In Tokyo, a Crackdown on Sexual Images of Minors

Tags: Japan, manga comic, Tokyo, Hiroko Tabuchi, Akari Iinuma, Elementary School, Child advocates, sexually suggestive, ordinance, manga comic book, comic books, the original story, sexualization, violent material, manga works, fictional works, protecting children, sexual exploitation, unforeseen consequences, the International Herald Tribune, photo books, Shintaro Ishihara
Content: Japan wrestles with popular depictions of girls / page 1
February 9, 2011 In Tokyo, a Crackdown on Sexual Images of Minors by Hiroko Tabuchi
drawn in a characteristic Japanese comicbook style. Child advocates seek limits on explicit images, but publishers fight back
TOKYO -- In a manga comic book that is well known here, "My Wife Is an elementary school Student," a 24-year-old teacher marries a 12-year-old girl as part of a top-secret social experiment.
A newly revised ordinance by Tokyo's metropolitan government, which restricts the sale of such material, has prompted a national debate between its publishers and critics inside and outside Japan, who say the
There is no depiction of actual sex. But the
fare exploits children and may even
teacher's steamy fantasies fill the comic's
encourage pedophilia. Other local and
pages in graphic detail, including a little
regional governments, including the Osaka
naked girl with sexually suggestive props.
Prefecture, are considering similar
Meanwhile, in a widely
available new DVD, a
"These are for
real-life Japanese model
abnormal people, for
poses in a tiny white
perverts," said
bikini. She makes
Tokyo's governor,
popcorn in a maid's
Shintaro Ishihara,
costume. She plays with a
angrily throwing two
beach ball while being
comic books to the
hosed down with water.
floor during an
interview. Mr.
The model, Akari Iinuma, is 13 years old. Japan, which has long been relatively tolerant of
Akari Iinuma, a 13-year-old "junior idol," has gained a fan base with her DVDs, in which she appears in provocative costumes.
Ishihara spearheaded the ordinance changes, which take effect in July.
the open sale and
While the revised law
consumption of sexually oriented material,
applies to an area containing only about a
lately has developed a brisk trade in works
tenth of Japan's population, Tokyo is the
that in many Other Countries might be
nation's media capital and a de facto arbiter
considered child pornography. But now
of the country's pop culture boundaries.
some public officials want to place tighter
"There's no other country in the world that
restrictions on the provocative depictions of lets such crude works exist," Mr. Ishihara
young girls -- referred to as "junior
idols"-- that are prevalent in magazines,
DVDs and Web videos.
To protest the ordinance, 10 of this
country's biggest publishers have said they
One particularly big target is manga comic
will boycott the Tokyo International Anime
books that depict pubescent girls in sexual
Fair next month, Japan's premier event for
acts. It a lucrative segment of the $5.5
manga and animated films.
billion industry for manga, illustrated books
Japan wrestles with popular depictions of girls / page 2
The new law
anyone under age 18.
specifically bars only
The ordinance also
the sale to minors of the
requires guardians to
restricted comics and
prevent children
videos. But industry
younger than 13 from
executives say it will
posing for magazines or
essentially end
videos that depict them
publication of the
in sexually suggestive
material by
discouraging risk-
averse publishers and
Legal experts say that
booksellers from
Japan's laws against
handling it at all.
child pornography are
lax by international
"There are no victims in
standards. Japan has
manga -- we should be
banned the production
free to write what we
or distribution of any
want," said Yasumasa
sexually explicit, nude
Shimizu, vice president at Japan's largest publishing company, Kodansha, which is
A shop with "U-15" DVDs, or video of girls under 15. Publishers fear that restricting sales will impede distribution channels.
images of minors since 1999, when Parliament passed a law in response to international criticism
participating in the
of the wide availability
boycott. "Creativity in Japanese manga
of such works in the country. But even now,
thrives on an `anything goes' mentality."
unlike the United States and most European
countries, Japan does not ban the possession
Manga taps into a history of erotica that
of child pornography.
dates at least as far back as the ukiyo-e
prints of 17th- to 19th-century Japan,
In recent cases in the United States and
including Hokusai's famous portrayal of a
Sweden, authorities have made arrests over
fisherwoman and octopi in a salacious
manga books imported from Japan depicting
encounter. But it was as recently as the
sexual abuse of children. An American
1980s that comic magazines like Lemon
manga collector, Christopher Handley,
People introduced a wider audience to
pleaded guilty in 2009 to violating the 2003
sexual manga featuring young girls.
Protect Act, which outlawed cartoons or
drawings that depict minors in sexually
"There is a culture, an industry that
explicit ways.
worships youth and innocence," said
Mariko Katsuki, who published a book last Japan's 1999 law has also helped stamp out
year chronicling adults who are attracted to a formerly popular genre of photo books
small children. "Much of the attraction is
depicting nude under-age girls. One of the
nonsexual, but sometimes it becomes a
genre's best-selling books, published in
dangerous obsession."
1991, featured nude photos of the actress
Rie Miyazawa, who was not yet 18 at the
The new Tokyo law, which applies to
time of the photo shoot.
anyone under 18, bans the sale of comics
and other works -- including novels, DVDs But in the last five or six years, books and
and video games -- that depict sexual or
videos have emerged that sidestep the law
violent acts that would violate Japan's
by featuring girls, some as young as age 6,
national penal code, as well as sex involving posing in swimsuits that stop short of full
Japan wrestles with popular depictions of girls / page 3
nudity. These models, who are paid about 200,000 yen ($2,400) a shoot, often dream of careers in acting or music, industry insiders say. Junior idol photo books and DVDs are widely available on Web sites like Amazon's site in Japan and in specialiZed Bookstores. At least eight magazines are devoted to such photos, including Sho-Bo, which features girls of elementary school age. "I loved the white bikini," Ms. Iinuma, the 13-year-old model, told the adult male fans who turned out at the Sofmap electronics store in Tokyo for an event to promote the release of her second DVD, "Developing Now." It is a plotless 70 minutes of Ms. Iinuma in various costumes and poses. At the gathering, Ms. Iinuma performed a short dance, spoke about the video shoot, then posed as men approached her to snap photos, while her mother looked on from the back of the room. "There is a culture, an industry that worships youth." Hiromasa Nakai, a spokesman for the Japan Committee for UNICEF, said the abundance of child pornography in Japan made it even easier for those who would normally not be considered as having clinical pedophilia, a psychiatric disorder characterized by a sexual obsession with Young children, to develop a sexual interest in children. "To a degree, it has become socially accepted to lust over young girls in Japan," Mr. Nakai said. "Condoning these works has meant more people have access to them and develop an interest in young girls." There have been earlier moves to regulate pedophilic material in Japan, especially after the murders of four little girls in 1988-89 by a man police described as a
pedophile. The case spurred local governments across Japan to adopt ordinances setting some limits to sales of pedophilic works, including a loose ratings system for explicit manga books imposed by the publishers themselves, and also set the stage for the 1999 anti-child pornography law. Already the Tokyo government checks for "unwholesome" manga publications and can order publishers to label them as for adults only. But supporters of more regulation say those efforts have been sporadic. "We believe that when the rights of adults or businesses violate children's rights, children must come first," said Tamae Shintani, head of Tokyo's parent-teacher association for elementary schools. "But we also respect free speech, so the least we can ask is people keep their fetishes under wraps." The industry's defenders say comparing manga to pedophilia involving real children is absurd. "Depicting a crime and committing one are two different things; it's like convicting a mystery writer for murder," said Takashi Yamaguchi, a Tokyo lawyer and manga expert. Mr. Yamaguchi and others also contend that the Tokyo government pushed through the new regulations without ample debate. Some also worry that stronger regulations will harm an industry whose fortunes have already fallen in recent years; sales of comic magazines, in particular, have dropped by a third over the last decade, to $24.3 million in 2008. The manga artist Takeshi Nogami, whose best-known work features High School girls riding military tanks, says he senses a disdain among policy makers toward manga itself. "They think reading manga makes you dumb," he said. In late December at the Comic Market, a self-published comic book fair that is held
Japan wrestles with popular depictions of girls / page 4
twice a year in Tokyo and attended by more than 500,000 people, manga titles depicting adults having sex with minors were on open display. And they were readily available to fans like Koki Yoshida, age 17. "I don't even think about how old these girls are," Mr. Yoshida said. "It's a completely imaginary world, separate from real life." A few comments from readers:
Also, may I ask who exactly do you propose would be the arbiter of which cartoon figures were "of age?" By what standards would they decide? Seriously, think about the absurdity of such a proposition. I understand and appreciate the visceral responses this subject elicits, but that is no excuse for people to abandon their powers of reason and common sense.
R said: This is totally child pornography. It's not destructive to an individual child as no single girl was forced/coerced into participating in it's production. However - I would argue it's as destructive to children in general as non-cartoon child porn. These cartoons legitimize and encourage dangerous fantasies in their consumers. Who knows what their response in the real world is... Child sexual abuse is under-reported in this country and likely Japan as well. It's difficult to make guesses about the frequency. And really, is anything over 0% acceptable? Question - would you like your brotherin-law reading one around your 9-yearold daughter? Probably not. JM said: It is frightening to me the number of people calling for the criminal prosecution of people for drawing comics. The point of child pornography laws is to protect children from being exploited. Who exactly is being exploited when someone draws a comic? And if your response is that the proliferation of these comics leads to the abuse of actual children, please present statistical evidence, or your response has zero merit.
Craig said: It would be better if the Manga industry agreed to police itself, and discourage the sexualization of fictional minors in manga works. Making something like this into a law will undoubtedly have unforeseen consequences and work to prohibit work that is not intended to be lurid. (Think of how this issue has played out in fiction, e.g. the novel Lolita, which is considered a great work of literature, although it centers explicitly around pedophilia.) The movies of the 13 year old in a bikini, however, are just plain creepy. Nonetheless, I don't see how you could ban them without banning more worthy or more innocent material. Perhaps in addition to the industry policing itself, the best solution would be a Public Awareness campaign that casts the more pedophilic manga and movies in a socially negative light. I feel uneasy, and even somewhat appalled, by the promotion of pedophilia in even fictional works. But we've seen the lesson again and again -- if you censor fiction, you will wind up censoring worthy works of art, and prosecuting creators and collectors of forbidden works who are entirely
Japan wrestles with popular depictions of girls / page 5
innocent of anything more than enthusiasm for a particular art form. After all, there are no real children being harmed here, and it is probably no more an influence on real behavior than violent video games are. Nonetheless, it's a trend that should be discouraged -- but probably not by the force of law.
This revised bill is not about protecting children from sexual exploitation by adults, it is about "protecting" teens (especially girls) from material that shows types of sexuality (teenage, premarital or LGBT) that Ishihara and his ilk disapprove of. I wish the Times had more clearly explained the background and context of this legislation.
Julie said: A key aspect of this legislation, that admittedly was rather glossed over in the article itself: the new Tokyo bill does not *ban* any manga, it merely extends the list of subject matter that make it illegal to sell to persons under 18. Adults can continue to read about whatever they wish; only teenagers are now prohibited from fantasizing about teenagers. I am disappointed that the Times chose to link this bill with material that sexualizes girls; the Times seems to have accepted the argument by Ishihara and his fellow conservatives that this bill targets "extreme sexual content" and exists to protect children from exploitation. But the existing Tokyo Youth Ordinance of 1964 already makes sexually explicit and violent material illegal to sell to minors; this revised legislation exists to allow regulation of non-explicit stories. Positioning this bill as a fight against pedophillic material also ignore the fact that, during the last 15 years, the existing Tokyo ordinance has largely been used to regulate *romance comics targeted to teenage girls*, especially comics that contain LGBT relationships. These comics are not intended for men, are rarely bought by men, and are just as likely to sexualize male characters as female, but have attracted great opposition from conservative groups who do not like the idea of Young Women reading about sexual relationships.
A link to the original story in the NYT: business/global/10manga.html? pagewanted=all Found in the International Herald Tribune, February 10, 2011, front page Headline: Japan wrestles with popular depictions of girls

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