“All this fuss over pussy?”


Rokudenashiko is on a journey. It began almost a decade ago with her conviction that the Japanese pussy needed to be emancipated. Today the conviction is literal and pending, paced through a laborious trial whose verdict will be announced in a couple of months, just in time for the English language release of her jail memoir-graphic novel, What is Obscenity: The True Story of a Good For Nothing and Her Pussy  (Coming in May from Koyama Press).

MASSIVE’s Anne Ishii spoke with the artist known as a “good for nothing” what it has meant to be tasked for her outspoken art, in the legal court of law as well as of social media.


Anne Ishii: Could you explain your situation to those of us in the US who are not familiar with your court case?

Rokudenashiko: I’ve been accused of three crimes.

1. Sending a link to a downloadable 3D manko (vagina) file.

2. Distribution of a CD-ROM of the 3D manko file as a gift to supporters of the mini manko boat that exhibited at the Shinjuku Opthamologist Gallery (新宿眼科画廊, Rokudenashiko’s gallery).

3. Showcasing a few Deco-Manko works at a women-friendly sex shop run by the feminist Minori Kitahara.

I’ve been in court eight times since my first court appearance on April 15, 2015. At the latest hearing on February 1, 2016, the police fined me 800,000 JPY (approx. $7,000 USD). This was much more than my lawyers anticipated. However, if this ordeal could have been resolved with a fine the whole time, that means there was absolutely no reason to arrest me twice.

My law team drafted a 70 page document with opinions from law experts and fine arts professors to counter these arrests. However, Japanese TV news media have only published the opinions of the police, and have purposely called into question my ascription of “artist” and described my case as “weird woman who’s committed a crime.” Because of the media portrayal, a lot of people have  misunderstood that the 800k JPY fine is not the same as a conviction. The first verdict will be delivered on May 9, 2017. If I am found guilty, I plan on appealing the verdict and taking this to the highest court.  If I am found innocent, the police will almost certainly appeal that decision. This will likely be a much longer case.


Anne: How did the prosecution make its case for obscenity? Who did your defense call to prove your case? What kind of theory was posited?

Rokudenashiko: The police made the case that the obscene nature of my work is clearly visible upon first regard, and suggested I was doing all of this to make money and gain publicity.  My lawyers read aloud a summary of the 70 page document, but the prosecutors kept interrupting with objections and did not allow us to read the document to the end, actually.

Anne: What sort of argument did you present?

Rokudenashiko: This was my statement: 

I make fun, cheerful things that attempt to overturn prevailing perceptions of female genitalia. I’ve attempted to make things specifically for supporters of my work, but was then indicted and arrested, as you know. While I find the whole ordeal absurd, it is precisely because of my arrest that so many more people have been able to think more seriously about the perception of female genitals and of their right to a freedom of expression, which is ultimately a good thing. And yet, I have absolutely no idea what makes the three pieces for which I’ve been indicted, crimes of obscenity, why other works haven’t been deemed obscene. It has become impossible to establish a standard (of so-called obscenity), and this case will shut down any opportunity I may have in the future, to create other similar work. I am also financially challenged. If there continues to be no fair criteria, museums will be less inclined to hang challenging art or work by similar artists, and the arts as an institution will become closed minded. I am convinced of my innocence and I believe the court is capable of viewing the situation with fairness. I beg of you consider my circumstances.


Anne: I hate to ask but what will happen to your art practice if you are found guilty? What happens to your confiscated work? Will you be outlawed from making this art in the future?

Rokudenashiko: It seems the work that was confiscated will not be returned to me. And I will have to be much more cautious about my practice, and will likely be very limited in scope moving forward. But I refuse to bend my will, ever. Even at the threat of being arrested again, I plan on continuing to make the work that I believe in.


Anne: Is there a possibility you will be sent to prison? Is it another fine? You explained a little about the confusion between conviction and the police fine, but could you explain the distinction for us?

Rokudenashiko: I don’t know how to explain this thoroughly, but my lawyer Mr. Yamaguchi can tell you more about the fine. [Ed.: It appears that in her case, Rokudenashiko does face a possible prison sentence of up to two years.]


Anne: What do you think you would have done if you weren’t arrested? Do you think you would have been able to make manko art and products more passionately? OR do you think it’s precisely because you were arrested that you became so invested in exhibiting manko?

I didn’t think I was going to be arrested to begin with, but I’ve been making commercially viable manko goods in a bright and pop relevant way for a while.


Anne: You’ve had a lot of online skirmishes. 

Rokudenashiko: My art is easy to despise in Japan so I get antagonized a lot on Twitter. I do not at all enjoy being yelled at, but I am always interested in the psychology behind these accusations. Ever since I started getting criticized I’ve learned to take seriously even the most mundane public opinions.

Anne: Most notably, you’ve become embroiled in a bit of a Twitter war with accusations of discrimination. Could you tell us what happened?

Rokudenashiko: I find it unfortunate that one sect of detractors has labeled me as racist. I personally, obviously, do not consider myself a racist and stand against discrimination. It angers me to be labeled as such.

In Japanese Twitter, one sect of anti-discrimination advocates will do anything to crush people or forms of expressions they do not endorse, all in the name of righteousness. This includes conservative feminists who disapprove of moe anime. And because I am a proponent of free speech, I am viewed by them as an enemy of their cause.

Now, there is a writer, a racist writer/illustrator, named Toshiko Hasumi. Her works include horrible racist stories against Koreans and Chinese immigrants in Japan.  I think her beliefs are incredibly offensive. However, someone threatened online to expose the personal information of all of Hasumi’s supporters, encouraging retaliation, and to inflict violence against her works in order to stop her activities. I said that no matter how horrible Hasumi’s work was, that destroying it and threatening violent action against her was wrong.

My way of thinking is thus, and I quote Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it.” This opinion was not properly received and now I am in this situation where people say because I defended Hasumi I must also be a racist.


Anne: I think the question of whether “manko” is obscene is very different than “what is wrong with obscenity?” and so I’d like to ask, what do you think is the connection between freedom of speech and women’s rights? How are they related? Are they two sides of the same issue?

Rokudenashiko: My pussy is a part of my body so I obviously do not think it is obscene. However, in artistic expression, there are many things that elicit sexual stimulation that I think are extraordinary. Therefore I do wonder, what’s wrong with a little obscenity? What’s more, I do think the fact that the courts didn’t raise a finger against other publishers of arguably more extreme representations of female genitalia is a blatant form of sexism, particularly because I am a self-employed freelancer with no sort of organizational backing. I think the fact that a woman can’t express her own body is actually a doubly offensive form of discrimination.


Anne: Why do you believe it is so important to protect obscenity?

Rokudenashiko: It’s less that I want to protect obscenity than that I want to respect everyone’s right to free expression. My exception to this is when in cases where the work is not adapted, and involves real footage of bodily harm to physical human beings, in say, certain forms of pornography. But again, I believe that freedom of expression has to necessarily include expressions which go against our own beliefs. For that matter, I want to remain fair to those who have negative things to say about my own work.

Anne: It’s been a rough two years of arrest, trial and fines, but what do you look forward to doing personally outside of the manko dealings?

Rokudenashiko: Certainly being arrested, jailed, indicted, going to trial are all difficult circumstances for the average person but as a mangaka I try to view the situation as fodder for stories and try to keep a cool head about it. I’ve been arguing with old men for long since before the arrest, and the latest antagonist happens to be the police. I think it’s completely stupid that the national law has to be bothered with something this trite, and despite the challenges of my situation, I’ve still been able to laugh about all of it. Besides, because of the arrest, I’ve become a media topic; news of my case has spread globally. My name and my work have been transmitted around the world. I’ve been able to get so much publicity without spending a single yen, so I’m nothing but grateful to the police, actually. That said, the police is attempting to control the female body. Its male-centric and ideologically discriminatory oppression exists throughout the world. I want to be able to make work that continues to make life more joyful for people who have been undermined by the world, who see and seek courage and inspiration to step forward, to stand up for themselves.