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.

News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
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

EBD Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Science Teacher Greater Manchester

Humanities Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Humanities teacher required for ...

English Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: ENGLISH TEACHER REQUIRED - Humbe...

Chemistry Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: We are looking for a Qualified C...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
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