日本語版はこちらThe Origins of Nude Painting and the Controversy of Artistic Censorship in Japan
[Very recently people] go about incessantly advocating nudity, praising nude pictures and generally making a naked menace of themselves. I think they are in error…. Our bird-brained ladies flaunt themselves in goose-skinned flesh and feathers solely because that is the mode in Europe. Europeans are powerful, so…everyone must imitate even their daftest designs. If my readers answer that they can’t help being dullards, can’t help being born without the ability to discriminate in imitation, then of course I pardon them. But in that case, they must abandon all pretense that the Japanese are a great nation.
- Natsume Sōseki (1867–1916), I Am a Cat (Wagahai wa neko de aru, 1904), vol. 2, Ch. 4. Translated by Aiko Ito and Graeme Wilson, 2002.
The European-style nude figure paintings first produced in Japan in the 1880s by artists such as Hyakutake Kaneyuki (1842–1884) faithfully adhered to conventions that the artists had learned while studying abroad. In order for the artists to record their physical appearance as accurately as possible, the models assumed static poses in front of nondescript backgrounds, resulting in works that appear relatively academic and passionless by contemporary standards. Nevertheless, critics such as Ōnishi Hajime (1864–1900) were concerned that such artwork might fuel viewers’ carnal desire. Moral objection to nude figure painting as a genre reached a boiling point in 1895, when Kuroda Seiki (1866–1924) exhibited Morning Toilette (Chōshō, 1893) at the 4th Domestic Exposition to Promote Industry (Dai-yon Naikoku Kangyō Hakurankai) in Kyoto. The painting, which depicted a naked woman standing in front of a mirror and arranging her hair, was awarded a bronze medal for its technical merits. Newspaper critics, however, excoriated Seiki for his audacity to display such a licentious image at a government-sponsored event designed to promote the nation’s Civilization and Enlightenment Movement (bunmei kaika).
Throughout most of the 20th century, the Japanese government banned the publication of nude imagery. In the 1990s, these restrictions were finally relaxed, leading to a sudden surge in academic research about shunga, known as the “shunga boom.” Within the past year, however, campaigns to suppress the production of erotic art, including the arrest of sculptor Megumi Igarashi (also known as Rokudenashiko, b. 1972) in July 2014 and the censorship of the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art’s exhibition Photography Will Be the following month, indicate that sexually explicit artwork in Japan remains as controversial as ever.