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Tokyo cops rap weekly magazines over publication of ‘obscene’ erotic prints

Prints by Kitagawa Utamaro were among those called into question by police
Prints by Kitagawa Utamaro were among those called into question by police
TOKYO (TR) – Tokyo Metropolitan Police have warned the editorial departments of four weekly magazines over the publication of erotic images dating back centuries, it was learned on Monday, reports public broadcaster NHK (Oct. 19).

According to police, the publication of shunga, or erotic woodblock prints, inside magazines Shukan Post, Shukan Taishu, Shukan Gendai and Shukan Asahi Geino along with nude photographs of contemporary women on separate pages could be viewed as “obscene” under the law.

The production of shunga works reached its peak during the Edo Period (1603-1867). While similar in artistic style to ukiyo-e works, which often show courtesans and natural scenes, shunga pieces are highly explicit, typically featuring couples engaged in various sexual positions.

Earlier this month, Shukan Bunshun suspended its editor over the publication of three shunga works. One piece published by the magazine was Katsushika Hokusai’s “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife,” which depicts a woman being sexually pleasured by an octopus. In the case of Shukan Bunshun, no images of nude women accompanied the pieces.

The pieces published by Shukan Bunshun were as a part of an introduction to a shunga exhibit now underway at the Eisei Bunko Museum in Bunkyo Ward. The exhibit prohibits visitors under 18 years of age from entering.

Shukan Post Aug. 21-28
The Aug. 21-28 issue of Shukan Post included a special feature on shunga prints
“We will continue to respond to the publication of content that emphasizes obscenity rather than art when needed,” a representative of the police is quoted by NHK.

The editorial departments of Shukan Gendai and Shukan Asahi Geino refused to comment on the matter. A representative of Shukan Taishu said that the matter would receive “future consideration.”

An editor with Shukan Post contested the claims of the police. “Shunga is traditional culture in Japan that should be displayed to the rest of the world with pride,” the representative said, “and, until the end, we will view it as art.”