Japan is a very unique country for many reasons – they are very modern, yet quite traditional at the same time. One very particular reason that makes Japan stand out is its adult film industry. The country’s law states that all genitalia has to be blurred in adult genres. Why?
This censorship has started back in 1907’s revision of the Criminal Code. This revision prohibited the depiction of ”obscene” materials through Article 175. These laws are still in effect. Ever since, all adult content had to be censored.
In this article, we will learn more about the relationship between Japanese culture and adult content. We will also dive deeper into the legalities that surround this industry. If you’d like to learn more about the wondrous world of Japan and discover a deeper meaning behind this censorship, then keep on reading.
What Is Censored and How?
All Japanese adult films, including animated ones, contain censored imagery. Filmmakers have to use 8-bit mosaic pixelation to blur out exposed body parts, such as genitalia. Moreover, editors blur out all graphic imagery by hand. That means that the editing process is quite slow and time-consuming.
What makes Japanese censorship quite specific is the fact that editors don’t censor some body parts at all. While artists and actors always have to blur genital areas, they can openly display breasts. The reason can be found in Japanese history. Namely, as observed in Shunga, there is not much difference between drawing male and female chest. This shows that, even during history, the Japanese have never sexualized women’s breasts. In fact, it was not so uncommon for women to be topless in Japan.
Moreover, Japanese artists still make uncensored content. However, they either have to film it outside the country or sell it in foreign markets. Regardless of the criminal code and censorship, the Japanese adult film industry is still among the most popular in the world. What sets it apart is the fact that it’s unique, colorful, and unlike any other. Some would argue that it encourages fetishism. Let’s learn more about it.
Legalities Surrounding the Japanese Adult Film Industry
As we have briefly touched on before, exposing private parts in Japanese adult genres is prohibited by law. Article 175 of the Japanese Penal Code states that it is unlawful to share any indecent materials. Blurring private areas was just a nifty way for artists to cheat the system.
Moreover, many Japanese adult film companies work closely with ethical associations to ensure that their content is legal. These associations help artists with determining what is acceptable. Some of them include:
- Nihon Ethics of Video Association
- The Ethics Organization of Computer Software
- Contents Soft Association
The Relationship Between Japanese Culture and Adult Genres
In modern-day Japan, the culture has become less tolerant of nudity and erotic imagery. As we have already mentioned, censorship is a big part of today’s adult film industry. However, the relationship between modern Japanese culture and adult genres is more peculiar than you might think.
What makes this particular relationship quite interesting is the fact that it wasn’t always like this. Before the westernization of Japan during the 19th century, the country used to be more progressive in their views of adult content. Soon after, the government forbade some traditional Japanese practices. One of these traditions was Shunga.
Shunga is a form of traditional Japanese erotica. This art form entails printing various motives with a sexual connotation onto certain materials. Artists used to sell their shunga art either as scrolls, wooden blocks, or books. It portrayed traditional Japanese heterosexual couples during sexual intercourse. In fact, Japan viewed this as a regular art form before it was banned in 1722.
However, even though the country banned this art form, it has still had a vast impact on modern art, such as manga. Moreover, some experts think that Japan’s popular tentacle adult film genre originates from Shunga.
The History of Adult Genres in Japan
To understand Japan’s unusual practice of blurring out private parts, we have to dive deeper into the history of adult content. We will discuss two important eras – before and during the 20th century.
Before the 20th Century
In the past, the main source of adult content was Shunga, erotic material that shows heterosexual couples in explicit positions. After the Meiji restoration in the second part of the 19th century, this industry became weaker and less popular. Back then, all materials deemed injurious to public morals were banned. This is considered to be the start of today’s genitalia censorship.
During the 20th Century
In 1907, Article 175 was introduced. Regardless, the late Taisho and early Showa periods are responsible for the popularization of grotesque erotic magazines, news articles, and literature. At this time, sexual scenes were allowed in manga and novels, but not movies. It is famous for the Ero guro nansensu movement. The name of this movement is a combination of the following words – erotic, grotesque, and nonsense.
During the 60s, independent filmmakers started producing pink films, while during the 80s, when television was introduced into Japanese homes, the popularity of adult content increased. VHS took over and the doujinshi market expanded. However, Article 175 was still in place, meaning that censorship was present even back then.
Is There a Connection Between Japan’s Birthrate Decline and Censorship?
Currently, there is a huge debate about whether uncensored adult content is necessary. This stems from the fact that fear of adult content is ingrained in Japanese society. Namely, Politifact states that around 46% of women and 25% of men between 16-24 are repulsed by the idea of intercourse. Moreover, nearly 40% of Japanese millennials and 30% of individuals that are in their 30s have never had intercourse.
For these reasons, the Japanese government is facing a huge decline in the birth rate. This is often connected to the statistics we have mentioned above. The question arises – would the situation be different if Japan didn’t censor adult genres?
Although we can’t fully confirm the correlation between the two, there are some things to think about. Censorship silently states that showing off body parts is immoral. Since many Japanese individuals are ashamed and scared of thinking about anything sex-related, would things be different if they were fully exposed to it from the start?
The Unethical Side of Japanese Adult Genres
Because male adult genre actors aren’t as present as female, there have been some valid concerns in recent years. The public accused this multi-billion dollar industry of exploiting young women. In recent years, there have been over 130 cases of women seeking help after alleged sexual abuse.
Many women claim that directors forced them to engage in unprotected sexual activities for longer periods of time. This stems from fraudulent contracts that often target inexperienced minors. Malicious individuals scout women on the streets, promising fame and glory. Once they lure the victim in, they make them sign contracts.
After the victims realize the gravity of the situation and try to exit, malicious individuals threaten them with lawsuits. This has led to many cases of suicide. Luckily, a lot of organizations are working towards creating a safer environment for Japanese adult entertainers.
Politician Yamada Taro Proposes a New Law
Yamada Taro, a Japanese politician, proposed changes to Article 175. He encourages the Japanese government to stop censoring hentai and other adult content. Article 175 strictly prohibits all distribution and sale of indecent content. That is why creators have to censor all private parts before publishing.
He gave speeches through the internet and appealed to the otaku vote. Otaku is a name for individuals who are obsessive fans of manga and anime. Other than the support from his followers, Yamada didn’t get many other responses. The fear of change is ingrained in Japanese society, which is precisely why this movement is still in its early stages.
Famous Japanese Adult Sub-Genres
Although Japan prohibits the display of genital areas, its adult film industry is booming. It is as popular internationally as it is domestically. Some popular sub-genres include:
- Hentai – adult animated erotica
- Lolicon – animated erotica that involves prepubescent and adolescent girls
- Shotacon – animated erotica that involves prepubescent and adolescent boys
- Yaoi – homosexual erotica
- Bara – similar to Yaoi. Features adult men of all shapes and sizes
- Yuri – displays adult homosexual relationships
Adult Genres in Japan Through Different Industries
Adult content is still present in many Japanese publications. Artists are always finding new ways to abide by the law, while not compromising the erotic value of their work. Let’s compare the presence of adult genres in different types of media.
There is a specific genre of adult video games in Japan. These games are known as bishojo games, which translates to ”pretty girl games.” They are also popular internationally, in the form if sim-dating games. Companies like JAST USA and MangaGamer translate these games into English in hopes of popularizing the market even more.
The internet enables artists and producers to distribute their content more freely. The most common form of internet adult genre is fan fiction fan-fiction. Writers often use a text form to promote their content or to offer secret places where users could buy additional work. Moreover, there are a couple of different adult search engines. These engines enable users to find adult content with more ease.
There is a specific sub-genre of anime that deals with adult content. This is known as Hentai, an extremely popular adult content form worldwide. Hentai follows a similar format to video editions, but includes more fantasy-like motives. The word hentai means transformation. However, in this context, it translates to ”perverse manner.”
Besides videos, magazines remain the most popular form of sharing, receiving, and distributing adult content. Although they have to follow censorship rules, this still remains a very sought-after type of adult content. Companies seal all adult magazines so minors wouldn’t be able to look through them. However, a lot of other non-adult magazines often feature nudity in some shape or form. Unless they contain explicit images of genital areas, they are okay to distribute.
5 Interesting Facts About the Japanese Adult Genre Industry
Although the reasoning behind indecency is very complex in Japan, its citizens are still fans of adult content. In fact, Japan’s adult content industry is very prolific. Here are five interesting facts that will make you raise an eyebrow.
1. Collecting Adult Star Cards
Fans of Japanese adult stars collect mini polaroid images of their favorite adult stars, just like baseball cards. During adult expos in Japan, fans always bring instant cameras to take pictures and increase their collections. The Japanese call these images cheki. They later ask these actresses to sign the cards so they would collect or trade them.
2. There Aren’t Any Professional Male Adult Actors in Japan
When it comes to Japanese adult films, due to genitalia censorship, male adult actors are severely underpaid. In fact, in the beginning, they only earn 1,000 yen per movie. That is equivalent to circa $10. Some sources estimate that there are currently less than a hundred men working in this industry. However, the ones that manage to gain popularity have better earnings and more fame.
3. Japanese People Love Interacting with Their Favorite Adult Stars
The Japanese adult genre industry organizes yearly expos where they display new work. These expos sell a lot of merchandise, ranging from t-shirts to DVDs and other memorabilia. However, the most lucrative part are meet and greets.
Namely, fans often pay significant sums of money to meet their favorite adult stars. For a certain price, they can purchase services such as petting, slapping, padlocking, etc. At the Japan Adult Expo, there are even vending machines that offer wrist slaps from famous performers. The vending machine tickets cost around $5. Moreover, fans can also purchase worn underwear for circa $30.
4. Virtual Reality Has Become Huge in the Adult Industry
Virtual Reality has been taking over the world in recent years. The adult film industry is no exception. There are dozens of Japanese companies that offer adult VR experiences. To make the matter even more interesting, people claim that these VR companies should offer less erotic content. However, many also think that this virtual reality trend is just that, a trend. They predict that it won’t gain a huge cult following and that it will eventually dissipate.
5. Prolific Fans Spend a Lot of Money on Adult Content
Prolific fans of superheroes love the ”Geek” genre, making this a very lucrative adult film market. This trend entails women wearing fantasy, princess, or superhero outfits. These geek-themed booths are among the most popular at adult genre expos in Japan. Companies claim that an average fan can spend up to $100 per month on these adult movies and merchandise.
The most popular geek-themed content includes Sailor Moon and similar fantasy editions. Fantasy models are also a huge part of this industry. Companies advertise them as true geeks, meaning that they have to learn about the culture. At adult expos, fans can ask questions about comics, video games, or anime, and they will receive a detailed response.
Is Watching Adult Content Legal in Japan?
Yes, watching adult content in Japan is legal. However, censorship is an issue that all fans have to deal with. Artists have to pixelate certain body parts, such as male and female genitalia. On the other hand, actresses can display their breasts freely.
Why Does Japan Censor Cockroaches?
Japan’s censorship is wider than the adult genre industry. The true reasoning behind this type of censorship is unknown. However, many say that this happens because the Japanese perceive cockroaches as filthy.
There is a shroud of mystery surrounding the Japanese adult genre industry. Contradictions raise a lot of questions but don’t yield many answers. How is it possible that Japan has a very prolific adult industry, regardless of the censorship? Why do they approve of some other strange activities, but blur privates?
The culture in Japan is very different, and this has been the case throughout history. Some beliefs are deeply ingrained into their society, and they value tradition. That is precisely why these customs are difficult to change. However, there have been recent efforts to eradicate this type of censorship as well. We will see what the future holds. Until then, we should respect their culture, their beliefs, and their system.