|Japan Today||Login | Register||Visit our Forum | Japan Today Friends >>|
what is rss?
Japan Today Mobile
Terms | Moderation | Privacy
On June 16, the Tokyo High Court reduced the punishment handed down by the lower court and fined Motonori Kishi, president of publisher Shobunkan, 1.5 million yen. In January 2004, the Tokyo District Court had found Kishi guilty on charges of obscenity and sentenced him to one year in prison, subject to three years probation.
The center of the controversy, reports Tsukuru (August) was over "Misshitsu" (closed room), an adult comic. Kishi's attorney had argued that while the comic contained illustrations depicting sexual acts, the contents did not differ appreciably from those on legally sold videos or DVDs which contained photographs performers engaged in similar acts. Had the lower court's sentence stood, any subsequent violation, even a traffic offense, could have resulted in Kishi being obliged to serve out the full sentence in prison.
The defense maintained that Article 175 of the Criminal Code ("A person who distributes or sells a pornographic writing, picture or other object ... shall be punished with imprisonment at forced labor for not more than two years or fined ...) contravenes freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution.
The current criteria for prosecuting obscenity were established by the courts based on the translation of "Lady Chatterley's Lover," the case for which was argued in 1957.
The prosecutors had maintained that Misshitsu contained few elements showing any intention toward espousing "artistic or philosophical values." (Along with conventional sex scenes, the comic contains steamy depictions of rapes, sadomasochism and other behavioral aberrations. In some frames, male and female genitalia are depicted in realistic close-ups seldom seen outside of medical textbooks.)
But because Misshitsu was displayed in zoned areas of bookshops and labeled as adult reading matter, the defense argued, there was little chance it would offend so-called "average readers," let alone minors.
Shobunkan decided to appeal the High Court's verdict to the Supreme Court.
At a press conference following the High Court's verdict, Kishi told reporters about his legal difficulties, beginning with the freezing of his company's assets at the time charges were filed in 2002. "More than me personally, the authorities were bent on intimidating my employees and comic illustrators," he said. "I'm somewhat relieved that the sentence has been reduced to a fine. And I really appreciate everyone's support."
During the slightly less than three years since charges were filed, Shobunkan sales declined by some 30% but the company has managed to stay afloat.
The Shobunkan case, of course, has wider implications for Japan's publishing and book retailing trades. In a statement denouncing the High Court's verdict, a group of 90 small and medium-sized publishers asserted their position that Article 175 of the Criminal Code contravened the constitutional right to free expression, and that while constraints on undesirable publications "which cause personal injury through discriminatory teachings" could be handled through other laws, attempts by the authorities to determine what is obscene and to keep it out of readers' hands was "fundamentally wrong" and would "constitute controls over what can and cannot be published."
The second book covering Shobunkan's ongoing saga, "Hakkin Shobun: Waisetsu Comic Saiban Part II" was published last month by Michi Shuppan.
August 9, 2005