Lady Chatarei gives Japanese a taste for DH Rorensu

Omae ga hoshiinowa omanko nandana. Jein fujin ni omanko ga hoshii to ittemina. Jon Tomasu to Jein fujin no omanko da! - ... Suruto kanojo no yureru chibusa ga, kataku tsukkitta penisu ni fure, itteki no ekitai ga tsuita.*

Words like these do not normally make it into family newspapers, and until a few weeks ago they could not have been seen anywhere. They come from Chatarei Fujin no Koibito, last and most famous novel of the great modernist Rorensu. Forty-seven years after a scandalous trial, the adventures of Konii, her paralysed husband, Kurifoodo, and the lusty Meraazu with his mighty Jon Tomasu, have once again become widely available to large numbers of Japanese readers.

The book is, of course, Lady Chatterley's Lover, currently enjoying a new lease of life in a long-censored Japanese translation. Since its unexpurgated publication at the end of last year, it has sold more than 200,000 copies and closed the circle on one of the country's oldest and most celebrated literary controversies.

Official Japanese attitudes to obscenity, as many Western visitors notice, are a jumble of messy contradictions. Last year a British diplomat was jailed for three years for bringing home child pornography which he had purchased - quite legally - during a posting in Tokyo. But censors have only just begun to relax the regulations which forced film distributors to obscure all depictions of pubic hair with fuzzy grey blobs.

Violent, sexually explicit comics (like the one about a predatory superhero, with the helpful title Rape Man) are the staple reading of bored commuters. Yet shunga - erotic prints by 18th century wood-block artists - are routinely excised from exhibitions and catalogues of their work. Just as Japan's history has swung between bristly xenophobia and a promiscuous openness to foreign influences, so public morality combines unabashed tolerance with Victorian prudishness.

Lawrence's work reached Japan during one of the country's most relaxed intellectual periods - the 1920s, when young Bohemians listened to jazz and talked European literature in French-style cafes. A young novelist named Sei Ito, a devotee of Proust and James Joyce, translated the unexpurgated Lady Chatterley at a time when, even in English, it was available only in pirated American editions. The rise of militarism in the 1930s and Japan's catastrophic war prevented its publication; with the defeat of the Imperial Army and the new freedoms of American occupation, however, the moment finally seemed right.

But Ito and his publisher, Hisajiro Oyama, found themselves the victim of another historical about-turn. Chatarei Fujin no Koibito was finally published in 1950 as Japan was becoming a mustering-station for troops headed for the Korean War. Fearful of a Communist revival, the Americans revived many of the powers of the pre-war interior ministry. One of its first targets was the pornography which found a ready market among the thousands of GIs stationed in Japan. At the centre of the campaign, 10 years before the famous Lady Chatterley case in Britain, was the trial of Chatarei Fujin.

The hearings lasted through two appeals and eight years. Finally, the Supreme Court convicted Ito and Oyama, and fined them 100,000 yen each, enough to ruin the publisher. "It was a great strain for my father," says his son, Rei Ito, himself a translator and Lawrence scholar. "He was a sensitive man, and throughout the war he had worried constantly that he would be forced to stop writing by the censors. Now he faced the humiliation of being labelled a pornographer. We got anonymous letters saying things like, 'I hope you die - you did this for the money!'" Ito's future success as a writer, however, was sealed, and he even published a fictionalised account of the case, The Trial, to be reissued this spring.

So traumatic was the trial that, until last year, publishers would only put out the Ito version with 80 pages of excisions. New translations were made, but all except one (a little-known version quietly published in the 1970s), contained cuts. Then last year, Rei Ito translated the rude bits and completed his father's work. "Shortly before my father died he said to me that one day the time will come when the complete manuscript can be published," says Rei Ito. "When the publishers asked me, I wondered if the world really needed one more irrelevant book. But I'm getting old too, and the year before last I had cancer. My father had been thinking about Lady Chatterley's Lover just before he died. Now that it is complete I do feel a sense of relief."

Theoretically the Supreme Court's ruling remains in place, but in the age of Rape Man, even the most conservative public prosecutor would be hard pressed to make a case. "When I went into bookshops, and saw the expurgated translation on the shelves, it was like finding a prehistoric Coelacanth still swimming around," says Rei Ito. "Now the Coelacanth has disappeared. I'm rather sorry to see it go."

*[Mellors, addressing his John Thomas] "'C--t, that's what tha'rt after. Tell Lady Jane tha wants c--t. John Thomas, an' th' c--t o' Lady Jane!- ' ... Her hanging, swinging breasts touched the tip of the stirring, erect phallus, and caught the drop of moisture."

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
health
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Digital Content Officer - Central London - £33,000

£28000 - £33000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive (Digital Marketi...

SSIS/ORACLE DBA

£400 - £401 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SSIS Administrat...

The benefits of being in Recruitment at SThree...

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform