SUMMERY OVERVIEW OF CENSORSHIP IN JAPAN
This summery was written by Dan Kanemitsu
Censorship in Japan have been alive and well ever since people in
authority first encountered "vulgar" material being published by wood block
prints during the Tokugawa period (about 1600 to 1850's.) From that day
on, the tug of war between over-zealous moralists versus the enterprising
publishers and artists continues on until this day.
After the Meiji Restoration, the new "modern" government of Japan
issued the new constitution in 1889. This constitution was not modeled
after the US one, but on the German (Prussian) and British system instead.
Guaranteeing freedom of expression was not on the top of the agenda in
this constitution. Soon the government was going after various new "unruly"
newspaper publishers in order to suppress political opposition against
the government. When the government was drafting a law aimed at regulating
the content of mass distributed publications, they included a clause which
forbid the production, distribution, and publishing of material which can
be deemed as being "injurious to public morals." The law which includes
this clause, Article 175 of the Penal Code, inacted in the 1880's, is still
in force today. The same law that forced the lower sections of nudes by
Renoir and Manet to be covered by cloth is the same law that still remains
at work behind the censorship of sexually explict material in Japan today.
When General MacArthur and the US Armed Forces came in, they brought
with them the ideal that democratic and liberal ("free") nations are less
likely to go to war, and the reason why Japan was considered to be so "belligerent"
had to do with the Japanese system of government. Therefore the solution
was to rewrite the Japanese constitution to include guarantees of civil
liberties and delete particulary oppressive sections of the Japanese penal
code. Unfortunately, Article 175 was not one of the many laws that were
The regulatory agencies and the courts of Japan have slowly relaxed
the standards for what is considered "indecent" and "injurious to public
morals" over the course of time. The logic being that the same material
that might have been caused "panic and confusion among the public" won't
do that now because the standards of the public have changed. In effect
what this is saying is that "you can have your freedom of expression, as
long as you don't do something too offensive to most people." Apparently
showing actual shots of penatration and the sexual genitals is too offensive
for Japan today. But hey, just five years ago, showing pubic hair was too
offensive and now it isn't, so things are progressing slowly but surely.
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