The Art of Censorship in Postwar Japan

The Art of Censorship in Postwar Japan

Kirsten Cather

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780824835873

Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press


In 2002 a manga (comic book) was for the first time successfully charged with the crime of obscenity in the Japanese courts. This book traces how this case represents the most recent in a long line of sensational landmark obscenity trials that have dotted the history of postwar Japan. The objects of these trials range from a highbrow literary translation of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and modern adaptations and reprintings of Edo-period pornographic literary “classics” by authors such as Nagai Kafū to soft core and hard core pornographic films, including a collection of still photographs and the script from Ōshima Nagisa’s In the Realm of the Senses, as well as adult manga. At stake in each case was the establishment of a new hierarchy for law and culture, determining, in other words, to what extent the constitutional guarantee of free expression would extend to art, artist, and audience. The book draws on diverse sources, including trial transcripts and verdicts, literary and film theory, legal scholarship, and surrounding debates in artistic journals and the press. It demonstrates how legal arguments are enmeshed in a broader web of cultural forces. The book offers an original, interdisciplinary analysis that shows how art and law nurtured one another even as they clashed and demonstrates the dynamic relationship between culture and law, society and politics in postwar Japan.