Police executed search warrants on an unspecified number of producers in the greater Tokyo metropolitan area who are suspected of distributing obscene material, and searched the offices of the Nihon Ethics of Video Association (NEVA) in Tokyo’s Chuo Ward as an “accessory” to the alleged obscenity distribution crimes.
According to the Sankei Shimbun, the police investigation involves 20 video manufacturers and distributors in the Tokyo area who are suspected of producing and/or selling videos that contain “obscene depictions of sexual organs.”
The raid follows NEVA’s relaxing of restrictions on adult movies in June, when NEVA lifted its ban on displays of pubic hair. Tokyo police decided that some material that is acceptable under the revised standards adopted by NEVA go beyond what is allowed under Japanese law, which forbids any commercial distribution of material that displays sexual organs on film and in print.
Despite the fact that Article 21 of the Japanese constitution guarantees that “no censorship shall be maintained” by the Japanese government, the Japanese government historically has used public hygiene laws to restrict the distribution of obscene materials, according to a comparative study of Japanese and American law written by legal scholar Lawrence Ward Beer.
Under Article 175 of Japan’s revised 1907 Criminal Code, “A person who distributes or sells an obscene writing, picture or other object or who publicly displays the same, shall be punished with imprisonment ... or a fine.”
The same punishment applies to possession of obscene materials with the intent to sell such material. Under Article 175, obscenity in any form cannot be sold, loaned or distributed to the public in any way, or for any reason.
Further complicating the distribution of sexually explicit material in Japan is the fact that the definition of “obscene” is even more unclear under Japanese law than under the Miller test for obscenity that guides U.S. law.
According to Kawashima Takeyoshi, author of “The Japanese Mind: Essentials of Japanese Philosophy and Culture,” neither government officials or even the Japanese courts are legally obligated to define what constitutes “obscene” material, as they are granted broad authority to protect the “public welfare” in whatever way they find appropriate.
It is not yet clear whether any charges will be filed against the producers, distributors or NEVA stemming from Thursday’s raids in Tokyo; according to the Sankei Shimbun, the police currently are “investigating how the confiscated material should be examined.”