waisetsu, meishi, kichiku

Aaron Gerow gerow at ynu.ac.jp
Thu Dec 17 21:59:23 EST 1998

Udo wrote:

>One more question to Aaron. You mentioned Image Forum, and that they
>usually have no problems with the grosser stuff they screen. However,
>we've had one of their prods here at the Berlin Film Fest this year,
>Kichiku Dai Enkai, and it was repeatedly claimed in context with this
>definitely hard-to-swallow picture that exhibition in Japan was possible
>only under the condition that a doctor would be present during all
>screenings. Some friends have told me, however, that this was not true,
>so I'd like to ask you if you've heard anything about this.

The theater that showed _Kichiku_ in Tokyo was Eurospace, a Shibuya 
theater that specializes in more indie foreign and Japanese films.  Since 
I did not cover the film, I don't have all the information, but I do 
recall it was shown in a regular release with those under-15 prohibited.  
The film first caused a hubbub at the Pia Film Festival when it won the 
jun-grand prix even though it was not shown to a regular audience during 
the festival because of its content.  What I am not certain of, however, 
is whether or not it was submitted to Eirin for approval.  The press info 
said it was not cut for its theatrical release.

What I have not read is any statement that it could only be shown under 
the condition that a doctor was present.  Sounds like something William 
Castle would come up with as a way to sell his schlock films, but I don't 
think we've found a Japanese Castle here.

Anyone with more accurate info?

On another note, its nice to see a lot of discussion about one of my 
favorite topics: censorship.  One of the big issues that has come up is 
how censorship, as well as sexual representation in cinema in general, 
does or does not represent Japanese cultural attitudes towards sexuality. 
 While there are those who like to argue that strict censorship of 
sexuality in Japan is the product of its Westernization, as if that has 
repressed some inherent sexual "liberalism" in an "original" Japanese 
culture, I'm glad several posters have pointed out how prewar and even 
pre-Meiji censorship was just as strict.  Remember that the American 
Occupation actually liberalized cinematic depictions of sexuality such as 
kissing, etc.  It is quite true that Meiji regulations of sexual 
representation were greatly influenced by the attempt to emulate Western 
attitudes, but it is in cases where such Western attitudes seemingly 
conflicted--such as in the furor that arose when the first nude yoga 
(Western painting) were produced and shown in Japan (the West, supposedly 
frowning upon nudity, nonetheless puts it forward as an exemplar of 
beauty)--that one sees a more complex set of political and cultural 
orientations that cannot simply be reduced to "Western emulation."  
Buruma's mention of power is one issue, but it also relates, I think, to 
the construction of subjectivity under the emperor system.

>From a more personal angle, I simply don't think that any culture in 
which used high-school girls' panties are sold at stores, where SM and 
rape fantasy is a major part of the porn industry, where chikan is a 
genre in itself, where tosatsu (hidden camera shots of women undressing 
which are being sold in video stores) is running rampant, etc., is free 
of sexual hang-ups, nor do I think these "aberrations" are merely the 
result of Western repressions.  I also can't agree with a comment I still 
find prevalent in anthropological accounts of Japan which says there is 
no sense of guilt or shame over sex.  Just look at some of the first 
manga in the late 1960s and early 1970s to depict sex (and one of the 
problems with Anne Allison's account of sex in manga is that she doesn't 
look at this), one sees a consistent pattern of dividing abnormal and 
normal sexuality and punishing the former.  The first _Rupan III-sei_ did 
feature a James-Bond figure who always bedded the girl, but the tone soon 
changed as the manga continued so that Lupin was punished almost every 
time he had sex (that becoming the source of humor).  When it came to 
central works like _Harenchi gakuen_ and _Gakideka_, manga consistently 
divided its characters into those interested in rape, chikan, and sexual 
penetration, who were defined as abnormal and the subject of punishment 
(in _Harenchi_, a punishment extending to death), and those involved in a 
more innocent, adolescent sexuality which at best involves only (often 
consensual) peeping and feeling (and not penetration).  The battle 
between the two became the source of entertainment, with the latter 
always winning out. Of course, these depictions of sexuality are more 
complex than this, articulated as they were through the restrictions of 
genre and market, such that one must treat these representations as only 
figuring in as one facet of the representation of sexuality in Japan, but 
I do think this urges us to see a web of sexual attitudes in Japan more 
complex than seemingly liberalized "guilt-free" feelings.

Aaron Gerow
Associate Professor
International Student Center
Yokohama National University
79-1 Tokiwadai
Hodogaya-ku, Yokohama 240-8501
E-mail: gerow at ynu.ac.jp
Phone: 81-45-339-3170
Fax: 81-45-339-3171

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