Pornography in Japan . Censorship Laws
The religious and social taboo against nudity has historically been weaker in Japan than in the West: "pillow books" detailing sexual acts were widely sold in the Edo era, and women and men routinely worked in the nude and bathed in public up to, and even after, the Meiji Restoration. While in Western society nudity has typically been a taboo, that idea entered Japan only after Meiji-era and how deep that idea is rooted is argued. Extreme public nudity, such as showing the genital area, would nevertheless be prosecuted in Japan (except in public baths). Japan has only had one or two nudist beaches, and these were private.
In Japan, under Article 175 of the Criminal Code of Japan people who sell or distribute obscene materials can be punished by fines or imprisonment. Article 175 was included in the original document in 1907 and remains relatively unchanged.. Finding a workable definition for obscene has sparked much controversy over the last century. It is not uncommon for pictorial magazines to depict nude women with their genitalia airbrushed over in black, and video pornography routinely depicts explicit sex scenes with the participants' genitalia obscured by mosaics. Until the 1990s, the entire pubic region, including hair, was deemed obscene and unpublishable. The publication of Waterfruit and Santa Fe by Kishin Shinoyama marked the first widely distributed publications to feature pubic hair. Many video production companies belong to ethical associations which provide guidance on what is acceptable and what is not. NEVA and CERO are examples of two such organizations. In 2007, the police have started to prosecute webmasters who allow uncensored pictures on their sites.
Recent controversies have frowned upon both pubic hair and even genitalia itself being displayed in works of art and in educational settings.
It is also illegal to bring pornographic material into Japan, and customs agents are known for checking videotapes in international mail and hand baggage. Extreme cases, like multiple offenders or attempts at commercial importation, could be punished by fines but most merely have their contraband confiscated. Applications of this law did not change in recent years, but more offenders are caught in recent years as checks became tighter to prevent the drug trade and terrorism.
There is also a thriving genre of underground pornography in Japan (called urabon) that ignores these censorship laws; it has become especially prevalent on the Internet, as there are no mechanisms in place to prevent its transmission from Japanese nationals to the outside world.