Vagina selfie for 3D printers lands Japanese artist in trouble
Megumi Igarashi, aka Rokudenashiko, arrested for emailing digital template of her genitalia to supporters of her art
Justin McCurry in Tokyo
theguardian.com, Wednesday 16 July 2014 04.28 BST
Last month it took more than 20 firefighters to free a US student who had become trapped inside a giant sculpture of a vagina in Germany*5. But genital art elicited a very different response in Japan this week, when police arrested an artist for distributing data that enables recipients to make 3D prints of her vagina.
The artist, who works under the pseudonym Rokudenashiko – which roughly translates as “good-for-nothing girl” – was arrested after emailing the data to 30 people who had answered a crowd-funding request for her recent artistic venture: a kayak inspired on her own genitalia she calls “pussy boat”, according to Brian Ashcraft at the gaming website Kotaku*6.
The artist, whose real name is Megumi Igarashi, was held in custody in Tokyo on suspicion of breaking Japanese obscenity laws. Media reports said Igarashi, 42, denied the allegations*7. She pointed out that had not sent images of her vagina in return for money and did not recognise the scanned 3D data as obscene.
Kyodo quoted unnamed police sources as saying Igarashi had collected about 1m yen in exchange for the data.
While Igarashi's art has a fun-loving and cheeky theme, her situation is serious as far as the law is concerned: if convicted she could receive up to two years in jail or a fine of as much as 2.5 million yen (£14,300/US$24,500), according to her lawyer.
Commentators have pointed out the hypocrisy of her arrest, which comes soon after Japanese authorities resisted pressure to ban pornographic images of children in manga comics and animated films*8.
The 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.
Igarashi has made a name for herself with her Decoman “Decorated Vagina” series of sculptures*9. The titles of the works incorporate the word “man”, from manko, the Japanese for vagina. Igarashi said she was once asked not to use the word Decoman during a TV appearance.
Because female genitalia were “overly hidden” in Japanese society, “I did not know what a pussy should look like*10,” she said in an online post. “I thought it was just funny to decorate my [moulded] pussy and make it a diorama, but I was very surprised to see how people get upset to see my works or even to hear me say manko.”
One of the works, described as a “vaginal battle scene”, shows a group of toy soldiers taking cover in an unmistakeably pudic crevice; another diorama titled Fukushiman – a “taboo on top of taboo” – shows workers at the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in similar surroundings.
She has also designed iPhone covers and recently posted an image of Gundaman, a figurine based on the popular anime character Gundam, sporting an oversized vagina, according to the Japanese art and design website Spoon & Tamago*11 .
Igarashi has said she is on a mission to “demystify” female genitalia in Japan, a country where thousands flock to an officially sanctioned annual penis festival in Kawasaki every April*12.
*2:See eg. Reuters “Japanese vagina selfie artist vows legal battle against obscenity charges” http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/16/japanese-artist-igarashi-vagina-selfie-arrest-legal-fight
*5:Philip Oltermann “US student is rescued from giant vagina sculpture in Germany” http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/23/us-student-rescued-giant-vagina-sculpture-germany
*6:Brian Ashcraft “Vagina Artist Arrested in Japan” http://kotaku.com/vagina-artist-arrested-in-japan-1604550217 http://6d745.com/en-campfire/
*8:Justin McCurry “Japan bans real-life child sexual abuse material but cartoons remain legal” http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/05/japan-bans-real-life-child-sexual-abuse-material-but-cartoons-remain-legal
*11:Johnny “Japanese Artist Megumi Igarashi Arrested for 3D Printed Artwork Based on Her Vagina (nsfw)” http://www.spoon-tamago.com/2014/07/14/megumi-igarashi-3d-printed-vaginal-art-arrested/
*12:Alan White “Did You Know That Japan Has A Completely Ridiculous Penis Festival Once A Year?” http://www.buzzfeed.com/alanwhite/did-you-know-that-japan-has-a-completely-ridiculous-penis-fe See also http://d.hatena.ne.jp/sumita-m/20061020/1161326515
*13:See eg. 「女性漫画家「ろくでなし子」さんが釈放――勾留に対する「準抗告」が認められる」http://www.bengo4.com/topics/1813/ Agence France-Press “Japanese artist released following arrest over vagina selfie for 3D prints” http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/18/japanese-artist-released-arrest-vagina-selfie-3d-prints-megumi-igarashi