Japan artist charged with obscenity for kayak in shape of vagina defiant as prosecutors seek fine

Artist Megumi Igarashi scoffed at the demand to fine her 800,000 yen (S$9,400).
Artist Megumi Igarashi scoffed at the demand to fine her 800,000 yen (S$9,400). PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - A Japanese artist charged with obscenity for distributing a design for a kayak shaped like her vagina scoffed on Monday (Feb 1) at a demand by prosecutors to punish her with a 800,000 yen (S$9,400) fine and vowed to appeal if found guilty.

Megumi Igarashi's case has drawn widespread attention and sparked accusations of heavy-handed censorship in a country known for its multi-billion-dollar pornography industry but where actual depictions of genitalia are banned.

Igarashi was arrested in July 2014 for trying to raise funds online to pay for the construction of the kayak by disseminating a coded 3-D image of her genitals.

The artist, who calls herself Rokude Nashiko - slang that loosely translates as "reprobate child" - was released days later following a legal appeal and after thousands of people signed a petition demanding her freedom.

But several months later, Tokyo police arrested her again on three counts of distributing "obscene" data - namely CD-ROMs containing computer code for a 3-D printer that would allow users to make copies of the vagina-shaped kayak.

She was held in custody for around a month before being granted bail.

Japan has a prolific pornography industry that caters to all imaginable tastes. But tough obscenity laws ban the showing of actual genitalia, which normally appear pixellated or blacked out.

Prosecutors on Monday demanded that she be fined 800,000 yen at a hearing at Tokyo District Court.

A defiant Igarashi, however, said that she was resigned to the fact that prosecutors will probably appeal the case if she is found not guilty in May when the verdict will be handed down.

"And if I am found guilty, I will of course continue fighting," she told reporters after the court session.

"This battle is expected to be a long one."

Mr Takashi Yamaguchi, one of Igarashi's lawyers, said that the prosecution was intent on making an example of Igarashi ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

"I believe the Olympics is definitely one of the factors" behind the decision to seek such a hefty fine, he added.