The Occupation period 1945-52
One of the first edicts delivered by the Supreme Command for the Allied Powers (SCAP) after the surrender of August 1945 required the dismantling of the Japanese censorship system (Rubin 1988: 169). The Press Code for Japan, announced in September 1945, provided an extensive list of guidelines for prohibited material — mainly focusing on militarist propaganda, political issues and criticism of the Allies. The Code made no mention of erotic or pornographic content, as it was considered the job of the Japanese police to survey such materials.
Despite embarking on a supposedly democratising mission, SCAP maintained strict censorship over all media and other forms of expression in Japan. Unlike the Japanese imperial censorship system which was at least open about the fact that censorship took place, information about the censorship system set up by SCAP was itself censored. Two agencies in particular were charged with carrying out surveillance of Japanese media. The Civil Censorship Detachment (CCD) was entrusted with rooting out ideologies associated with the militarist regime through pre-publication screening of all Japanese print media. Its remit also included the screening of some mail and telecommunications. The Civil Information and Education Section (CIE), on the other hand, had the task of encouraging democratic thought through intervening in the education system and pre-production stages of the media so as to ensure that ideas approved of by SCAP were properly embedded (McLelland 2012: 59—65). In direct contrast to the previous regime, SCAP actually encouraged the incorporation of images of romance in popular culture as a means of challenging feudal ideas about family relations. In fact the CIE sometimes intervened to request the ‘democratic’ display of kissing in Japanese movies (Hirano 1992: 155).
One result of SCAP’s focus on political over erotic content in the media was that six months after Japan’s defeat, a vivacious print culture known as kasutori or ‘the dregs’, emerged as a conspicuous forum for the discussion of sex and eroticism. Christine Marran argues that rather than oppose this development, the Japanese cabinet actually ‘cooperated with the new government to create the ‘3-S’ strategy, that allowed, even promoted what were called ‘the three S’s of sports, screen and sex’ as a means of distracting the population (Marran 2007: 138). Between 1946 and the end of the decade hundreds of titles and thousands of editions of pulp magazines and newspapers were produced, discussing such things as sex-starved war widows, cross-dressing male prostitutes, and striptease shows. Alongside these pulp titles were more academic treatments, including marital sex guides, dedicated to instruction in the arts of romantic love (McLelland 2012: 136—45). This latter genre included fufu seikatsu or ‘conjugal couple’ lifestyle magazines which were the first to offer detailed explanations of male and female sexual functioning for a popular audience as well as offering advice on birth control. The previous taboo on discussions of marital sexuality was able to be overcome during the Occupation period because of SCAP’s encouragement of a new rhetorical environment which positioned the ‘liberation’ of Japanese women, reform of family law, and sex education in the context of wider discussions about democratisation and freedom (McLelland 2012: 74—85). The comparative openness of sex talk in the media, including so-called ‘abnormal’ sexuality, was further enhanced by the release in 1948 of Alfred Kinsey and associates’ encyclopaedic investigation of American men’s sex lives, entitled Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (Kinsey et al. 1948). Kinsey’s findings, including discussions of premarital sexual behaviour, commercial sex and homosexuality, were widely reported in the Japanese press and the 1950 Japanese translation of the volume (Kinzei 1950) became a best seller (McLelland 2012: 89-93).
As noted above, SCAP largely left the regulation of erotic expression to the Japanese police, a duty that they had been used to performing since the police did not see their role as simply that of preserving public safety, but also the preservation of the country’s honour (Kushner 2006: 67). Furthermore, as Ann Sherif notes, ‘For the Japanese government officials and the police, SCAP’s relatively loose policy on sexually explicit materials meant that the local authorities could stand as the “authorizer of discourse” for at least one facet of society — the regulation of sexual expression’ (Sherif 2009: 74). It was in January 1947 that, for the first time in the postwar period, the police laid charges of obscenity against an author and publisher for contravening paragraph 175 of the Criminal Code. The charges were prompted by two articles in the December 1946 edition of the magazine RyOki (Curiosity hunting). One, a story entitled ‘Mrs. Captain H’, dealt with an adulterous affair between a student and a soldier’s wife, and the other ‘Humorous tales of dynastic lust’, concerned the goings on among past Emperors’ concubines. Given that there were many hundreds of other equally scurrilous stories in circulation, it is not entirely evident why these specific stories were singled out. Since, as was usual in these cases, the publisher agreed to pay a fine and publish an apology, the matter did not proceed to court, so we do not have access to the police argument detailing why these specific narratives were considered obscene. Later commentators, however, have surmised that it was not the detail of the erotic descriptions so much as the status of the protagonists that was at issue. ‘Mrs Captain H’ was a tale of adultery involving the wife of a military commander while the tales of misadventure among the Emperor’s consorts ‘touched on the topic of the imperial family’ (Hasegawa 1978: 34). Hasegawa Takuya suggests that the story about ‘Mrs Captain H’ (whose name is a homophone of the Japanese term ecchi meaning ‘lecherous’) caused concern because those charged with dealing with obscenity in the Metropolitan Police Department in 1947 were still under the sway of wartime ideologies mandating respect for imperial soldiers and decrying ‘moral decline’. Furthermore, adultery on the part of wives or with a married woman was still a touchy subject since these had long been considered criminal acts and were not removed from the Criminal Code until October 1947 (Hasegawa 1978: 34). Since neither adultery nor imperial concubines were ofideological concern to the CCD, Japanese commentators have argued that the prosecution of these topics was a gesture of independence by the Japanese police in respect to the censorship of sexual mores.
Adultery once again emerged as a core concern just three years later when in 1950 both the Japanese translator and the publisher of D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover were charged with profiting from an obscene work under paragraph 175. Unlike the author and publisher of ‘Mrs Captain H’ who admitted their guilt and paid a fine in order to avoid a full-scale prosecution, the two defendants rejected the charge and so the Lady Chatterley case proceeded to court. The book was eventually found to be obscene in both the original 1952 verdict and the subsequent 1957 appeal. There are some interesting similarities between the two texts in question — both involved adultery on the part of the wives of war veterans, undertaken for their own pleasure, with social inferiors. It was this infidelity of war veterans’ wives that seems to have touched a nerve. As Kirsten Cather points out, ‘the prosecutor seemed equally concerned with condemning the character Lady Chatterley for committing adultery as he did with indicting the defendants’ (2012: 29). The judges seemed to concur, noting that texts such as Lady Chatterley ‘possess the danger of inducing a disregard for sexual morality and sexual order’ and it was therefore beholden to the courts to ‘protect society from moral corruption’ (cited in Cather 2012: 63, 65).
The singling out of ‘Mrs Captain H’ and Lady Chatterley for prosecution indicates that in the early post-war period the purpose of censorship, as conceived by both the police and the court system, was still tied up with protecting the nation from socially disruptive forms of sexual expression. This can clearly be seen again in what was to become one of the longest obscenity trials in Japanese history: the prosecution of popular sexologist Takahashi Tetsu.