Photos of Rokudenashi-ko (ろくでなし子) a.k.a. Megumi Igarashi (五十嵐恵),...













Photos of Rokudenashi-ko (ろくでなし子) a.k.a. Megumi Igarashi (五十嵐恵), a Japanese artist currently on trial for obscenity. Igarashi is facing the charges over a kayak she made with 3D printer data of her own vagina. 

From a January interview with The Daily Beast:

What statement were you trying to make with this project?
In Japan, women’s vaginas are treated as though they are men’s property. The trains here usually display pornographic advertisements. As a woman, I find that blatant objectification to be humiliating. I’m disgusted by it. My body belongs to me.

So, with this project I wanted to release the vagina from the standard Japanese paradigm. Japan is lenient towards expressions of male sexuality and arousal, but not so for women. When a woman uses her body in artistic expression, her work gets ignored, and people treat her as if she’s some sex-crazed idiot. It all comes back to misogyny. And the vagina is at the heart of it.

How is the vagina at the heart of misogyny?
The vagina is ridiculed. It’s lusted after. Men don’t see women as equals—to them, women are just vaginas. Then they call my vagina-themed work “obscene,” and judge me according to laws written by and for men.

Since last July, you have continued to make vagina-themed artwork while knowing that you risk arrest and worse. Why haven’t you stopped? What would it take for you to quit?
Why should I stop? [Laughs] Let them kill me. Because I will die before I stop making art.

Since the reporting of Rokudenashi-ko’s case began with her first arrest last summer, the case has frequently been dismissed in the press as a quirky news item or merely an artist seeking publicity. Japan Today’s article “Obscenity arrest may be hiding dirty politics,” shatters these notions, exploring the deeper political motivations behind the arrests of Rokudenashi-ko and her colleague, sex toy shop manager and political writer Minori Watanabe. 

Watanabe was arrested for “displaying obscene goods in her shop window in collusion with Igarashi.” But it’s important to note that Watanabe has been a vocal critic in the press of the conservative administration and prime minister Shinzo Abe’s pro-war, anti-free speech policies. Here’s an excerpt from an interview with Watanabe (under her pen name, Minori Kitahara) in the Asahi Shimbun from June 2014:

Since Abe came to power, the state secrets law has been passed and the Diet has reinterpreted (the principle of) collective self-defense,” she said. “It’s not a coincidence. We live in a world where hate speech flourishes and we’re closer to going to other countries to kill people. I feel as if we are no longer allowed to criticize the state. It’s scary.

Within months, Watanabe was arrested on obscenity charges. “Obscenity” and “state secrets” are two sides of the same coin: terms without definition that can be molded at will to persecute artists and journalists who step out of line. This dark climate of suppression can be rather depressing, but it’s Rokudenashi-ko’s unassailable upbeat attitude that wins out at the end of the day:

I see myself as an artist who turns anger into smiles through manga and art. […] I don’t intend to fight anger through demonstrations or rallies, I’d rather express myself through art and make people smile. 

Drawings of Rokudenashi-ko (ろくでなし子) a.k.a. Megumi Igarashi (五十嵐恵)...







Drawings of Rokudenashi-ko (ろくでなし子) a.k.a. Megumi Igarashi (五十嵐恵) at the Tokyo Distrct Court on April 14th, 2015
by Twitter user @paruchin 

“I am innocent because neither the data for female genitals, nor my art works shaped like female genitals, are obscene.”

Rokudenashi-ko is on trial facing charges of “obscenity” over her famous vagina kayak sculpture and the 3D Printing data of her own vagina she used in its creation. The artist is bravely challenging the charges, and has said she’s prepared to take the case to Japan’s highest court. 

The obscenity law in question is laid out in Article 175 of Japan’s penal code:

“A person who distributes, sells or displays in public an obscene document, drawing or other objects shall be punished by imprisonment with work for not more than 2 years, a fine of not more 2,500,000 yen or a petty fine. The same shall apply to a person who possesses the same with the purpose of sale.” 

The vague statute, which has been on the books since 1907, has been selectively used to prosecute all kinds of artwork deemed obscene by the authorities, from Lady Chatterly’s Lover in 1951, to ground-breaking gay magazine Barazoku in 1975, to the male nude photography of Leslie Kee in 2013. Because the law never defines exactly what is “obscene,” the definition shifts over time and jurisdiction. It’s a law enforced at the whim of the police, often in blatantly homophobic and misogynistic ways. The penis-worshiping Kanamara Matsuri, or the “Festival of the Steel Phallus,” for instance, exposes a deep double standard in Japanese culture regarding depictions of male anatomy and female anatomy.

Most of the time, artists, merchants, and publishers who have been targeted by the obscenity law spend a few nights in jail, pay a fine, and submit to the public shaming. In a country teeming with pornography, the obscenity law seems to exist mainly as a formality to keep artists in line with the government’s idea of modesty. Article 175 is the reason for the tiny black censorship bars you can see barely hiding the male anatomy in gay manga (and erotic manga in general)– an example of how the mere gesture of self-censorship is usually enough to stave off police interference. 

Rokudenashi-ko is brazenly refusing to self-censor or to be shamed, and she’s challenging the very notion of obscenity in her court case and in her new book, What Is Obscenity? (ワイセツって何ですか?), available now on Amazon.co.jp

Spread the word about Megumi Igarashi’s fight for justice! If she succeeds, it could lead the way to reforming “obscenity” and freedom of speech in Japan.

Drawings of Rokudenashi-ko (ろくでなし子) a.k.a. Megumi Igarashi (五十嵐恵)...







Drawings of Rokudenashi-ko (ろくでなし子) a.k.a. Megumi Igarashi (五十嵐恵) at the Tokyo Distrct Court on April 14th, 2015
by Twitter user @paruchin 

“I am innocent because neither the data for female genitals, nor my art works shaped like female genitals, are obscene.”

Rokudenashi-ko is on trial facing charges of “obscenity” over her famous vagina kayak sculpture and the 3D Printing data of her own vagina she used in its creation. The artist is bravely challenging the charges, and has said she’s prepared to take the case to Japan’s highest court. 

The obscenity law in question is laid out in Article 175 of Japan’s penal code:

“A person who distributes, sells or displays in public an obscene document, drawing or other objects shall be punished by imprisonment with work for not more than 2 years, a fine of not more 2,500,000 yen or a petty fine. The same shall apply to a person who possesses the same with the purpose of sale.” 

The vague statute, which has been on the books since 1907, has been selectively used to prosecute all kinds of artwork deemed obscene by the authorities, from Lady Chatterly’s Lover in 1951, to ground-breaking gay magazine Barazoku in 1975, to the male nude photography of Leslie Kee in 2013. Because the law never defines exactly what is “obscene,” the definition shifts over time and jurisdiction. It’s a law enforced at the whim of the police, often in blatantly homophobic and misogynistic ways. The penis-worshiping Kanamara Matsuri, or the “Festival of the Steel Phallus,” for instance, exposes a deep double standard in Japanese culture regarding depictions of male anatomy and female anatomy.

Most of the time, artists, merchants, and publishers who have been targeted by the obscenity law spend a few nights in jail, pay a fine, and submit to the public shaming. In a country teeming with pornography, the obscenity law seems to exist mainly as a formality to keep artists in line with the government’s idea of modesty. Article 175 is the reason for the tiny black censorship bars you can see barely hiding the male anatomy in gay manga (and erotic manga in general)– an example of how the mere gesture of self-censorship is usually enough to stave off police interference. 

Rokudenashi-ko is brazenly refusing to self-censor or to be shamed, and she’s challenging the very notion of obscenity in her court case and in her new book, What Is Obscenity? (ワイセツって何ですか?), available now on Amazon.co.jp

Spread the word about Megumi Igarashi’s fight for justice! If she succeeds, it could lead the way to reforming “obscenity” and freedom of speech in Japan.