Japan is the only place in the world that could have a $20 billion a year pornography industry, twice the size of the United States’, and yet the actual depiction of genitals within that pornography remains illegal. Genitals in general are frowned upon, and typically pixelated or blocked out with black bars, and expressly forbidden even in the world of fine art, where nudity can often be seen as an artistic expression. While exceptions are occasionally made for the penis, which even has its own yearly festival, it seems that the vagina is forbidden territory, as 43-year-old artist Megumi Igarashi discovered.
Igarashi became the darling of the internet when she was arrested back in the summer of 2014 for distributing 3D printable files of a toy boat shaped like her vagina. It seems that Igarashi was selling her 3D designs in order to raise enough money to build a full-sized kayak that would be shaped like her verboten vagine. She produced and sold the erstwhile toy vagina boat, as well as smartphone cases, lamp shades, RC cars and even anthropomorphic characters all shaped like her illicit lady business. By the time she was arrested by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, Igarashi, who also calls herself Rokude Nashiko – Good-for-Nothing Girl – had raised over ¥1 million, almost $10,000. She spent five days in jail, and was seemingly only released when the internet had begun pressuring government officials to let her and her incarcerated coochie go free.
“I had no idea why I had to be arrested and detained because I don’t believe my vagina is anything obscene. I was determined I would never yield to police power,” Igarashi told the press after her and her girl power’s eventual release.
While Igarashi was released from jail, unfortunately the charges of obscenity leveled against her were not dropped. Not only could she still face a fine of ¥2.5 million ($24,655), but she could still have to haul her felonious hoo-ha back to serve a potential two-year prison sentence. While her lawyers argued with the courts, Igarashi found herself back in trouble with the law only a few months later because she not only continued to plan her full-sized vagina boat, but emailed details of her plan to a large number of people. After spending almost a month in custody she was officially indicted by the courts for distributing “obscene” data before finally being granted bail once again.
All of this, mind you, for distributing digital files of her own body. Throughout the entire ordeal Igarashi has remained defiant in the face of what I think we can all agree is an absurd overreaction by the Japanese courts. While Japan is no stranger to heavy-handed censorship, their dogged pursuit of Igarashi and her Notorious V.A.G. is beginning to border on unhinged. So much so that many supporters, including her lawyer, are beginning to accuse the Japanese courts of trying to make an example of Igarashi ahead of the upcoming Tokyo Olympic games that are currently planned for 2020.
Despite the public’s growing animosity towards the courts and the prosecutors, and the fact that she got her vagina kayak months ago, their office still announced on Monday that Igarashi must pay a fine of ¥800,000 (about $6,600). Undaunted, she defied the courts once again and reiterated that she would not pay a fine for having digital files of her downstairs bungalow. Igarashi told reporters that she believed that even if she were to be exonerated and found not guilty the courts would still appeal the case and start the whole process over again.
“And if I am found guilty, I will of course continue fighting. This battle is expected to be a long one.” Igarashi told reporters.
Here is some video of Igarashi explaining why she keeps turning her Georgia O’Keeffe into art:
Whatever you think of Igarashi and her artistic expressions of the vaginal kind, it’s kind of difficult to understand what the Japanese court’s motivations are. There are clearly some long-held and deep-seated issues with a woman’s anatomy on display here, and upholding the extremely vague and poorly written law so vigorously does little to convince me otherwise. The final verdict for this case is expected to be delivered sometime in May, and hopefully the saga of Igarashi’s prohibited Pikachu will finally come to its end. What do you think of this unusual art? Discuss in the 3D Printed Vagina Kayak forum over at 3DPB.com.