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The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus
In-depth critical analysis of the forces shaping the Asia-Pacific...and the world.

Sex and Censorship During the Occupation of Japan

Mark McLelland

This chapter entitled “Sex and Censorship During the Occupation of Japan” is excerpted from Mark McLelland’s Love, Sex and Democracy in Japan during the American Occupation (Palgrave MacMillan 2012). The book examines the radical changes that took place in Japanese ideas about sex, romance and male-female relations in the wake of Japan’s defeat and occupation by Allied forces at the end of the Second World War. Although there have been other studies that have focused on sexual and romantic relationships between Japanese women and US military personnel, little attention has been given to how the Occupation impacted upon the courtship practices of Japanese men and women. This book adds an important dimension so far lacking in studies of Japan’s sexual mores during the Occupation period.

The book is based on extensive archival research into popular magazines and newspapers as well as a range of sexological publications including sex guides, reports and manuals published during the Occupation and immediately after. Whereas other studies have looked at the impact of top-down policies on Japanese attitudes and behavior, this book offers a “bottom up” account of ideas and practices circulating in the popular press between 1945 and 1953. Although the main focus of the book is on heterosexual discourse and practice, the postwar period also saw the rapid development of a range of sexual minority subcultures and both male and female homosexuality are discussed as are a range of heterosexual “perversions,” including both male and female cross-dressing and sado-masochism, that were sources of fascination in the early postwar years.

The chapter excerpted here sets up the basic argument of the book: that the US-led Occupation provided an enabling context for new developments in Japanese-Japanese sex and gender relations that have been overlooked to a certain extent due to the scholarly attention devoted to the problematic nature of inter-racial fraternization during the Occupation.


Historian of sexuality Shimokawa Kōshi has described the first three years of the Occupation, from 1945 to 1948, as a time of “sexual anarchy,” 1 and it is true that many accounts describe the early postwar years as a period of “sexual liberation.” Igarashi Yoshikuni, in particular, has stressed the very visceral sense of release that many Japanese people experienced at the war’s end.2 As we saw in the previous chapter, the militarist authorities had established pervasive surveillance and censorship mechanisms that seriously constrained the expression of sexuality by men and particularly by women. Prostitution was tightly controlled and limited to specific licensed areas, unmarried male and female couples had almost no opportunity to mingle socially, and sexual expression in the press was stymied by the threat of prosecution by the “thought police.” All these restrictions were removed within the first few months of the Occupation.

However, anarchy is probably not quite the right term since it suggests a complete freedom from formal control. But, as we will see, sexuality continued to be highly regulated and supervised, albeit in different ways and with different goals in mind. The Japanese authorities fully expected that the incoming Americans would behave in the same rapacious manner as had their own forces when they advanced across China and were determined to put in place measures to protect the purity of Japanese women. The US administration, on the other hand, rather than viewing their troops as sexual predators, tended to see these young men as “clean, innocent and vulnerable” and in danger of “having their morals corrupted and their health destroyed” by “shameless Japanese women.”3 The policies that the Allies enacted were intended to protect their own troops’ physical wellbeing, with scant regard paid to their effects on Japanese women and society.

Both authorities, Japanese and Occupier, were overwhelmingly concerned to regulate “fraternization” between local women and foreign troops, and many academic studies have examined in detail the lengths to which both sides went to monitor and restrict potential inter-racial sexual contacts.4 However, far less attention has been paid to the effects that the collapse of the military regime and the arrival of the American forces had upon Japanese male and female interaction and the representation of sexual discourse in the Japanese media. This chapter outlines some of the major policy decisions taken by the Occupation administration, particularly regarding the regulation of obscenity in the press that helped shape local Japanese sexual cultures during the Occupation period.

Background to the Occupation

Japan’s conflict with the United States and its Allies, which turned into open warfare after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, was but one episode in a much broader conflict instigated by Japan that began as far back as the “Manchurian Incident” in 1931. With a growing population and limited homeland resources, the Japanese militarists had long been eyeing the vast and, from their perspective, underexploited resources in the northeast Chinese territory of Manchuria. In 1931 the Japanese military staged an attack on the Japanese-owned South Manchuria railway that they blamed on Chinese dissidents as a pretext for sending in troops to occupy the region. The Japanese then set up a puppet state in Manchuria under the new name of Manchukuo. The failure of the League of Nations (precursor to the United Nations) to recognize Japan’s sovereignty over this newly created state led to Japan’s walk out from the organization in 1933 resulting in deteriorating relations with the US and Britain. The Manchurian Incident was the beginning of what the Japanese refer to as the “fifteen years war,” the entrance to the “dark valley” that was to lead to fullscale warfare with China in 1937, war with the US and the Allied nations in 1941, and the total physical and moral collapse of the Japanese nation in 1945.

After the success of Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, a series of stunning Japanese victories saw the British defeated in Singapore and Hong Kong and the Americans routed in the Philippines. However, despite these early successes the Japanese military soon overextended its capacity and was unable to sustain its advances on multiple fronts in the Pacific. The tide turned against the Japanese after they lost the key battle of the Midway Islands in 1942. From this point on US forces gained the upper hand and after further victories in the islands of Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Saipan, by 1944 the Americans were readying themselves for an attack on Japan’s home islands. The incendiary bombings that began in May 1944 saw Tokyo largely destroyed with the loss of eighty thousand civilians on the night of March 9, 1945. The destruction of 64 Japanese cities by firebombing followed immediately. By this time the situation for most civilians, especially in the cities, was dire. All basic necessities such as food, clothing, shelter and medicine were in short supply and the continuing air raids made it seem as though there was no future to fight for. News of the instantaneous destruction of Hiroshima, and a few days later, Nagasaki, by the unimaginably powerful new atom bomb in August 1945 confirmed the hopelessness of the situation. By the war’s end the Japanese people had entered a state described at the time as kyodatsu or total physical and mental collapse. It therefore came as something of a relief to many when the Emperor finally made his radio proclamation announcing Japan’s surrender on August 15, 1945.

When the advance guard of the Occupation forces arrived in Japan in early September 1945, Tokyo lay in ruins. It is almost impossible to imagine the scenes of destruction that greeted the arrival of the American soldiers. It was not just the scale of physical destruction, especially in major cities such as Tokyo, Yokohama, and Kawasaki that was confronting, but the almost unimaginable scale of human desolation and misery. In Tokyo hundreds of thousands of people were starving, camped out among the ruins of burnt-out neighborhoods. In many areas there was no running water, no electricity, no shops, no transport, no food, no shelter. There was, of course, no waste disposal, and the destroyed cities stank like a sewer.

Tokyo in ruins, March 10, 1945. Ishikawa Koyo

British correspondent John Morris, who had lived in Japan prior to the outbreak of hostilities, wrote upon his return to Tokyo in 1946 that “To understand what has happened it is useless to think in terms of destruction as we came to know it in Europe; you have to give a new meaning to the word.”5 Travelling around the city trying to visit old haunts and gain news of Japanese friends, he wrote that “you just travel from one ash heap to another and although the names of the districts are, of course, unchanged, there is little else by which to recognize them.”6

The situation in major cities like Tokyo actually deteriorated over the coming months as five million Japanese, both military from the battlefronts and civilians from the former colonies, began to be repatriated—many with no homes or families to return to.7 Tokyo was full of “drifting human wreckage,”8 both “burnt outs” and “repatriates,” all with shocking stories of loss and privation to tell. Many had not simply lost their homes and possessions but sometimes their entire families had been killed in the incendiary raids during the closing months of the war. They had seen the bloated bodies of their neighbors, burned beyond recognition, stacked by the roadside waiting to be carted away to mass graves. Simply keeping their own bodies alive for one more day was all many survivors could hope for.

Those returning to Japan from the colonies, demobilized soldiers and civilians alike, had often suffered terrible journeys. The civilians had effectively been abandoned by the military at the close of the war and left to fend for themselves in hostile territory. Able only to bring what they could carry, farmers who had migrated to Manchuria in search of a new life, had had to leave the fruits of years of toil behind. Trying to get back to Japan, harried by the advancing Soviet army and Chinese bandits, some had abandoned sick or elderly relatives and others had sold or given away their children to Chinese families, believing that this was the only way to ensure their children’s survival.

Homelessness was just one problem among many. People were also sick, wounded and malnourished. Children, many of whom had lost their parents and even their entire families in the air raids, were a particularly pathetic sight, left friendless and alone among the rubble. Children in their teens, both boys and girls, would soon start to sell their bodies—to Allied soldiers as well as Japanese with food or money to spare—in order to survive.9 Some women, in a state of utter desperation, would shamelessly proposition men in full view of others, offering sex in exchange for money or just something to eat.10 People were “forced to live ‘bamboo sprout fashion,’ selling off their possessions one after another as young bamboo shoots quickly shed their sheathing leaves.”11

What food was available was rationed and distributed via the same neighborhood associations that had been set up to ensure community compliance with wartime restrictions. However, the amount and quality of food was pitiable and delivery unreliable, forcing most people to turn to the rapidly developing black market.12  One of the most common meals available in the marketplaces was zanpan shichū, “leftovers stew.” Made from edible items picked out from the refuse discarded by Occupation facilities and served out of huge oil drums, it was not unusual to find discarded condoms among the ingredients.13

As one eye witness noted at the time, “Words like democracy and liberty can have little meaning for a people whose whole energies must at present inevitably be devoted to solving the difficulties of mere existence.”14 Yet it was the democratization of Japan that General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander for Allied Powers, saw as the ultimate goal of the American mission, a goal he pursued with determination.

The Supreme Commander for Allied Powers

Although more correctly referred to as the Allied Occupation of Japan, since representatives of all the Allied nations—the Soviet Union, China, and the British Commonwealth as well as the US—had personnel in Tokyo,15 Japan’s post-defeat reconstruction was an American-dominated affair and is largely remembered by the Japanese as an “American Occupation.” Plans to administer Japan had already been drawn up by the US State Department in the closing months of the war. Although each of the Allied powers had a voice in the Far Eastern Commission, a Washington based body representing the interests of all Allied nations, in practice, General Douglas MacArthur, given the title Supreme Commander for the Allied Forces or SCAP (a title that was used interchangeably for the Occupation authorities in general) wielded complete control over Occupation policy. MacArthur set up his general headquarters (GHQ) in Hibiya opposite the imperial palace and proceeded to rule indirectly over Japan via the organs of the existing Japanese government. Local military organizations were set up across Japan and these teams served to channel the thousands of memorandums, orders and directives received from GHQ to local Japanese administrators who were responsible for enacting them. MacArthur, who was a devout Christian, introduced an almost messianic tone into Occupation attempts to reconstruct Japan according to democratic principles. During the six-and-a-half years of the Occupation, a range of initiatives attempted not only to dismantle the militarist infrastructure of the wartime regime but to proactively create new structures and thought patterns reflective of democratic principles. This was no small task.

In the wake of defeat, the Japanese people were in transition as an “imagined community.”16 The militarist paradigm had posited the Japanese as a superior race descended from a divine Emperor all of whom shared a common spirit that set them apart both from the backward countries of Asia and the materially advanced yet spiritually corrupt societies of the West. The Japanese during wartime were a good example of what Mary Louise Pratt, drawing on Benedict Anderson, refers to as “citizen-soldiers,” connected via a “deep horizontal comradeship” that allowed “millions of people not so much to kill as willingly to die.”17 This model of community Pratt terms fraternal, but in the context of the Japanese “family state” headed by the Emperor, is better described as filial. However, Japan’s catastrophic defeat resulting in the instantaneous loss of its colonies and the Occupation of the homeland by an enemy force, seriously undermined the imperialist ideology that had underpinned the war effort. Under American guidance, the Japanese were now encouraged to re-imagine themselves, this time in terms of Western paradigms of nationhood based on the ideals of “equality, fraternity, [and] liberty.”18 The Japanese were encouraged to come together once again in a project of national construction, this time founded on democratic principles.

With this end in mind two different organizations were set up to help inculcate democratic thinking among the Japanese. The Civil Censorship Detachment (CCD) was entrusted with rooting out ideologies associated with the militarist regime through a strict policy of pre-publication screening of all Japanese print media. Its remit also included the screening of some mail and telecommunications. The Civil Information and Education section (CIE), on the other hand, had the task of encouraging democratic thought through intervening in the pre-production stages of all aspects of the Japanese media so as to ensure that democratic ideals were properly embedded. This had some unforeseen consequences as will be discussed later.

SCAP’s program of reform began with the dismantling of Japan’s empire and the repatriation of Japanese military and civilian administrators who were scattered about the region. A series of purges sought to identify and hold to account individuals who had held positions of responsibility in Japan’s war effort and numerous high-profile officers were tried for war crimes, some given long sentences and a small number sent to the gallows. The zaibatsu, or massive industrial conglomerates, that had profited from Japan’s overseas colonies and fuelled the militarist economy were dismantled so as to make room from more small and medium size enterprises. Land reforms saw the huge holdings of the landlord class broken up and allocations made to tenant farmers. Japan’s aristocracy was abolished and the Emperor, albeit allowed to keep his exalted position, was required to renounce his divinity and assume the role of a constitutional monarch. These structural reforms, which took place at a bewildering pace, were also accompanied by a range of educational and cultural initiatives aimed at reorienting Japanese attitudes toward basic democratic principles. One of the main areas considered in need of reform was the traditional status of women.

Throughout the long war years the Japanese government had instigated paternalistic policies regulating gender roles, particularly where the behavior of women was concerned. Likewise, the US Occupation authorities were keen to involve themselves in gender policy in an attempt to “liberate” Japanese women from what were considered feudalistic customs, attitudes and practices. As Mire Koikari points out, “American occupiers felt tremendous zeal and enthusiasm for their project of liberating Japanese women and intervened extensively in Japanese gender relations.”19

Under close scrutiny from SCAP, the Japanese constitution and labor and family laws were extensively rewritten so as to enfranchise women and dismantle the “household system” that had given family patriarchs considerable influence over women’s lives, including choice of marriage partner. Article 14 of the 1947 Constitution was progressive for the time, outlawing discrimination on the basis of “race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.” Article 24 explicitly addressed the imbalance between the rights of women and men under the previous Civil Code, requiring that marriage “be based on the mutual consent of both sexes” and that it should be “maintained through mutual cooperation with equal rights of husband and wife as basis.” Alongside choice of spouse, “other matters pertaining to marriage and the family,” namely property rights, choice of domicile and inheritance, were also to be “enacted from the standpoint of…the essential equality of the sexes.”20

These measures were enacted in the face of fierce opposition from the Japanese authorities who rightly recognized that they “threaten[ed] the basis of male domination and female subordination in the family.”21 Susan Pharr notes that “Japanese authorities made a persistent effort to dilute, omit, or change the intent of SCAP’s women’s rights provisions.”22 In particular, they attempted to insert clauses that acknowledged women’s supposed “different” (that is, inferior) physical and moral capabilities and social functions. Of course, as Pharr points out, the Americans were not advocating a radical feminist agenda; rather “they accepted the idea that woman’s primary role in adult life is to be wife and mother, but believed that married women simultaneously could and should play other roles as well, such as citizen, worker, and participant in civic and social groups.”23 However there was one aspect of social life during the Occupation in which Japanese women’s participation was not welcomed, and that was in interactions with male military personnel.

The politics of fraternization

Despite SCAP’s high ideals of liberating Japanese womanhood from centuries of feudal oppression, the lifting of one set of constraints only led to the imposition of others. Japanese-American relations were fraught with anxieties concerning the deleterious effects of “fraternization,” especially where Japanese women and American men were concerned. These anxieties were strong on both sides. In the few weeks between Japan’s capitulation and the arrival of the first US soldiers, Japanese officials had warned the population to send young women away to relatives in the countryside, or if their young daughters and wives must remain in the cities, to keep them indoors.24 Although the atrocities perpetrated by Japanese troops on the women of their former colonies, not least the military-endorsed system of “comfort stations” had not been reported in the Japanese media, at the time of Japan’s defeat it was estimated that there were some 84,000 “comfort” women across the territories controlled by Japan.25 There would have been few men among the military or civil administrations in these areas who were unaware of the poor treatment these women had received. Furthermore, Japanese wartime propaganda had painted a similarly unattractive picture of US soldiers as had been typical of American propaganda concerning the Japanese themselves, and it was widely expected that the incoming troops would violate Japanese women. As Igarashi points out, “many Japanese anticipated their encounter with the arriving Americans in sexual terms.”26

The scenes of mass rape and pillage envisioned by the authorities did not, however, eventuate, although there were sporadic reports of rape and abductions by the newly arrived American forces. On 31 August GIs in a jeep abducted two Japanese schoolgirls and subjected them to gang rape on the banks of the Tama River. The next day a separate group of GIs invaded a home near the air base in Atsugi and raped three sisters, one of whom died from the injuries she sustained. On 3 September GIs raped a mother and daughter, and the mother later killed herself. On 10 September, before the new censorship regime that would prohibit negative reports about Allied personnel had been put in place, the Mainichi newspaper reported nine rapes as having taken place in the first week of the Occupation, although there were many other incidents that were not reported.27 Shocking although these individual instances were, they did not point toward sexual abuse on a mass scale as had happened during the Japanese occupation of Chinese cities such as Nanking,28 and the panic concerning the arrival of the foreign troops soon subsided.

Demonstrating the long standing grouping of women into two opposing “professional” and “chaste” camps, Japanese officials went about recruiting an organization of sex-workers who might act as a “female floodwall” to protect “daughters from good families” from the rapacious sexual appetite of the foreign occupiers. Registered sex workers as well as poor young women with no other options for survival were recruited to serve in the Recreation and Amusement Association (RAA), comprising a series of establishments designated as “restaurants,” “dance halls,” and “beer halls” but essentially serving as brothels for the incoming military personnel.29

Yasuura House, one RAA facility

Licensed prostitution was legal in Japan and the authorities had had a great deal of experience in providing “comfort” facilities for the Japanese troops. The RAA was thus set up “with extraordinary speed and showed a remarkable ability to secure buildings and facilities in short supply.”30

The recruitment procedure was anything but clandestine; indeed, advertisements for “special female workers” were placed in mainstream newspapers.31 In most prefectures throughout Japan it was the police who were ordered to recruit both licensed and unlicensed prostitutes and encourage them to cooperate as well as supervise the establishments to make sure that things did not get out of hand. Although, unlike the comfort system set up for the Japanese troops, most of the women recruited by the RAA offered their services out of choice, it was a choice made under duress. The offer of free food and housing came at a time when “the entire population of Japan was suffering from food shortages, and malnutrition and starvation were widespread.”32 For many young women, including some who were still high-school girls, there were no other options available.

The most notorious facility set up by the RAA was known as the International Palace, or “IP,” described by an eye-witness as “probably the largest brothel in the world.”33 Its “assembly line” set up which enabled a soldier to deposit his shoes at the entrance and “pick them up, cleaned and shined, at the other end” after he had finished his business was reminiscent of the barrack-like comfort stations set up for Japanese troops in the colonies. In an attempt to prevent the spread of venereal disease the Japanese authorities released a stockpile of one-million eight-hundred-thousand condoms for use in this and other similar facilities.34 However, given the scale of women involved (some 10,000 in Tokyo alone),35 it proved impossible to prevent venereal disease, which soon spread out of control among the sex workers as well as the troops. Alarmed by the sudden increase in infections among the Occupation forces, SCAP introduced a range of measures, including compulsory health checks among women working in the “service industry” and the release of its valuable supply of penicillin to treat infections. At the instigation of the Army and Navy Chaplains Association, which was worried about the “moral degradation” that mixing with prostitutes would engender among the troops, the authorities also began to place more emphasis on education programs.36 A series of seminars and workshops was set up, aimed at promoting “continence, character, guidance, provision of religious education and physical education”37 in an attempt to stem the VD epidemic through “building character.”38 From this point onwards the American authorities devoted ever-increasing energy to attempts to educate their men about correct attitudes toward sexuality.39

SCAP, was also embarrassed at how the long lines of young men queuing up outside these “leisure facilities” looked in reports in the American media, and ordered the “licensed prostitution system” to be disbanded at the beginning of 1946.40 The result was that sex workers were either driven onto the streets or into unlicensed and unmonitored premises and it became even harder to monitor their health or prevent the transmission of sexual diseases. SCAP responded by ordering the forcible round up of women who were found out on the streets after a certain hour, detaining them over night, and requiring them to undergo medical examination at the Yoshiwara hospital, “sometimes with snickering MPs nearby.”41

Many women on other business, including women working for GHQ, one female member of the Diet, and even a cross-dressed man42 were caught up in these roundups. One young woman was so humiliated by the treatment she received that she later committed suicide. A report in the Asahi newspaper noted that the autopsy had revealed her to be a virgin.43 SCAP responded to this negative publicity by transferring the responsibility for the roundups onto the Japanese police thus inadvertently reinstating their wartime duty as guardians of public morals.

The closing of the licensed brothels marked the beginning of greater clampdowns on “fraternization” between Japanese women and male Occupation personnel through limiting access to the places where inter-racial liaisons might be made. Japanese restaurants had always been off limits due to the local food shortages, but from March 1946, bars, cafes, theaters, cinemas and even river banks and beaches were placed off limits.44 Facilities set up for SCAP personnel were likewise made off limits to Japanese people and the military police spent a lot of time trying to prevent or interrupt liaisons between the Americans and Japanese. Some MPs acted like bullies, not unlike the “Special Police” who had exercised a great deal of moral control over the civilian population during the war and many Japanese who witnessed the imperious manner of the MPs must have been left wondering just how their behavior could be reconciled with American notions of freedom and democracy. Yet despite these efforts to discourage fraternization and the discovery of the great effectiveness of penicillin in curing venereal disease, anxieties about contamination – not just of bodies but also of minds – actually increased as the Cold War set in.

Mire Koikari notes that “sexual and moral issues were understood in political terms, as containment narratives made a clear connection among venereal disease infection, sexual and moral laxity, communist menace, and American national (in)security.”45 Hence it is not surprising that the regulation of American male sexuality intensified during this time and was to reach a peak during the Cold War years of the 1950s. As Koikari demonstrates, among the Occupation authorities “preexisting understandings of sexuality and morality were being reconfigured within the Cold War containment context” resulting in “hegemonic understandings that linked sexuality, body, religion, nation and anti-Communism.”46

However, there were movements within Japanese popular culture that were going in quite contrary directions. Rather than a closing down of sexual discourse during the Occupation years, there was a vast proliferation of discourses of sexuality that were by no means contained within a marital or even heterosexual framework. The “Cold War sexual containment of American servicemen”47 thus stands in contrast to the opening up of sexual opportunities for Japanese men (and women) to explore not only heterosexual but a range of other sexual options, as demonstrated by discourses widely available in the popular press. To understand how discussion of sexuality was considered to have been “liberated” in the Japanese press in the immediate postwar environment, we need to look in detail at the censorship regime instigated by the Occupation authorities and the role given to the Japanese police in enforcing obscenity legislation.

Press Censorship under the Occupation

Although such alarmingly “modern” trends as working women and love marriages had been discussed in Japan in the late 20s and early 30s as part of a popular cultural movement commonly referred to as ero-guro-nansensu (erotic, grotesque nonsense), from 1933 onwards Japan’s descent into militarism severely curtailed the freedom with which such frivolous topics could be discussed in the press. From 1939 the government control of paper supplies made it all but impossible to print material disapproved of by the authorities and “even the word ‘kiss’ was banned.”48 Sex, to the extent that it was discussed at all in the wartime press, was represented as a means of managing “human resources” (ningen shigen) and not as a source of pleasure or relationship building.49

During the war, the strict censorship and shortage of paper had seen the number of publishing companies in Japan dwindle to only a few hundred. However, by 1948 the number of publishers had risen to an astonishing number of 4,581 before falling back to 1, 541 by 1953.50 This was in large part due to one of the first acts of the Occupation authorities, announced on September 27, 1945 (known as SCAPIN 66), requiring the Japanese Government “to render inoperative the procedures for enforcement of peace-time and war-time restrictions on freedom of the press and freedom of communications.”51 Another pronouncement on October 4 (SCAPIN 93) further prohibited the Japanese government from interfering in freedom of thought or expression and encouraged unqualified media discussion of the Japanese government and the Emperor.52

As Etō Jun53 points out, SCAP’s censorship policy is a compelling frame through which to view the nature of Japanese-American interaction during the Occupation. SCAP was concerned not simply to dismantle Japan’s wartime government, institutions and machinery but also to re-engineer Japanese culture. A range of policy initiatives were “aimed at transforming not only Japanese thinking but even the deep-seated memories of the Japanese mind itself.”54 There was a certain irony in this process, for the “common sense” understanding among the victors was that the Japanese people had been deliberately misled and coerced into adopting a fascist mentality through a range of “top-down” government initiatives and institutions. In order to reverse this situation, not only was it necessary to dismantle the systems through which these thought practices had been engendered–the armed forces, the police, the political, economic and education systems–but it was also necessary to retrain the Japanese in “democratic” ways of thinking and acting.

Paradoxically, one of the main ways in which democracy was promoted was via censorship of anything that reeked of the old, feudal order. Despite the fact that in a memorandum issued on September 10, 1945, SCAP “decreed that there shall be an absolute minimum of restrictions upon freedom of speech,”55 from 1945 throughout 1949, the Civil Censorship Detachment56 did in fact enforce a “very strict censorship operation over Japanese media: newspapers, radio scripts, motion pictures, dramatic productions, phonographic records, books, magazines and newspapers.” So thorough was the censorship regime that “not even…kamishibai (paper picture-card shows for children) could escape the scrutiny of the Occupation censors.”57

Media censorship was overseen by three Occupation organizations: the Civil Communications Section (CCS), the Civil Censorship Detachment (CCD) and the Civil Information and Education Section (CIE). The CCS was given oversight of the more technical and administrative aspects of broadcasting. The CCD handled all forms of censorship pertaining to material broadcast, in print or on screen, with the specific purpose of rooting out anti-democratic thought. The CIE had more of a mentoring role aimed at educating media producers about their democratic responsibilities, based on American models. Hence Japanese commentators have argued that

The reconstruction of Japan involved massive educational effort through books, periodicals, motion pictures and other cultural media. As an antidote to Japanese imperialism, the American and Western way of life functioned as a representation of democracy, and as such it was distributed, and favorably shared by the Japanese people.58

Hiromi Ochi goes so far as to argue that one result of this paternalistic guidance regime was “a self-colonizing hegemony” on the part of the Japanese people, many of whom accepted unquestioningly the superiority of the American way of life. However, as will be seen below, the lifting of the wartime censorship regime enabled a range of previously suppressed Japanese voices to speak, often with unforeseen consequences for both the Allied and Japanese authorities.

One factor that encouraged the outpouring of erotic material was that SCAP’s policies concerning press censorship largely overlooked depictions of sex, eroticism or “obscenity” in general. 59 The Press Code for Japan put forward on 19 September 1945 provided an extensive list of guidelines regarding prohibited material.60 There were three general areas under surveillance: any criticism of the Allied authorities, any kind of “propaganda,” and any reference to daily problems (such as food shortages). But absent from the policy was mention of morals or regulations concerning obscenity. In fact, the Occupation authorities made it clear that they were not responsible for policing material of a salacious or “immoral” nature, that being the job of the Japanese police who, under paragraph 175 of the legal code, were vested with powers to prohibit “obscenity” in print and other media.61 For instance, the censorship records for the magazine Momoiro raifu (Pink life), dated August 22, 1949, contain the oft-recorded note that “the publishers have been advised that censorship approval does not mean exemption of publication [sic, prosecution] from Japanese laws involving penalties for publication of obscene material.” 62

The comparatively lax attitude taken by US authorities toward sexual expression in the Japanese press was a source of conflict with the Soviet Union (also nominally an occupying power) who would have preferred greater control in this area.63 Like the pre-surrender Japanese regime, the Soviet state and its media “stressed sexuality in the service of the nation and shunned explicit and erotic representations of sex as bourgeois.”64 The US authorities, however, left sexual expression concerning the local Japanese population largely unregulated. Hence, the dismantling of the militarist censorship system led to a vast proliferation of salacious material and very little effort was made by Occupation authorities to restrain freedom of expression in this area.

Only six months after Japan’s defeat, a vivacious print culture known as kasutori65or “the dregs,” including newspapers and magazines specializing in “sex journalism” (sei jānarizumu), had emerged as a conspicuous forum for the discussion of sex and eroticism. The kasutori publishing industry was but one expression of the “chaotic, hybrid nature of Japanese popular culture in the late 1940s.”66 The kasutori press, in a series of reports that left little to the imagination, commonly portrayed the immediate postwar period as one of “sexual liberation” (sei kaihō).67 Hence, in the immediate postwar period, it became possible to discuss sex publicly with unprecedented freedom in the public sphere. Indeed, even the graffiti in public toilets was said to have “been liberated.”68

Christine Marran argues that in order to distract the population from the activities of the Occupation forces, the Japanese cabinet “cooperated with the new government to create the ‘3-S’ strategy, that allowed, even promoted what were called the three S’s of sports, screen and sex.”69 In fact, one magazine with the title Esu (S) expanded this list even further, advertising its contents as including “Screen, Stage, Show, Sports, Style, Sing, Song, Story, Sense, Smile, Summertime, Step, Studio,” and last, but not least, “Sex.”70

American Journalist Ralph Chapman, writing at the time, noted that “the U.S. Army censors…and General MacArthur’s Civil Information and Education Section did nothing to stem the tide of obscene writing that at one time threatened to engulf the entire publishing field.”71 Chapman put the “lost standards” of Japan’s publishing industry down to MacArthur’s removal of the imperialist regime’s censorship mechanisms alongside the continuing shortage of paper. With little oversight of material once considered injurious to public morals, and in a situation where paper was expensive and in short supply, publishers refused “to gamble paper on anything that was not sure-fire,” the result being presses turning out what he described as “lurid tripe.”72 John Dower points to a survey of some sixteen-hundred issues of kasutori magazines that found the predominant “symbolic images” included “kissing, strip shows, underpants, panpan and ‘leisurely women’, chastity, incest, masturbation and lonely widows.”73

The censorship regime set up by the Occupation authorities was rather different from that pertaining during the militarist period. In both pre- and wartime Japan the authorities had been open about their intent to censor speech and writing in the national interest and many publications went to press with offending words and passages simply deleted or represented by circular marks or Xs.74 When books in their entirety were banned, this was reported in the media, and lists of banned authors were circulated to publishers. Hence it was obvious to authors what topics were likely to be banned and it was relatively easy for authors and editors to gauge what kind of comments were considered problematic from the excised passages. SCAP, however, given its mission to introduce “democracy” to the Japanese, sought to hide the fact that the media were subject to censorship by repressing information about the censorship process. Publishers were not allowed to indicate censored passages in any way or acknowledge that material had been omitted. This meant that “Occupation censorship was even more exasperating than Japanese military censorship had been because it insisted that all traces of censorship be concealed.”75

Between 1945 and 1949 all material to be published in Japan was required to be submitted in galley form for pre-approval to the CCD. The hundreds of censors would check the material for compliance, and if they found offending passages or illustrations, would require it to be removed in its entirety. Since in the final publication there was no indication that any material had been censored, it was sometimes difficult for publishers to work out in advance what was and was not permissible. However, after reviewing surviving censorship documents in the University of Maryland’s Gordon W. Prange collection, it is clear that “obscenity,” per se, was not an object of particular concern of SCAP’s censorship policy.

Documents show that the CCD certainly had its eye on “obscene” publications but the only context in which “obscenity” was invoked as a reason to stop something going to press was in cases when reference was made to fraternization between US troops and local women or when reference was made to the supposedly loose morals of “Caucasian” women. The censorship reports themselves evidence how sensitive the issue of fraternization was. Take, for instance, a report outlining the reasons for the suppression of an article entitled “Temporary wife” that was to have appeared in the May 1946 edition of the magazine Toppu (Top). The censor notes that “The general tone of this article is very detestable. The theme of it is that foreigners – obviously Americans, although it does not manifestly state so – can get Japanese girls as their concubines.” The censor recommended that the article be suppressed on the grounds that it “disturbs public tranquility and [contains] destructive criticism of Allies.”76

Even incidental passages suggesting a sexual connection between Allied personnel and Japanese women were excised, as in a report dated April 25, 1947, where an examiner by the name of Groening recommended the excision of the following italicized passage from an article about the Tamanoi prostitute quarters: “…The women are examined once a week by the ambulance officers of the metropolis, sometimes attended by the GHQ personnel.77 Even a reference to a passing “American soldier clad in a swanking jacket” in a popular Japanese song entitled Tokyo Flower Girl, was sufficient to have it taken off air since it was considered “too provocative.”78

It was not just material that hinted at Allied personnel’s involvement in prostitution that drew attention but almost any reference to “Caucasians,” especially white women, in a sexual context. Even serious literature by established authors was not immune to this kind of censorship. For example, a section from a short story by famous novelist Tanizaki Junichirō submitted to the literary magazine Shinbungaku (New literature) was suppressed in June 1947. In the story, Tanizaki reminisced about taking English classes in his youth and speculated whether a group of attractive Western women living on the second floor of the foreign manor housing the classes may have been high-class prostitutes.79

The reasons given for censoring such references bear detailing in full. For instance, in a memo from “RRZ” to “AMO” dated April 12, 1948, detailed instructions are given for the filing of an “obscene report.”

In your reports, please indicate whether the material is concerned with Japanese and is just erotic or whether it also concerns Allied nationals and could be construed as being criticism of Allied nations. This one,80 for instance, has a caucasian [sic] on the cover. That should be pointed out as well as instances of other pictures and stories concerning caucasians [sic]. It might be well to compare the volume of references to Caucasians (and thus, potentially Allied) personnel with the volume of material referring only to Japanese. This might be part of a concerted effort on the part of the Japanese to discredit the Caucasian race.

Sensitivity about the representation of Caucasian women continued even after the replacement in mid-1947 of the mandatory pre-censorship system with warnings issued about material already in print. Under this new more relaxed system, if material was found to be offensive to the Allies “authorities immediately reprimanded producers of the material and curtailed future publication … of their material.”81 For example, the April 1949 edition of Momo iro raifu (Pink life) was “postcensored” and a warning issued that material published violated the press code. In this instance the violation was identified as “The photogravure on the reverse side of the front cover [that] deals with two naked Caucasian women,” that constituted “Criticism of Allied Powers” in the opinion of the censor.82

The records cited above make a clear policy distinction between erotic material that concerns only Japanese and erotic material concerning Allied nationals, it being the latter category that was blacklisted. This supports earlier research that argues that the anti-fraternization policy was about maintaining racial barriers and shoring up national identities. Yet despite their sensitivity to mixed-race relations, erotic material “referring only to Japanese” was routinely passed by the censors, it being left to the Japanese police to pursue prosecution of material that they deemed obscene. However, due to purges and reorganization, the police were a “decentralized, inexperienced, and minimally armed force”83 who had much else to do in the immediate postwar years–it was not pornographers but gangsters who were their main priority. The period between 1946 and 1947, in particular, was marked by gang warfare over black-market control of scarce provisions, and “the fights were frequently large in scale and bloody since the gangs were armed with military weapons and fired on each other indiscriminately.”84 It thus took some time before the police started to rein in magazines and newspapers specializing in “sex journalism.”

When the Japanese police did begin to re-launch obscenity prosecutions in early 1947, they tended to target material that infringed on ideological grounds, thus carrying over the sensitivities of the previous militarist regime. This suggests that Allied initiatives had little impact upon police ideas about what constituted obscenity in sexual mores. It is worthwhile attending closely to the first postwar case invoking Japan’s obscenity legislation since the topic targeted goes against rather than supports suggestions of US influence in this area.

The prosecution of the magazine Ryōki

On January 9, 1947, for the first time in the postwar period, charges of obscenity were laid against Akane Shobō, the publishers of the magazine Ryōki (Curiosity hunting).85 The charges were thought to have been prompted by two articles that appeared in the December 1946 edition of the magazine. One, a story entitled “Mrs. Captain H,”86 dealt with an adulterous affair between a student and a soldier’s wife, and the other “Humorous tales of dynastic lust,”87 concerned the goings on among past Emperors’ concubines. The decision to prosecute was the result of a discussion between the Public Security Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Internal Security Section of the Metropolitan Police Department. Although this decision was announced in the press with much fanfare, all the authorities could do was confiscate 873 copies of the magazine on January 12, 1947 since the issue had already passed CCD pre-censorship and more than 60,000 copies had been published and were in circulation.88

As we saw in the previous chapter, the Japanese term ryōki, or “curiosity hunting,” refers to a well-established prewar genre of writing obsessed with strange and bizarre events that was part of the 1920s preoccupation with “erotic, grotesque nonsense.” That a magazine with the title Ryōki was the first postwar publication to be prosecuted by the Japanese police might suggest that they identified the entire ryōki genre, with its interest in, among other things, “sexual perversion,” as injurious to public morals. Indeed, unlike some magazines that sought to disguise their prurient interests under a scientific or educational guise, the editors of Ryōki had always been unapologetic about the content of the magazine. They declared on the first issue’s contents page that Ryōki had “no intention whatsoever to educate or enlighten” its readers (see fig. 1).

Editorial from the inside cover of the October 1946 edition of the magazine Ryōki (Curiosity hunting). Original in the Gordon W. Prange collection at the University of Maryland.

Instead, it was intended for those “exhausted by the task of reconstructing the nation” and after it had supplied a few moments of amusement and distraction, it should simply be thrown away. The magazine Ryōki is thus a particularly self-conscious example of kasutori culture, typifying “the banishment of authority, the absence of orthodox or transcendent values” that Dower suggests typified the genre.89

However, when the details of the specific stories that brought about the prosecution are taken into account, there are barely any ryōki elements present. “Mrs Captain H,” was a tale of simple adultery, and the explicitness in the details was characteristic of a range of early postwar sex publications.90 Similarly, the humorous tales of misadventure among the Emperor’s consorts were not particularly graphic – more problematic was the fact that the article “touched on the topic of the imperial family.”91 The reason that the police acted against these particular stories, despite the fact that there were many hundreds of other stories in circulation that were as or more graphic or perverse in their details, lies in the role the police saw themselves as playing in protecting public morals.

During wartime, the Japanese police force, particularly the division referred to as the “Special Higher Police” (tokkō keisatsu) had played an important role in maintaining solidarity behind the war effort. The Special Police were also referred to as the “thought police” (shisō keisatsu) since part of their mandate was to investigate and prosecute “seditious” thought, which included not only antiwar rhetoric but a wide range of attitudes and behaviors that were construed as contrary to the national interest. As Barak Kushner points out, “various levels of police…felt it their duty to guide and persuade the home populations in correct behavior.”92 The police did not see their role as simply that of preserving public safety, but rather the preservation of the country’s honor–an ideology that continued to inform their ideas and practices in the immediate postwar environment. During wartime, “loose women,” that is, women who sought out “illicit” love affairs, had been regarded by the authorities “not only as antiwar, but as threatening the fabric of Japanese society.”93 “Mrs Captain H” described such a woman. Indeed the very abbreviation of her name as Mrs “H,” is a pun on the homophonous term “ecchi” (possibly deriving from the English term “letch”) meaning “sexual.”94

The narrative concerns Takao, a spoiled high-school student who, due to his parents’ influence, was able to obtain a fake medical certificate to avoid the draft. Toward the end of the war he was evacuated to the countryside where he took up residence in the annex of a house owned by Captain H, a friend of the family. Captain H was seldom at home but on one occasion after a long absence, Takao heard strange noises coming from the bathroom shared by the couple. Sidling up to the window, he peered in and witnessed the couple making love (the next four pages of the story detail what he witnessed!). After watching such an event for the very first time, Takao became obsessed with the captain’s young wife and sought opportunities to be alone with her during the captain’s absences. On one occasion he used the pretext of borrowing a book to gain access to the house and was surprised when the wife behaved coquettishly towards him. She invited him to return later that evening and share her bath. The couple’s bath was, however, interrupted by an air raid siren and they fled to the shelter in the garden. It was there that they made love. The story ends with the announcement that after the surrender, Captain H was arrested and executed as a war criminal, thus allowing the adulterous pair to continue their relationship.

The police operation against Ryōki proceeded in a manner similar to cases handled under the militarist regime, avoiding public debate about the category of “obscenity” through handling matters out of court. Hence, when arrested and charged with obscenity, both the author and publisher of the story pleaded guilty and paid a fine of 250 yen and it was unnecessary to take the matter to trial. It therefore remains off record what aspects of the story in particular the police considered obscene. Contemporary press accounts of the case identify the adultery as a key factor that led to the prosecution.95 Yet, since the act of adultery itself was in the process of being removed from the criminal code by Allied command, it is difficult to see why a description of the act would have been problematic. It is likely that the complicating factor here was that the adultery was instigated by a soldier’s wife, involved an “unpatriotic” student, and the reputation of the soldier himself was sullied by allegations of war crime. Ironically these very factors would probably have been viewed favorably by the CCD censors since the themes were suitably “antifeudalistic” and clearly opposed wartime rhetoric. Indeed, CCD censors had let the pulp story “Mrs Captain H” pass whereas in August 1946 they had suppressed a literary piece entitled “A fujin no tegami” (Letters from Mrs A) by famous author Tanizaki Junichirō simply because they considered the devotion expressed by Mrs A toward an unnamed Japanese pilot to be supportive of militarism.96

Later Japanese scholars have argued that the motivation for the police to move against Ryōki was ideological. Hasegawa Takuya suggests that the story about “Mrs H” caused concern since in 1947 those charged with dealing with obscenity in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Metropolitan Police Department were still under the sway of wartime ideologies mandating respect for imperial soldiers and decrying “moral decline.” Furthermore, adultery (on the part of wives) was still a touchy subject since it had long been considered a criminal act and was not removed from the Criminal Code until October 1947.97 Indeed three years after the Ryōki incident in 1950, when the translator and publisher of D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover were also charged under paragraph 175, the prosecution argued that the adulterous nature of the sex described was an aggravating factor in the book’s “obscenity.” Mark Driscoll’s work on prewar censorship also suggests that adultery was likely to have been the trigger for this prosecution. He notes how the Confucian-inspired censorship code of the prewar years, “led to an exclusive focus on the sacrosanct patriarchal home”98 and that adultery, illegal on the part of women in real life, was a particular target for censorship.

Both Hasegawa99 and Yamamoto Akira100 observe that most early postwar obscenity prosecutions involved stories “centering on war criminals and adultery” and accounts of “lust and wrongdoings in the imperial dynasty.” Since neither of these topics was of ideological concern to the Allied censors, Yamamoto in particular uses the prosecution of these topics to argue for the independence of the Japanese police in respect to the censorship of sexual mores.101 Ann Sherif concurs, noting that “For the Japanese government officials and the police, SCAP’s relatively loose policy on sexually explicit materials meant that the local authorities could stand as the ‘authorizer of discourse’ for at least one facet of society—the regulation of sexual expression.”102 Indeed in the Lady Chatterley trial that unfolded in 1951, an attempt by the prosecution to introduce as evidence a letter from an Occupation official supporting their case “backfired dramatically” as the judges “balked at this intrusion of a foreign authority in their courtroom.”103

Hasegawa reports that the Civil Censorship Detachment did get involved in the Ryōki case, but only after the matter was brought to their attention by the Japanese police. The publisher was summoned to headquarters to explain himself and ordered to publish an acknowledgement of his wrongdoing in the next issue of the magazine.104 However, Hasegawa speculates that it may not have simply been complaints by the Japanese police that prompted the CCD to act since there was significant disagreement among the Allied powers themselves over the (lack of) censorship over sexual issues. He notes that the USSR often expressed dissatisfaction over America’s lukewarm control of the rapid spread of pornography and the sex industry in postwar Japan, thus underlining the fact that there was hardly one coherent set of opinions even among the occupying powers.

Hence, a close look at Allied and Japanese policies concerning the regulation of sexuality in print media suggests that there was not a coherent and unified approach shared by both authorities. What both parties did share was a common interest in how “their” women were being represented. The Americans were touchy about any representation of “Caucasian” women in a sexual context, fearing that such depictions might constitute a criticism of the Occupation and its gender reforms. The Japanese authorities, too, were anxious about depictions of Japanese women, in particular military wives and imperial concubines, whose betrayal of their husbands was read metonymically as a betrayal of the Japanese nation.

The early years of the Occupation were clearly not a time of sexual anarchy given that inter-racial couplings were the site of such intensive anxiety, intervention and control by the Allied authorities and ideological limits on sexual expression were still being enforced by the Japanese police. Although Japanese women were in some contexts seen as victims of a feudal Japanese patriarchy in need of liberating through democratic reform, they were in other contexts seen as unruly bodies, liable to corrupt and contaminate the US troops. The indiscriminate roundups of Japanese women and their forced subjection to venereal disease examinations is a harsh reminder of the limited agency that all Japanese, women in particular, exercised under foreign occupation.

However, the emphasis that has been placed in previous scholarship on the restrictions on inter-racial sexual expression has perhaps obscured the way in which Japanese-Japanese sexual expression was opened up in the early postwar years, giving rise to an erotic publishing culture almost unparalleled anywhere prior to the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s.

Mark McLelland is Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Wollongong, Australia, and is author or editor of eight books on Japanese popular culture, new media and gender studies including Love, Sex and Democracy in Japan during the American Occupation, and Queer Japan from the Pacific War to the Internet Age.

Recommended citation: Mark McLelland, "Sex and Censorship During the Occupation of Japan," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 37, No. 6, September 10, 2012.


1 Shimokawa Kōshi, Nihon ero shashinshi (History of Japan’s erotic photographs), Tokyo: Shōkyūsha, 1995, 32.

2 He refers to the “wild parties” that were staged in some neighbourhoods after news of the defeat; Igarashi Yoshikuni, Narratives of War in Postwar Japanese Culture, 1945–1970, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000, 48.

3 Tanaka Yuki, Japan’s Comfort Women: Sexual Slavery and Prostitution during World War II and the US Occupation, London: Routledge, 2002, 160. Kate Haste, Rules of Desire: Sex in Britain: World War 1 to the Present, London: Chatto & Windus, 1992, also notes that the spread of VD among US troops stationed in the UK tended to be blamed on British “good time” girls, not the troops themselves, 134.

4 Mire Koikari, Pedagogy of Democracy: Feminism and the Cold War in the US Occupation of Japan, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2008; Shibusawa Naoko, America’s Geisha Ally: Reimagining the Japanese Enemy, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008; Tanaka, Japan’s Comfort Women.

5 Morris, The Phoenix Cup: Some Notes on Japan in 1946, London: Cresset Press, 1947, 18.

6 Ibid., 20.

7 Igarashi, Narratives of War, 53.

8 Mishima Sumie Seo, The Broader Way: A Woman’s Life in the New Japan, New York: John Day Co., 1953, 90.

9 About 20 percent of youth were estimated to have lost or left their families by the war’s end. Many of these ended up working in the black market or the sex trade. Police round-ups of sex workers sometimes brought in girls as young as ten. See Shimokawa Kōshi, Sei fūzoku nenpyō: Shōwa sengo 1945-1989 (A sexual customs almanac of the postwar period 1945-1989), Tokyo: Kawade shobō shinsha, 2007, 28.

10 Mishima, Broader Way, 96.

11 Ibid., 183.

12 On the black market see John Dower, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II, New York: WW Norton, 1999, 139-48.

13 Shimokawa, Sei fūzoku nenpyō, 15.

14 Morris, Phoenix Cup, 21.

15 Other areas in Japan, such as the prefectures surrounding Hiroshima, were under the supervision of other Allied powers, particularly the British Commonwealth forces. However it was American culture that had the most impact on Occupation mores.

16 The term is Benedict Anderson’s; see Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism, London: Verso, 1983.

17 Mary Louise Pratt, “Arts of the Contact Zone,” Profession 91, New York: MLA, (1991): 33-40, 4. For a detailed description of how this mentality was achieved, see Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney, Kamikaze: Cherry Blossoms, and Nationalisms, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002, especially chapter 4.

18 Pratt, “Arts of the Contact Zone,” 4.

19 Koikari, “Rethinking Gender and Power in the US Occupation of Japan 1945-1952,” Gender and History 11, no. 2 (1999): 313-35, 314.

20 Cited in Pharr, “The Politics of Women’s Rights,” in Democratizing Japan: The Allied Occupation, edited by Robert Ward and Yoshikazu Sakamoto. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, (1987): 221-52, 224-45.

21 Ibid., 231.

22 Ibid.

23 Ibid., 241.

24 Tanaka, Japan’s Comfort Women, 112-16.

25 Shimokawa, Sei fūzoku nenpyō, 14.

26 Igarashi, Narratives of War, 35.

27 Takemae Eiji, The Allied Occupation of Japan, New York: Continuum, 2002, 41; Tanaka, Japan’s Comfort Women, 116-25.

28 Tanaka, Japan’s Comfort Women, 13.

29 On the foundation and eventual demise of the RAA see Tanaka, Japan’s Comfort Women, 141-50.

30 Theodore Cohen, Remaking Japan: The American Deal as New Deal, New York: The Free Press, 1987, 125.

31 Tanaka, Japan’s Comfort Women, 146.

32 Ibid., 136.

33 Cohen, Remaking Japan, 126. See also Tanaka, Japan’s Comfort Women, 153-54.

34 Shimokawa, Sei fūzoku nenpyō, 15.

35 Tanaka, Japan’s Comfort Women, 155.

36 An ex-service member, who was a newly qualified doctor serving with the Occupation at the time, told me of an incident involving an army chaplain outside of Sugamo jail (used to house accused war criminals prior to the Tokyo Trials). The street in front of the main entrance to the jail was crowded with makeshift shacks that were used for prostitution services for the many Occupation personnel working in the jail. One chaplain was famous for patrolling these shacks, even going to the extent of dragging army personnel out and shaming them in the street. One afternoon he was shot in the back and killed. Apparently “nobody saw anything” since it was neither in the interests of the women working as pan pan, nor their American customers, to cooperate with the investigation.

37 Sarah Kovner, Prostitution in Postwar Japan: Sex Workers, Servicemen, and Social Activists, 1945-1956, PhD. thesis, Columbia University, 2004, 29.

38 Ibid., 30.

39 Ibid., 26-7.

40 Tanaka, Japan’s Comfort Women, 160-61.

41 Cohen, Remaking Japan, 131.

42 Yomiuri newspaper, morning edition, May 31, 1947, p. 2.

43 Asahi newspaper May 31, 1947, p. 4.

44 Cohen, Remaking Japan, 128.

45 Koikare, Pedagogy of Democracy, 166.

46 Ibid., 166.

47 Ibid., 169.

48 Tsubaki Bunya, Seppun nendai ki (Kissing annals), Tokyo: Kindai bunkōsha, 1949, 166.

49 Yamamoto Akira, “Kasutori zasshi” (Pulp magazines), in Shōwa no sengoshi, edited by Saburō Ienaga, Tokyo: Chōbunsha, 1976, 246-47, 244.

50 Lawrence Beer, Freedom of Expression in Japan: A Study in Comparative Law, Politics, and Society, Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1984, 282.

51 Cited in Rubin, “The Impact of the Occupation on Literature or Lady Chatterley and Lt. Col. Verness,” in The Occupation of Japan: Arts and Culture, edited by Thomas W. Burkman, Norfolk, Virginia: General Douglas MacArthur Foundation, (1988): 167–74, 169.

52 Catherine Luther and Douglas Boyd, “American Occupation Control over Broadcasting in Japan 1945-52,” Journal of Communication 47, (1997): 39-59, 43.

53 Etō Jun, “One Aspect of the Allied Occupation of Japan: The Censorship Operation and Post-War Japanese Literature,” Occasional Paper, East Asia Program, The Wilson Center, Washington DC, 1980

54 Ibid., 17.

55 See Appendix B: 2a reproduced in Report of Government Section Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, 460.

56 The CCD was based in Tokyo with branch offices in Osaka and Fukuoka. At its height it consisted of 66 officers, 63 enlisted men, 244 civilians and 149 other non-Japanese foreign nationals in addition to a Japanese staff of 5658. See Etō, “One Aspect of the Allied Occupation,” 21.

57 Ibid., 17.

58 Ochi, “What Did She Read? The Cultural Occupation of Post-War Japan and Translated Girls’ Literature,” F-Gens Jyānaru 5 (2006): 359-63, 363.

59 Nishi Toshio, Unconditional Democracy: Education and Politics in Occupied Japan 1945-1952, Stanford University: Hoover Institution Press, 1982, 101, gives a summary of fifteen categories of articles commonly suppressed by the CCD, none pertaining to morals; Journalist William Coughlin in Conquered Press: The MacArthur Era in Japanese Journalism, Palo Alto: Pacific Books, 1952, does not mention obscenity at all in his discussion of CCD grounds for censorship.

60 Etō, “One Aspect of the Allied Occupation.”

61 Rubin, “Impact of the Occupation on Literature,” 167–74.

62 Memo contained in Momo iro raifu microfiche in Gordon W. Prange collection.

63 Hasegawa Takuya, Waisetsu shuppan no rekishi (History of obscene publications), Tokyo: Sanichi shobō, 1978, 36.

64 Ann Sherif, Japan’s Cold War: Media, Literature and the Law, New York: Columbia University Press, 2009, 227, n. 31.

65 Yamamoto, in Kasutori zasshi kenkyū: shinboru ni miru fūzoku shi (Pulp magazine research: The history of sexual customs seen as a symbol), Tokyo: Shuppan nyūsusha, 1976, 42-3, suggests three possible reasons for the designation kasutori. Firstly, kasutori shōchū was a poor quality alcoholic drink made from a mixture of fermented rice and potatoes that, like the bad journalism of the kasutori press, was best avoided. Secondly, a kasutori drinker was only able to survive three cups before entering into a dangerous state, similarly kasutori magazines were unlikely to survive past their third issue. Finally, it was suggested that kasutori was a term applied to the poor quality paper used to print the magazines, as opposed to the deleterious nature of their contents.

66 Deborah Shamoon, “Misora Hibari and the Girl Star in Postwar Japanese Cinema,” Signs 35, no. 1 (2009): 131-55, 135.

67 See Yamamoto, Kasutori zasshi kenkyū; Matsuzawa, “Kasutori zasshi to ‘Garo’ no Nagai-san (The kasutori press and ‘Garo’s’ Mr Nagai),” Sei media 50 nen, Tokyo: Takarajimasha, (1995): 23-31; Shimokawa, Shōwa seisō shi: senzen, senchūhen (Showa history of sex: prewar and wartime collection), Tokyo: Dentō to gendaisha, 1981.

68 Ningen tankyū, “Zadankai: Onna gakusei no seitai o tsuku (Roundtable: A discussion of the situation of female students),” March (1952): 66-77, 76.

69 Christine Marran, Poison Woman: Figuring Female Transgression in Modern Japanese Culture, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007, 138. See also Kōno Kensuke, “Hihyō to jitsuzon: sengo hihyō ni okeru sekushuariti (Criticism and existence: Postwar criticism and sexuality),” Kokubungaku kaishaku to kyōzai no kenkyū 40, no. 8 (1995): 44-51, 46, who also argues that the Japanese authorities used pulp culture as a kind of “camouflage.” Another list of “three Ss” popular in the prewar period comprised “speed, sport and screen.”

70 Front cover of Esu, June 1948.

71 Chapman, “Japan: Propaganda to Pornography,” 8.

72 Ibid.

73 Dower, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II, New York: WW Norton, 1999, 150.

74 Ishikawa Hiroyoshi, “Kanzen naru kekkon kara HOW TO SEX e no sengo shi (A postwar history from Perfect Marriage to How to Sex),” Kurowassan, July (1977): 113-15, 113.

75 Donald Keene, Dawn to the West: Japanese Literature in the Modern Era, New York: Henry Holt, 1984, 967.

76 Censorship notes following on from the galley proofs of the May 1946 edition of the magazine Toppu microfiche in the Prange collection.

77 Document preserved in Gordon W. Prange Collection, JP/TOK/PPB/c/356.

78 Luther and Boyd, “American Occupation Control over Broadcasting,” 46.

79 Marlene Mayo, “Literary Reorientation in Occupied Japan: Incidents of Civil Censorship,” in Legacies and Ambiguities: Postwar Fiction and Culture in West Germany and Japan, edited by Ernestine Schlant and J. Thomas Rimer, Washington D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, (1991): 135-62, 143-44.

80 In reference to the April 1948 edition of the magazine Jigoku (also entitled L’enfer, i.e. hell) on Jigoku microfiche in Gordon W. Prange collection.

81 Luther and Boyd, “American Occupation Control over Broadcasting ,” 49, n. 6.

82 Censorship document signed by S. Nagoshi following on from April 1949 edition of Momo iro raifu on microfiche in the Gordon W. Prange collection.

83 Richard Friman, “The Impact of the Occupation on Crime in Japan,” in Democracy in Occupied Japan: The U.S. Occupation and Japanese Politics and Society, edited by Mark Caprio and Yoneyuki Sugita, London: Routledge, 2007, 98.

84 Shikita Minoru and Tsuchiya Shinichi, Crime and Criminal Policy in Japan from 1926 to 1988: Analysis and Evaluation of the Showa Era, Tokyo: Japan Criminal Policy Society, 1990, 81.

85 Hasegawa, Waisetsu shuppan no rekishi, 31-32.

86 Kitagawa Chiyomi, “H taisa fūjin (Mrs Captain H),” Ryōki, December (1946): 40-49.

87 Miyanaga, “Ōchō kōshoku kokkei tan (Humorous tales of dynastic lust),” Ryōki, December (1946): 24-27.

88 Hasegawa, Waisetsu shuppan no rekishi, 31-32.

89 Dower, Embracing Defeat, 149.

90 Cather, The Great Censorship Trials of Literature and Film in Postwar Japan, 1950-1983. PhD. Thesis, University of California, Berkeley, 2004, 23, notes that the widespread discussion of sexual irregularities in the popular press was introduced by the defense in the 1951 obscenity trial of the publisher and translator of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, in an attempt to show that graphic depictions of sex were consistent with community standards. It was however the adulterous nature of the sex described in Chatterley, as in “Mrs Captain H,” that rendered these descriptions problematic, as Cather notes, “the prosecution was attempting to stop adultery in reality via a ban in representation,” 32.

91 Hasegawa, Waisetsu shuppan no rekishi, 34.

92 Kushner, The Thought War: Japanese Imperial Propaganda, Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2006, 67.

93 Ibid., 185.

94 Mark McLelland, “A Short History of Hentai.” Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific no. 12, 2006, online. Another potential derivation I did not know about at the time is that “H” is the letter that comes between G and I – a reference to the lecherous nature of some of the GIs serving with the Occupation. See Inoue Shōichi, “Ecchi to esuemu (H and SM),” In Sei no yōgo shū, edited by Inoue Shōichi and Kansai Seiyoku Kenkyū Kai, Tokyo: Kōdansha gendai shinshō, (2004): 37-44.

95 Hasegawa, Waisetsu shuppan no rekishi, 34.

96 Mayo, “Literary Reorientation in Occupied Japan,” 143.

97 Hasegawa, Waisetsu shuppan no rekishi, 34.

98 Driscoll, Absolute Erotic, Absolute Grotesque: The Living, Dead, and Undead in Japan’s Imperialism 1895-1945, Durham: Duke University Press, 2010, 183.

99 Hasegawa, Waisetsu shuppan no rekishi, 34.

100 Yamamoto Akira, “Kasutori zasshi,” 246-47.

101 Ibid., 246.

102 Sherif, Japan’s Cold War, 74. That there was disagreement about the nature of obscenity between Japanese and Occupation authorities is also suggested by the fact that in 1952 the Japanese police prosecuted a cinema owner for showing a “birth-control film” that had been developed in the late 1940s and passed CIE inspection; see Roland Domenig, “A History of Sex Education Films in Japan, Part 2: The Post-War Years and Basukon Eiga,” Midnight Eye, March 2007, online.

103 Cather, Great Censorship Trials, 67. The Lady Chatterley obscenity case has much in common with the prosecution of Ryōki. As Cather notes the Chatterley trial “was an attempt by the government to assert their authority in the realm of representation to deflect attention from their lack of effective control in the realm of reality,” 33.

104 Hasegawa, Waisetsu shuppan no rekishi, 36.

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Authors: For all articles by the author, click on author's name.   Mark McLelland