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Japanese artist arrested for distributing blueprints based on her privates

Megumi Igarashi floating down the Tama River in peach.
Megumi Igarashi floating down the Tama River in peach.
REUTERS/Eigo Shimojo/Handout via Reuters

The 42-year-old Japanese sculptor and manga artist Megumi Igarashi, who works under the moniker Rokudenashiko (which translates roughly as “good for nothing girl”), posted to a crowd-funding site to fund an artistic venture that could go down in history as something that might begin changing the conservative views and hush-hush attitude about female genitalia in Japan. “Support MK Boat Project! -- The World's First 3D Scanned Peach on the Beach,” reads the heading.

The artist was already known for her work surrounding vaginas and was trying to make a name for herself by way of that work, reported Kotaku on Monday. Igarashi’s aim was to try to break down Japanese taboos about female genitalia with her art which included books, toys and dioramas.

According to Kotaku, many playful words abound for male genitalia and are used pretty freely in Japan. However, the words used to describe the female anatomy are discreet (like asoko, or “down there”) or are seen as downright vulgar, distasteful or offensive to speak out loud. The artist wanted to change the consciousness about these things.

The project was essentially smooth sailing for Igarashi, despite upturned noses from many conservative onlookers. She had successfully raised approximately $10,000, which was more than enough to fund the making of the boat. Last year, she rowed the replica of her own peach across the Tama River.

But, when she had sent more than 30 supporters of her fundraiser blueprints that could be converted into a 3D image of the boat’s shape, she was arrested on the grounds of breaking Japanese obscenity laws which prohibit the display of male and female genitalia.

The Sydney Morning Herald noted that

Japan has a notoriously vibrant pornography industry that caters to a vast array of tastes. But obscenity laws still forbid the depiction of actual genitalia, which usually appear censored or pixelated in images and videos.

Needless to say, Igarashi’s “Pussy Boat,” was not pixelated and it was more than suggestive. The data that she had sent to her supporters would allow them to take the blueprints to a 3D printer and create their very own Rokudenashiko vagina boats.

Many are angered over the event of Igarashi’s arrest and protests have developed. Supporters of the artist claim that this event marks a direct attack on the freedom of expression. TheVillage Vangaurd reported that supporters were “shocked by what they described as the police’s unusually broad use of Japan’s obscenity laws in this case.”

Activist Minori Kitahara said police raided Igarashi’s office and seized 20 of her artworks. “Japan is still a society where those who try to express women’s sexuality are suppressed, while men’s sexuality is overly tolerated,” she said.

And the artist herself is enraged, as well, and is determined to fight the charges against her. “I cannot agree with the police’s decision to label the data as obscene,” she told the police. “To me, my vagina is like my arms and legs. It’s nothing obscene.”

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