Out of Japan: On a matter of pubic concern

TOKYO - When they were banned in Japan, everyone wanted to see them. Now that the ban has effectively been lifted, they are already becoming passe. In the space of just over two years, heya nudo - nude pictures showing pubic hair - have traversed the horizons of morality and marketability, from the forbidden fruit that was the hottest publishing material in 1991, to today's stale 'body shots' that resort to ever-more outlandish gimmicks to earn space on bookshop shelves.

The latest attempt to tickle the public's fancy is by a fashion photographer, Akira Gomi, who published Yellows Privacy '94 last week. It contains nude shots of 25 young women, accompanied by photographs of the interiors of their flats, their wardrobes, even the contents of their refrigerators and bathroom cabinets. 'I wanted to record their privacy,' Mr Gomi told a magazine.

The ground-breaking 'hair nude' photo-book, which portrayed an 18-year-old Japanese-Dutch actress, came out in 1991. It sold out within days and was followed quickly by one featuring another young actress. The police, who are responsible for controlling pornography, did not attempt to stop the circulation of either book, so the nation's publishers took the cue, and suddenly pubic hair was springing up everywhere.

But the industry quickly discovered how fickle salacious public interest can be. Last year Linda Yamamoto, a 42 year-old singer, thought she would make some extra cash by posing unadorned for a photo book. Soon after it appeared, a radio show in Osaka received complaints from listeners - not about the nudity per se, but about its lack of appeal. The ageing starlet was outraged, and is suing the radio station for 100m yen (pounds 670,000) for defamation, and for damaging the sales of her book.

For decades Japan's obscenity laws contained bizarre contradictions. No publication could show pubic hair or genitals. But rape, under-age sex, graphic depictions of blood and guts: all were tolerated. A minor industry was spawned by the pubic-hair ban: importers of foreign pornographic magazines had to employ teams of people to use wire brushes to scrub out any strand of the forbidden fleece from each page of each magazine.

The police still deny that they have given up the ban on showing pubic hair. According to a spokesman for the National Police Agency, there is still a line of obscenity which they will not allow publishers to cross, although he was vague on where this line is drawn. 'It depends on how the hair nude is depicted, and whether it is artistic or not,' he said.

In theory, the standard for judging whether published material is obscene is a 1957 decision by the Supreme Court on D H Lawrence's novel, Lady Chatterley's Lover. The court ruled that the novel offended the Criminal Code by purposefully stimulating sexual desire, inhibiting the normal sense of sexual shame, and being contrary to a healthy moral sense. The work is still subject to censorship.

But in the wider world of pornography, the idea of a game warden coyly entwining forget-me-nots in the maidenhair of his lover has been far outstripped by snakes, wigs and other stage props.

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

PE Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary PE Teacher (maternity cover) f...

English Intervention Teacher

£23000 - £33000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: English Intervention Teac...

Teacher of Citizenship and RE

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leeds: Teacher of Citizenship and REMaternity L...

English Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary English Teacher for a academy ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments