Censorship

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Censorship
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Japan is an East Asian country. Millions of them practice Shintoism or Buddhism, with a 1% practicing Christianity.

It is a free constitutional monarchy, with a parliamentary democracy.

Imperial censorship (1900-1945)[]

Published media and films were subject to censors in order to promote Fascist national unity.

  • Insulting the Emperor
  • Questioning the Constitution
  • Undermining the proper use of the Japanese language (slang)
  • Anything considered "Anglo-American" (fairly random)

Occupation censorship (1945-1950)[]

On 5 October 1945, MacArthur began censoring Japanese newspapers. Unlike the Meiji censorship, newspapers were not allowed to black out the offending portions; indeed, mentioning the censorship was forbidden even in confidential conversations.

Print censorship[]

  • "False" or "destructive" criticism of the Allies, even truthful reports of them picking up Japanese girls at docks, or reporting crimes committed by Americans
  • Rapes committed by the American soldiers during the occupation of Japan
  • Criticism of the treatment of Japanese in Manchuria
  • Criticism of the Allies' wartime policies
  • Comments suggesting the possibility of a World War III
  • "Overplaying" widespread food shortages

Movies[]

  • Movies deemed nationalistic or patriotic (nearly all prewar movies)
  • The Mikado (1939) - banned until World War II because it could be interpretated as insulting the Emperor
  • The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail - because of the "feudal values"
  • Citizen Kane - apparently for portraying the United States negatively

Books[]

  • Books, textbooks, fiction, etc. that were patriotic, nationalistic, or portrayed wartime generals in a positive light
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • Lady Chatterley's Lover - This novel was determined by the Supreme Court to be legally "obscene" in 1957, after the case having originated in 1951. The Japanese translator Sei Itō and the publisher Kyujiro Koyama were both subjected to fines, and unexpurgated versions of the text could not be legally sold under Paragraph 175 of the Japanese Penal Code,  which bans the sale, publication, and exhibition (but not the possession) of obscene works. The 1951 Chatterley trial, indeed, originated the criteria Japanese courts use to judge whether or not a work is obscene. Versions of the novel sold in Japan from the 1950s through the 1990s had the offending parts replaced with asterisks. From the 1990s onward, uncensored versions of the novel began to be sold. Interestingly, on paper the relevant legislation has not changed, and there has not been a legal case that has officially overturned the 1957 ruling. Rather, prosecutors and the government have taken no action against publishers, resulting in a de facto but somewhat confusing change in Japan's obscenity laws.

Modern censorship[]

Books[]

  • In 1999, Japan's customs authority banned the importation of a book of photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe, despite it having previously been published in the country without incident. In 2008, the Supreme Court overturned the ban.Historian Saburo Ienaga holds the distinction of being the complainant in the longest civil trial in any country on record. In 1965, he sued the Japanese education ministry over its refusal to approve to his history book, which did not shy away from depicting wartime atrocities by the Japanese. Ienaga and his lawyers argued that the refusal to approve the book constituted censorship, though there was never any ban on the sale of the book, just on its use as an official textbook in schools. In 1997, the Supreme Court finally ruled that although no censorship had taken place, the ministry had nonetheless abused its discretion in not approving the book.
  • The Bells of Nagasaki, a nonfiction account of the atomic bombing of that city by a survivor, was initially refused publication under the censorship regime during the American occupation. It was eventually allowed to be published with an accurate but off-topic appendix about atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese tacked onto the end, presumably for "balance". Versions published after the end of the occupation, as well as English translations, generally omit the appendix.
  • Historian Saburo Ienaga holds the distinction of being the complainant in the longest civil trial in any country on record. In 1965, he sued the Japanese education ministry over its refusal to approve to his history book, which did not shy away from depicting war-time atrocities by the Japanese. Ienaga and his lawyers argued that the refusal to approve the book constituted censorship, though there was never any ban on the sale of the book, just on its use as an official textbook in schools. In 1997, the Supreme Court finally ruled that although no censorship had taken place, the ministry had nonetheless abused its discretion in not approving the book.

Manga[]

  • Although not banned in Japan at national level (and never banned from private sales), Barefoot Gen has been banned from libraries at the local level on multiple occasions:
    • In 2012, a right wing group complained to the Matsue city assembly to ban the manga from school libraries because it contained "unsupported" depictions of Japanese atrocities. The city assembly refused to act, but the local school board subsequently moved all copies in local elementary and middle schools to closed shelves, effectively stopping students from reading the work at school. When this action became widely known nationally in 2013, there was a large public outcry. In the ensuing controversy, Japan's education minister commented that he found the ban to be appropriate, though he took no actions himself. In the end, the school board reconvened and unanimously decided to lift the ban, though it is left it to individual schools to decide how they wanted to treat the books.
      • In 2011, the legal guardian of a child complained to the central library of the city of Tottori that it was inappropriate to have a manga "with rape and other sexual depictions in a place where children can reach it." The library removed the work from its shelves and decided to provide it only to those who specifically asked for it. After the scandal in Matsue mentioned above, the library moved the manga back to the shelves.
      • Imouto Paradise 2 - In May 2014, this manga became the first work to officially be restricted as "unhealthy" in Tokyo under the 2010 revisions to the youth law (The Bill 156, amended to the Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance Regarding the Healthy Development of Youths, which came in effect in 2011) for "glorifying incestuous acts".
  • Misshitsu, - In January 2004, the authors Yūji Suwa, Motonori Kishi, and Kōichi Takada were prosecuted for producing and distributing this hentai manga anthology in the first manga-related obscenity trial in Japan. Police reports found the depictions of "genitalia and scenes of sexual intercourse"featured in the manga to have been "drawn in detail and realistically," with the censor bars meant to obscure genitalia and sexual penetration being "less conservative" than usual. Suwa and Takada pled guilty and were fined ¥500,000 each (about US$4,700), with Kishi receiving a one-year suspended prison sentence. After appealing to the Tokyo High Court, Kishi's sentence was reduced to a 1.5 million yen fine (about US$13,750). He then appealed the case to the Supreme Court, arguing that Article 175 violated Article 21 of the Constitution of Japan and its protection of freedom of expression. In its 2007 decision, the Court upheld the guilty verdict, concluding that Misshitsu satisfied the three-part obscenity test and was therefore subject to restriction. After the convictions of Kishi and Suwa, a number of retail bookstores in Japan removed their adults-only section, a phenomenon attributed to the chilling effect of the outcome.
  • Core Magazine - In July 2013, three people related to this Japanese publishing company focused on adult material, were arrested for selling "obscene images" with "insufficient censoring". They later pleaded guilty in December 2013.

Movies[]

In Japan, movies are regulated by Eirin, short for Film Classification and Rating Organization (映画倫理機構, Eiga Rinri Kikō), which classifies films into one of four categories depending on their suitability for viewing by minors of different ages.

From 1976 to May 1, 1998, there were three rating categories:

  • General Audiences (一般指定, Ippan Shitei) - Patrons of all ages are admitted.
  • Limited General Film (一般映画制限付, Ippan Eiga Seigen-tsuki) - Patrons under 15 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. The first Japanese film to use this rating was Ninkyo Gaiden: Genkai Nada (任侠外伝 玄界灘, Ninkyō Gaiden: Genkai Nada, released May 29, 1976) and the first non-Japanese film to use this rating was Snuff(released June 19, 1976), a movie claiming to show actual scenes of homicide.
  • Adult Audiences (成人指定, Seijin Shitei) - Only adults are admitted.


On May 1, 1998 four rating categories were introduced: R15+ and R18+ are restricted categories and it is forbidden to admit an underage patron to a film with a restricted rating as well as rent, sell, or exhibit DVDs/motion picture releases to underage patrons with restricted ratings. Such violations are a criminal offense and strictly enforced.

  • G: General Audiences. All ages admitted.
  • PG12 (PG-12): Parental Guidance Requested. Some material may be unsuitable for children under 12. Parents are advised to accompany their children during the film. May contain violent content, sexual content, use of drugs as well as underage drinking, smoking or driving. Horror movies usually get this rating.

The R15+ and R18+ ratings are age restricted. All cinemas are legally required to check the age of all patrons who wish to view an R15+ or R18+ rated film. Admitting underage patrons to such films is considered a criminal offense and can be punished with fines/imprisonment.[citation needed]

  • R15+ (R-15): Restricted to teenagers 15 and over only. Children and teenagers under the age of 15 are banned from viewing the film. May contain bullying, more extreme violent content, more extreme sexual content, inappropriate language and criminal activity such as the yakuza and crimes of counterfeiting.
  • R18+ (R-18): Restricted to adults 18 and over only. Children and teenagers under the age of 18 are banned from viewing the film. May contain glamorization of violence, explicit sexual activity and glamorization of the use of drugs.

Black Snow - This 1965 pink film movie ,which depicts the lives of prostitutes on the outskirts of a US military base in Tokyo, was the first film to be prosecuted on grounds of obscenity. However, in 1966, the Tokyo District Court ruled the film as "not obscene", with the lower court holding that the defendants, Takechi and Nikkatsu distributor chief Satoru Murakami, were not culpable, as the film had successfully passed Eirin. The ruling was upheld in 1969 at the Tokyo High Court, which deemed that the film was obscene but acquitted the pair on the basis of the approval the film had received from Eirin. The rulings were followed in 1972 by a series of prosecutions against Nikkatsu's Roman Porno film series, which similarly ended in acquittals of Nikkatsu employees in 1978 and 1980 on the basis of Eirin approvals.

In the Realm of the Senses - this film, about the Sada Abe (a geisha and prostitute who murdered her lover and cut off his penis and testicles, carrying them around) incident, was banned for its graphic sex scenes. In 1982, the court ruled in favor of the director Nagisa Oshima, but the film is still available only in a censored cut.

Most Japanese adult videos (JAV) have the genitalia of the actors and actresses censored (but not the breasts and nipples of the actresses) , due to the Article 175 of the Japanese Criminal Code (1907), which has provisions against "indecent material". This censorship applies also to adult publications, as well as to hentai.

Games[]

Any console game containing indecent nudity (e.g. breasts of a female, genitalia) or human dismemberment is not allowed and must be censored to comply with CERO's rating guidelines.

  • None of the Mortal Kombat games since Mortal Kombat Trilogy on the original PlayStation have been localized for the Japanese market due to excessive gore and violence.
  • Pac-Man - This game, which originally was to be known as Puck-Man was changed to Pac-Man in a preemptive measure to avoid defacements of arcades machines by changing the P to an F.
  • No More Heroes - the Japanese release had the blood spatter removed and replaced with a black dust. Decapitation scenes are implied, but not shown. Scenes of missing body parts after having been cut off, are replaced with the same scene, but showing the body parts fully intact. Also its sequel, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, had the violence toned down.

TV shows[]

Anime[]

  • Pokémon: The episode "Electric Soldier Porygon" was infamous for its seizure-inducing strobe effects, which affected hundreds of viewers, most of them children. After being aired only once, the whole series was put on hiatus in Japan for four months, and the government required flashing effects like that to be toned down. The episode itself was banned worldwide. Porygon (and its evolutions) was never seen again in the Pokémon anime.
  • Mr. Arashi's Amazing Freak Show was banned for depicting graphic violence on animals, which was illegal in Japan. It's a miracle it was even made, as no one wanted to sponsor it, and it took the author five years and his entire life's savings to finish it. It did see a limited print run in Japan after the law was overturned.
  • Cowboy Bebop: Initially aired censored on TV, later released uncensored on home video.
  • Gantz: Initially aired censored on TV, later released uncensored on home video. When Gantz was aired on Fuji TV during Summer 2004, the violent/gore scenes were censored, however, on cable TV channel WOWOW, it was aired uncut.
  • Osomatsu-san: Some episodes were edited for reruns and home releases.
  • Due to some facts of true crime news, many networks decided to self-censor themselves by showing the censored version of many anime. One notable example was on 18 September 2007, when Higurashi no Nako Koro ni Kai and School Days had their television airings cancelled due to their violent content, after a 45-year-old police officer was murdered by his 16-year-old daughter with an axe.
  • Moetan: Episode 6 was not aired nationwide, while Chiba TV aired the censored version.
  • Area 88: Some nudity scenes were removed from opening.
  • Girls Bravo: Fuji TV censored the nudity scenes in the baths by digitally placing steam on the female character's bodies, due to this censorship the female protagonists were known as the "steamgirls".
  • Jojo's Bizarre Adventure : When this anime was broadcasted on Tokyo MX, the scenes of underage characters smoking were censored by overlaying black shadows on them.
  • Blood-C: This anime was censored during its original broadcast in Japan due to its bloody violence, a stylistic choice following the series' themes. For instance, scenes were Saya's friends or other humans characters were killed by the Elder Bairns—the process of which invariably involved extensive blood and gore—were censored with areas of light and darkness. However, the deaths of Elder Bairns and mild erotic elements during a bathing scene with Saya were left uncensored.
  • Interspecies Reviewers: This anime was censored during its original airing on AT-X, Later, in February 2020, during its broadcast on Tokyo MX, the network cancelled its airing due to "changes in circumstances within [the station]", while SUN cancelled future airings of the series at the behest of channel company's management.
  • Recently, My Sister is Unusual: During its first broadcasting, this anime was censored as the timeslot chosen to air the episodes had caused controversy in Japan where a decency investigation was launched. The main complaint of the show was Hiyori (one of the main characters) openly talks about masturbation. Following the investigation announcement, Tokyo MX and Sun TV changed the airing time for the episodes to the twilight hours (1:30 - 2:00am local time). The episodes were also censored which included edits to some of the images, while others deemed offensive were blocked out. With the remedies put into place, no additional credible complaints were brought forward.

Western animation[]

  • Most Western Animation that features human characters with Four-Fingered Hands often have trouble making it past Japanese censors due to the social stigma surrounding people with missing fingers, such as Yakuza members. Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters are an exception to this, as Disney holds its own strict "no-editing" policy for foreign distribution similar to Studio Ghibli.

The Simpsons: "Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo" was never broadcasted on Japanese TV and is unavailable on the Japanese version of The Simpsons season 10 DVD release due the offensive and ignorant jokes about Japan and its culture, as well due to a scene considered offensive towards the Emperor of Japan, depicting Homer tossing the then-Emperor Akihito into a bin of sumo thongs (in Japan, the emperor is only allowed to be seen in children's books and in the news), the family having an epileptic fit after seeing an anime (a reference to "Electric Soldier Porygon" above), the family going on a sadistic game show, and the implication that the Hello Kitty factory uses live cats in their products.

The episode "Little Big Mom" was also banned in Japan as a part of the plot involves Lisa tricking Homer and Bart into thinking they have leprosy. Japan has a very controversial history involving discrimination against lepers and to have an episode like that air would be considered offensive (though not as much as "Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo").

Tokusatsu[]

Ultraseven: the episode 12, "From a Planet With Love" was banned in Japan on the grounds that it offended hibakusha (survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who face terrible discrimination in Japan), as the Alien Spell resembled an atom bomb survivor, complete with keloid scars and was referred as "Hibaku Seijin" (A-Bomb Survivor Alien). The episode was regarded as of bad taste and the issue was reported on Asahi Shimbun newspaper, causing public outrage, forcing Tsuburaya Productions to first rename as "Kyuketsu Seijin" (Vampire Alien), to then be removed from official publications, broadcasts and home video releases.

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