In every era, authority is enticed by the allure of
censorship. Expecting children to grow-up wholesome by putting a lid on
unpleasant things is fiction in of itself. It is unfortunate that we can
only rely upon "nonexistent politicians" to be wholesome enough to realize
that there is a difference between moral standards for right and wrong
versus legal enforcement.
- Ehime Shinbun Editorial, March 20th, 2010.
What is this guide?
This guide what put together by Dan Kanemitsu, a translator
living in Japan to help explain current events surrounding regulation and
censorship of manga, anime, and other fictional material. This guide is
a work in progress.
What is going on?
There is a bill pending in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly
to regulate all fictional material featuring minors involved in sexual
situations. The bill is posed as a "youth protection legislation" and is
coupled to together with provisions regarding how minors may access information.
Why is it a big deal?
1) It gives the Tokyo Metropolitan Government the power
to deem what is appropriate for general audiences and what should be restricted
to adults. Bureaucrats will have the power to decide what is "wholesome
for youth," versus what is "harmful for youth."
2) Because publishers will be handicapped for releasing
mature material that might be deemed to be "harmful for youth," the current
rich diversity in Japan's visual fiction entertainment industry will be
threatened. Polarization is likely to happen, where the industry will self-regulate
and self-censor material into two camps--material acceptable for all ages
versus what should be restricted to adults.
3) The ordnance has provisions that imply pure fiction
involving minors involved in sexual situations should be discouraged from
public discourse. The bill employs extremely vague and subjective definitions
for what constitutes material that should be restricted. These two factors
will have a profound chilling effect upon all author's freedom to construct
narratives, regardless of artistic worth or social commentary.
4) Tokyo can perhaps be considered the world's epicenter
for manga, anime, video games, doujinshis, and other forms popular creative
fiction and visual entertainment. Any regulation conducted in Tokyo will
not only impact the industry on a national level, but will most certainly
have a global impact.
Is this a ban on (loli/shota/BL)?
No, it is not a total ban, since this bill is more about
zoning fiction into "general versus adult" catagories.
What is scary, however, is that this could very well beginning
of bans on fiction based on subject matter, since the bill basically states
that "minors, even if they don't exist, should not be sexualized."
What is the name of the bill?
"Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance Regarding the Healthy Development
of Youths" revision bill.
Here is the original Japanese amendment bill:
And no, the bill is not listed on any pages of the Tokyo
Metropolitan Government web site as of March 31st, 2010.
Who is charge of administrating the bill if its passed?
Office for Youth Affairs and Public Safety, Tokyo Metropolitan
What are the specific provisions in the bill?
If passed, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) will
have the power to conduct the following:
1) The TMG will have more control over minor's use of
the Internet and mobile phones. Parents will be discouraged to remove Internet
filtering provisions from their children's mobile phones. The TMG can specify
which mobile phones minors should be using.
2) The TMG already has the power to designate "any material
that may be detrimental toward the healthy development of youth because
of their capacity to be sexually stimulating, encourages cruelty, and/or
may compel suicide or criminal behavior" as being "harmful material," and
thereby force it to be restricted. This bill will create an entire new
class of harmful content category where any fictional material involving
visual representations of "nonexistent youth," (anyone who looks like or
sounds like being a minor) in sexual acts or any acts that might be considered
sexual, could be considered to be "harmful material," and thereby be subject
to be restriction.
3) The bill makes it the responsibility of all citizens
and organizations in Tokyo to cease possession of child pornography, even
though the definition of what constitutes child pornography is vague and
confusing in Japan. (See section titled "What the big deal with child pornography
in Japan?" at the very bottom for more information.)
4) The bill allows the TMG to encourage the elimination
of child pornography and the prevention of "rampant availability" of fictional
visual representations of sexualized youth, possibly through establishing
and funding groups that would attempt to alter public opinion to accept
the notion that reckless sexualized youth in fiction is harmful and must
be discouraged in material consumed for all audiences.
Could you clarify exactly what types of material does
this bill try to restrict?
It is not easy, and that is why so many creative types
and industry people are against it.
The bill first establishes that "any visual or audio representation
of an individual that can be identified as being under 18 due to their
age, dress, school grade, background, and/or any other element that can
be determined as an indicator of their age" shall be defined as "nonexistent
youth." This definition is breathtakingly vague--especially the part about
voices. How someone could be identified as being over 18 or not based on
their voice is hard to conceptualize.
Next, the bill stipulates that "any depiction that can
be identified through visual means as sexual and/or pseudo-sexual acts"
involving nonexistent youth which can be characterized as "a reckless depiction"
that positively reinforces the attitude that youth can be considered "an
object of sexualization" conducted to a such a level that "may impede the
development of a healthy capacity for judgement regarding sexuality of
youth and thereby impede the healthy development of youth" should be self-regulated
as being harmful.
Confused? So are we.
So to recap:
Any fiction that features someone identifiable
as a minor + involved in sexual and/or sexual like act + that recklessly
depicts youth as a object of sexualization in a positive light + which
may impede the wholesome mental development of youth regarding his/her
sexuality => shall be self-regulated as being harmful content.
But that's not all. That dealt with material that was
to be "self-regulated." There is material that the TMG could unilaterally
regulate. The following material is to be rigorously restricted--"Any presentation
that can be identified through visual means as sexual and pseudo-sexual
acts involving "nonexistent youths" whereby acts such as rape that can
be determined as being highly contrary to social norms, depicted in a positive
light and thereby may highly impede the development of a healthy capacity
for judgement regarding sexuality of youth and thereby impede the healthy
development of youth."
Any fiction that features someone identifiable
as a minor + involved in "anti-social" sexual and/or sexual like act +
depicted in a positive light + which may highly impede the wholesome mental
development of youth regarding his/her sexuality => shall be regulated
as being harmful content.
The problem with this ordinance is that it depends on
so many subjective standards and vague assumptions. What constitutes "anti-social"
can very from person to person, for example. The section regarding "depicting
acts in a positive light" is also extremely hard to identify. Does this
mean if the same rape story has an ending where the victim stabs the rapist
to death it is okay, but if the story ends with the victim committing suicide
it is should be considered adult content?
Creators and industry people have hard enough time trying
to figure out how their material would be accepted by their audiences.
Asking them to become mind-readers to know how the TMG bureaucrats would
interpret their stories is mind-boggling to say the least.
Could you be a little more clear about what's being
targeted? What have the Tokyo Metropolitan Government said about material
they want to go after?
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) has been very
ambiguous in public statements (which is expected) but documents leading
to the creation of the bill and information extracted by Tokyo Metropolitan
Assembly members indicate that BL (Boys Love,) Yaoi, Ladies Comics, romantic
Shojo Manga, and many publications aimed toward girls and women are being
targeted. Risqu? comedy often featured in certain for boys and men's publications
also appear to be on the radar screen, but since many of these books could
be considered "too erotic," the blunt of the target appears to be aimed
more toward "sensual and introspective romance" titles--a specialty of
women's and girl's manga.
Why are women's publications more likely to be affected
by this bill? Because the common visual style in such material is not as
graphic as with men's publications, and therefore "not erotic, but dangerous
subject matter" criteria for regulation will probably have an impact of
women more than men's manga and anime fiction.
Why isn't adult only erotica aimed for men targeted?
Because most of these titles are already self-regulated
as being designated only for adults, so the zoning provisions of this bill
won't have a direct impact, but secondary influences (shrinking industry
size, book stores discouraged from selling books, usage of convention and
doujinshi event venues being denied) may well have an impact.
I heard the novels are not covered by this new regulation.
Is this true? And why?
That is correct. The TMG has said that "the representations
of [events] in the form of text requires abilities on the part of the audience
[to understand,] but with manga and anime visual imagery are understood
regardless of age. In comparison with novels, children with little knowledge
can be influenced easily [by manga and anime.]" 
While the TMG has said novels are not covered, depending
on how you read this bill, novels could fall afoul of this law.
Is it true that the current governor of Tokyo, Shintaro
Ishihara, wrote stories that could be restricted if this bill passes?
You be the judge: "In 1955 a young writer of 23, Shintaro
Ishihara, won the most famous Japanese literary prize, the Akutagawa Prize,
for his second novel, whose original title meant 'Season of the Sun' (translated
into English as Season of Violence). Its hero, a young [high school student]
boxer, has as his motto, 'I do what I want, as I want'; he leads a bourgeois
girl who falls madly in love with him to her death, then goes to disrupt
the funeral ceremony. Ishihara followed up the next year with Punishment
Room, whose main attraction is the rape of a girl student drugged by
a rebellious delinquent student." 
So Ishihara's novels are safe because they are written
in text, but if you did the exact same story in manga or anime, this bill
could restrict it?
Yes, that is correct.
Is publishing in Japan unregulated regarding content
No, it is not. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government already
has the authority to classify material deemed to be too sexually stimulating,
too sadistic, and/or prone to compel minors toward criminal activity as
being "harmful to minors" and force zoning. Self-regulation is also mandated
pertaining to material that "may be considered harmful to minors" for the
above three reasons.
Many books with sexually explicit material are designated "adults only"
by the publisher themselves. Furthermore, the wrapping (bagging) and partitioned
zoning provisions were instituted in 2004 with the previous revision of
the youth ordinance.
A lot of doujinshi with explicit content have "adult only" warnings
on either the cover or the back cover to prevent minors from accessing
I don't understand--If material that is "sexually stimulating"
can already be classified as harmful content, then why do they need to
expand the definition to include fiction featuring "minors involved in
anti-social sexual situations?"
We have a hard time understanding this as well, but the
Tokyo Metropolitan Government has responded a number of times stating that
"some fiction featuring extreme anti-social sexual situations, such as
rape and bestiality, cannot be regulated because they are not highly sexually
stimulating to minors." 
If we take their statements at face value, the seem to
imply that certain "non-erotic" situations involving sexual situations
must be regulated, not because they are sexually stimulating but because
their mere existence is somehow dangerous, regardless of social or artistic
statement such material might be making.
It is important to note that a number of Japanese authors
have employed the medium of manga to talk about their own experiences of
rape and sexual abuse. This bill could very well silence such important
social commentary. While the TMG has stated that "fiction that depicts
anti-social sexual activities of minors in a negative light will not be
restricted," once the bill passes publishers may be discouraged to take
up such subject matter because they will want to avoid being at the mercy
of how the TMG judges certain depictions as being "negative or positive."
Some say that authors, artists, industry people, and
fans are overreacting. It's only a zoning provision and the TMG says they'll
only go after "extreme dangerous stuff."
It's true that the TMG has released numerous statements
stressing that 1) only patently offensive material will be pursued, 2)
numerous famous works released in the past won't be targeted, and 3) only
a few titles will be marked for unilateral designation as "harmful content."
To this, those of us in the industry feel strongly that such assurances
are worthless because 1) the TMG could change their guidelines of how they
enforce the ordinance at anytime without any prior warning, 2) the claim
that only "fringe material" would be targeted implies that mainstream material
will be given preferential treatment, a condition that mocks the ideal
of equal treatment by law enforcement, and 3) the self-regulatory requirement
will have a profound impact on the creative community regardless of how
many books are targeted by the TMG.
Mr. Takashi Yamaguchi, a Tokyo based lawyer very active
in opposing efforts to censor manga and anime, has pointed out there is
something fundamentally wrong with legislation that assumes that the enforcers
of the provision will be benevolent.
What is going on with this bill right now?
The bill was submitted by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government,
authorized by the Governor Ishihara and supported by his felow Liberal
Democratic Party (LDP) members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly. The
New Komeito Party (NKP) supports this legislation as well. However, the
Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) actually are the largest voting block in
the Tokyo Assembly. Some members of the DPJ have gone on record in opposing
this bill, but not all members of the DPJ agree. So far, the DPJ opponents
of the bill were able to force the debate of the bill to be extended in
the committee deliberation phase, but the vote was very close. Other smaller
parties, such as the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) and the Tokyo Seikatsusha
Network (TSN,) have so far supported the DPJ's efforts to oppose the adoption
of the bill.
The bill will come back once more in June for a vote in
What will happen in June?
No one exactly knows. Many creators and industry people
are hoping to lobby the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly against this bill,
but there are those that want this bill to be passed. It critically important
that those that oppose this bill should make their voices heard.
Supplemental - What the big deal with child pornography
It is illegal to create, disseminate, sell, and share
child pornography in Japan. Possession is currently legal and there is
international pressure on Japan to make possession illegal as well.
The problem here is that currently material that would be considered protected
speech in the US may fall afoul with Japan's definition of child pornography.
As of now, child pornography in Japan is currently defined
1) Any pose of a child engaged in sexual intercourse
or any conduct similar to sexual intercourse;
2) Any pose of a child having his or her genital organs
touched by another person or of a child touching another person's genital
organs, which arouses or stimulates the viewer's sexual desire;
3) Any pose of a child wholly or partially naked, which
arouses or stimulates the viewer's sexual desire.
Many Diet members and others have expressed concern over
the subjective and vague nature of the third section in this definition.
A family photo could be cropped to appear sexually suggestive and then
be planted upon a non-family member to make it look as if it was collected
to satisfy sexual arousal. This and other concerns over lack of police
oversight has lead to an intense debate in the national Diet over how outlawing
possession of child pornography should be conducted.
In 2009, Democratic Party of Japan suggested that the
troublesome third section be dropped, but Japanese police force and their
backers in the Liberal Democratic Party insisted that the third section
be left in to give authorities maximum discretion over what constitutes
 - http://www.ehime-np.co.jp/rensai/chijiku/ren018201003205237.html
 - http://sankei.jp.msn.com/entertainments/game/100318/gam1003180500000-n2.htm
 - Pg. 110, Japan: the burden of success, Jean-Marie Bouissou.
 - http://mainichi.jp/select/wadai/news/20100318ddm014040141000c.html
Some Important Terms
LDP - Liberal Democratic Party. The conservative mainstream party in
Japan that was in power most of the post-war era. The metropolitan caucus
suffered their loss of majority in the July 2009 election, while in the
national level, the LDP lost power following their overwhelming defeat
in the August 30th, 2009 election of the House of Representatives, which
is the lower house of the Japanese national legislative assembly, the Diet.
DPJ - Democratic Party of Japan. The opposition mainstream counterpart
party to the LDP. The DPJ members include elements of both the left (former
socialists) and the right (former LDP and other conservative party members.)
The DPJ, together with the Tokyo Seikatsusha Network political group and
the Japanese Communist Party, has a majority in Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly.
However, the governor of Tokyo is still the LDP politician, Shintaro Ishihara,
so the DPJ has a difficult time in initiating legislative actions.
NKT - New Komeito Party. A socially conservative religious party noted
for their desire for increasing social spending. The NKP is closely affiliated
with a large Buddhist sect, the Soka Gakkai. The NKT entered into a political
alliance with non-LDP factions in 1993 to become part of the ruling coalition,
but after 1999, they have entered into a coalition with the LDP. They too
suffered tremendous losses in the recent national election but actually
managed to gain a seat in the local Tokyo election.
TMG - Tokyo Metropolitan Government. The current governor is a LDP politician,
Office for Youth Affairs and Public Safety - A branch of the Tokyo Metropolitan
Government responsible for affairs related to youth and their public safety.
TYAC - Tokyo Youth Affairs Conference (東京都青少年問題協議会.) A conference
subordinate to the Office for Youth Affairs and Public Safety summoned
by the governor to help aid in the formation and evaluation of policies
pertaining to the youth of Tokyo. The current conference is the 28th Conference
summoned on December 2008 with the goal of "addressing the wholesome development
of youth in an era where mass media increases its spread within society."
Previous sessions of the conference were open to the public, but this was
discontinued after the 3rd meeting of the specialists subcommittee of the
28th Conference. The 28th Conference was responsible for the drafting of
the revision of the youth protection ordinance to include regulation of
"nonexistent youth" involved in anti-social sexual situations and other
controversial provisions. The Governor of Tokyo has the power to select
members of the conference and the 28th Conference is notorious for a membership
skewed toward expanded regulation. The current membership does not include
a single member from the publishing industry nor the film industry.
Tokyo Youth Healthy Development Evaluation Panel (東京都青少年健全育成審議会)
- A panel subordinate to the TMG that deliberates and chooses which books
are to be designated as being harmful. The membership of the panel is comprised
of members of the publishing and film industry, a member from the convenience
stores self-regulatory group, members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly,
newspaper editorialists, officials of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government,
and the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. While over 150 books are purchased each
month to be evaluated for its "harmful impact" on minors, less the 10 books
are usually designated as actually being harmful. There are numerous preliminary
meetings that are conducted prior to the evaluation panel itself, and therefore
there is considerable negotiations between the entertainment industry that
creates material consumed by the public and the officials that regulate
the material. The make-up of the Tokyo Youth Healthy Development Evaluation
Panel is designated by law and therefore is less prone to political interference.