The early post-war period (1952-70)
Takahashi Tetsu (1907—70) was the most prominent of a number of popular sex writers who took advantage of the new more open rhetorical climate during the Occupation to discuss previously taboo sexual topics, particularly marital sexuality, in the press. Takahashi was a well- known public intellectual and commentator on sexual issues from the late 1940s right up to his death. Hence, when he was accused by police in 1954 of profiting from the distribution of obscene publications, the case received widespread media interest. Unlike most publishers who were subject to police surveillance, Takahashi was prosecuted not for disseminating erotic fiction, but for publishing the ostensibly true sexual life histories of members of a private study society dedicated to Freudian analysis. The case, which he lost, dragged on for 15 years due to his appeal against the original verdict (Yamamoto 1994: 35—37).
Although he had penned a number of academic articles on the Freudian analysis of sexuality during the wartime period, it was not until censorship restrictions on sexual expression were relaxed during the Occupation that Takahashi was able to fully explore his interest in sexual issues with the founding of the magazine Aka to kuro (Red and black), later renamed Ningen fukko (Human renaissance) in 1946 (Yamamoto 1994: 31). In the magazine, Takahashi argued that the category of obscenity was not an indigenous Japanese idea but had been imported into Japan alongside other ideas lifted from the Prussian constitution at the beginning of the Meiji period. He was criticised, especially by right-wing thinkers, for bringing to light Japan’s own diverse sexual history in his publications. He was an avid collector of Edo-period sex manuals and erotic prints and through a series of articles and even full length dictionaries concerning fuzoku (sexual customs), Takahashi sought to bring back into contemporary discourse a lost vocabulary of love-making from previous generations. Inspired by the pioneering work of Yamamoto Senji and the recent release of the Kinsey report, in the early 1950s Takahashi argued that disseminating knowledge about people’s actual sexual behaviour was more important than moralistic pronouncements about ideal behaviour by state officials.
It was not, however. Takahashi’s popular journalism or his commercially published books and magazines that got him into trouble with the police but rather the members’ only (kaiinsei) magazine Seishin repOto (Life and mind report), which he began in 1953. This was a periodical made up of original research and contributions by members of the Nihon seikatsu shinri gakkai or ‘Study group for the psychology of Japanese lifestyles’ founded by Takahashi in 1950. The early 1950s was an important period which saw a wide range of members’ clubs founded for the ‘study’ of sexuality, particularly non-normative sexualities. Many of these clubs produced their own members-only magazines. These magazines were largely uncensored by their editors, allowing contributors to discuss sexuality in explicit terms that would have been impossible in commercial publications. Takahashi was by no means alone in his attempts to render the full spectrum of sexuality visible, but he was among the most prominent and successful. It was probably his prominence and the fact that he addressed mainstream as well as niche audiences that made him a target for police investigation.
In 1954 an obscenity prosecution was commenced against Takahashi, as publisher and distributor, based on material that appeared in Seishin repoto. The police also investigated a number of club members, requisitioning their personal details as part of the operation. Found guilty and fined at the conclusion of the first court case in 1963, Takahashi ceased publication of the magazine in 1964. He took his appeal to the High Court, which upheld the guilty verdict in 1970, just one year before his death (Yamamoto 1994: 35—37). What is interesting about this prosecution is that the bulk of the magazine was dedicated to an analysis of taiken kiroku. These were ‘records of actual [sexual] experiences’ volunteered or collected by members. Some of these experiences are quite disturbing, such as those detailing the sexual activities of former Japanese soldiers. Indeed in 1992 many of these narratives from Seishin repoto were gathered together by human rights academic Yamamoto Naohide and published as a book entitled Senjo de no heishi no ‘sekushuariti’ (Soldiers’ ‘sexuality’ on the battlefield; Yamamoto 1993). The sex acts described had occurred overseas and remained outside the purview of the Japanese law, but their narration and dissemination through the printed word became a criminal act according to paragraph 175 governing obscene publications.
In his defence Takahashi argued that the membership fee was only to cover the cost of printing and distribution of the magazine and that since it was clearly a research-related venture meant for a small audience, it should not constitute the offence of distributing obscene materials for profit as defined in the legislation. More importantly, however, he contested the obscenity charge on the grounds that the material in question was circulated for ‘scientific’ purposes and thus its production and dissemination could not constitute obscenity. He argued that attempts by the police to interfere with his scientific inquiries were a human rights violation in conflict with the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 21 of the post-war constitution. Takahashi had some justification for making this claim since membership was vetted and only those applicants who provided their resume, details of family background, reasons for wanting to join the society and proof of age were permitted to join. More controversially, however, applicants also had to supply an account of their own sexual histories — excerpts from which could be published in the magazine and used for purposes of analysis.
The prosecution countered that it was the very raw nature of the sexual histories supplied and reprinted in the magazine that rendered the publication obscene and that the psychoanalytic commentary on these narratives by Takahashi did not change the fact of their basic obscenity. It was also pointed out that membership of the organisation was available to ‘people in general’ and that investigation showed that, as well as educated persons such as ‘school teachers, union officials and museum curators’, there were ‘salary men and even a farmer and a tofu seller’. Hence the long-standing concern over the class of person accessing this material was once again at the forefront of the prosecution’s case.