been at war with erotic fiction featuring minors.”

201X? “Our nation was at war with erotic fiction featuring sexual exploitation and criminal sexual acts. Our nation has been always been at war with erotic fiction featuring sexual exploitation and criminal sexual acts.”

201X? “Our nation was at war with erotic fiction featuring unrealistic and exaggerated human anatomy that reinforce stereotypes. Our nation has been always been at war with erotic fiction featuring unrealistic and exaggerated human anatomy that reinforce stereotypes.”

20XX? “Our nation was at war with erotic fiction not involving procreation. Our nation has been always been at war with erotic fiction not involving procreation.”

20XX? “Our nation was at war with erotic fiction…”

Posted in bureaucracy, censorship, child pornography, harmful material, news, nonexistent youth, public morality and media | 28 Comments

Authority’s Authority

The last few entries of this blog has concerned itself with recent moves to increase censorship in Japan. Some examples of these include increased enforcement of obscenity laws (possibly as a consequence of Tokyo’s bid to hold the Olympics in 2020,) the push to revise the Japanese Child Pornography Law to include manga and anime, the call to re-write the Japanese Constitution to limit free speech in cases where there is threat to the public interest or public order*, and discussions on nationalizing restrictions on a minor’s access to media. These are all important topics but smaller, incremental stages of censorship can also have profound consequences when left unquestioned.

Truth be told, creating justification for enacting laws or restricting freedoms is actually relatively easy, especially when as part of an extension to pre-existing laws. You simply need to convince certain parties in control that it is in their own self interest to do so, and then they will dutifully work toward convincing their coworkers and voters of the need to revise the law.

What works most is to sell the law on fear. Almost any activity can be framed as being dangerous and anti-social. First, you must identify extreme examples within that activity, elements that nearly everyone would find offensive or reprehensible. It does not matter if those unfortunate examples are the result of poor decision making or freak accidents. What matters is to find examples that can be exaggerated, recycled into sound bites, and make it embarrassing enough and thus put people on the defensive for being associating with that activity.

Accompanying the presentation of fear is a solution that isolates, circumvents or removes the identified undesirable aspects. The solution will more than likely involve legislation or administrative policy changes instead of common sense precautions. Some of those who engage in that activity will be compelled to embrace such regulation out of the desire to remove the cloak of suspicion that has been attached to themselves. There may even be those that extrapolate their own fears upon those alleged dangers, and thereby work toward establishing a new regulatory mechanism.

Once the new law is in effect and the law’s critics are marginalized, a new norm has been created for what is acceptable and what is not. What was legal has now become illegal. The fear that was present before can now be claimed to be contained–identified, demarcated and quarantined–by some type of regulatory mechanism. Now it is possible to construct a new fear within the new norm and change the standards yet again. Even if you find resistance to further changes, the creation of new fears make it easier to avoid explaining the rationale behind why the old norms were replaced by the current norms. The current norms are the good norms and we must make them better, the argument will go, so questioning how things were acceptable in the past is immaterial.

Fear is a powerful seller. If you watch television carefully and picked apart all the advertisements that you are exposed to, you would be amazed at how many products are marketed based on fear: Fear of being unsanitary, fear of being ugly, fear of not eating healthy, etc. The same logic applies in cases where you are selling laws to voters.

What is more difficult is cementing authority over identifying these fears. Anyone can claim a bogeyman exists. But only those in authority can claim that the bogeyman is legitimate and is a credible threat.

For example, when a child cries about monsters under the bed, the child’s claim have little authority over adults. But if a topic pertains to something adults have little understanding of, or if they preconceptions regarding the subject, a person who claims to have authority will have more sway over the public. An example of the former is the Y2K controversy regarding computers while an example of the later would be the debate over regulating video games. Generally speaking, the public has little expert knowledge regarding computing program coding and human psychology, therefore if an expert makes certain claims, their statements carry greater weight as their credibility is harder to verify, and as consequence, experts may be able to secure stronger authority in the process and even arise to become an authority figure, an individual people will reach out to in order ascertain affairs they have little knowledge on.

The legitimacy of an authority figure can become particularly entrenched in cases where it is hard to prove their claims as wrong. For example, an authority figure might claim school uniforms will improve children’s behavior. If records indicate children’s behavior show improvement following the adoption of school uniforms, if will be difficult to disprove that the adoption did not play a positive role. Unless controlled and careful studies are conducted, it is impossible to say how the adoption of school uniforms contributed to the children’s behavior–economic factors and parental involvement may have had much more of larger impact. The problem with social sciences (which also includes some aspects of criminal behavioral studies) is that it is very difficult to conduct controlled experiments. Even if children’s behavior worsens, the expert could claim that the children’s behavior would have deteriorated far more had it not been for the adoption of school uniforms. Because few people are experts of child psychology, sociology, and criminal behavioral studies, anyone perceived to be an expert over these sciences would enjoy advantage in exerting authority over others.

Those that can claim authority over a topic, and where by their authority is unquestioned, will enjoy an even greater say in establishing justifications for creating further laws and regulations. An expert on microbiology’s call for more meat inspectors will resound better when compared against a shoe salesperson making the same plea. A doctor’s claim for more (or less) sex education will carry a certain amount of weight simply because they are doctors. It is immaterial whether or not the claims made by these experts are absurd, as only another expert can credible refute them, and therein lies the problem–Once an individual or an institution becomes an authority, and has the power to exercise influence over others in the same field, it becomes difficult for other dissenting experts to question that authority.

This same phenomenon takes place over the debate of obscenity, vice, and pornography–the common assumption among the public is that some sex is fine, but beyond a certain point, sex leads to deviancy and constitutes a criminal act. The question of why sex of certain type is illegal is sometimes left out. In too many cases, as long as the sexuality and its representation resides within the confines of mainstream society, it is not questioned. Any deviation from the social norm is treated as a transgression, even while what is being transgressed is sometimes not addressed, or some vague and abstract construct is evoked, as in something is found to be injurious to public morals.

Authorities’ power to define the transgression regarding obscenity particularly powerful in Japan where the public does not have a voice in determining what is obscene or not–Japan does not have a jury system pertaining to obscenity.

The Japanese Police have tremendous sway over determining what is obscene and how much of it can be permitted. Judges ultimate do decide what material can be considered obscene or not in a court of law, but since so few cases are actually come for debate in court and because the police are careful in only going after cases where they feel certain they will secure a conviction, the line that determines obscene and what is not obscene is largely determined by police. If the Japanese police raids you, it is obscene. If the police does not raid you, it is not obscene…probably.

Why did I add qualify that last sentence with such an ambiguous statement? It is because the police in Japan have both the leeway and the authority to change what can be defined as obscene, and it can change.

Recall how I wrote about standards for worth (and hence the need for protection) of certain works can change depending on the political climate if freedom of expression is not adequately observed. But when it comes to sexually explicit material social attitudes change quite rapidly, and how authority reacts to these changes also oscillates wildly between acceptance, indifference, repudiation, and repression.

In my next blog entry, I hope to discuss some recent major shifts in how the Japanese police go about enforcement, and thereby highlight how authority can redefine norms arbitrarily and yet enjoy considerable legitimacy.


The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has drafted a revision to the Japanese Constitution in 2012 that would radically revise how citizen’s rights and limitations to state power would be managed. The 2012 LDP draft is even mentioned in Wikipedia’s English entry on the Japanese Constitution, but there are also good articles featured in the Asia-Pacific Journal and the East Asia Forum.

Posted in bureaucracy, censorship, child pornography, harmful material, nonexistent youth, public morality and media | 7 Comments