- Censorship in modern Japan has served as both a political expedient wielded by government as well as a self-regulating tool used by the publishing houses. In 1869, the first publishing regulations were enacted, followed in 1875 by regulations for newspapers. Under the Meiji Constitution, these regulations were modified and intensified, focusing not only on treasonable materials but also on anything deemed “injurious to public morals.” Publishers learned quickly what would and would not pass the government censors and often used self-censorship to avoid the scandal of official censure. The inevitable clash between writers and censorship laws came early and often through the end of World War II, in part because of the kind of freedoms of expression the new narrative styles allowed and encouraged. With the rise of Communism and proletarian literature in the 1920s, the police were particularly severe in enforcing the Peace Preservation Act of 1925, which outlawed groups that sought to alter the system of government or to abolish private ownership. This act was broadly interpreted and was often used to censor literary publication. As Japan’s war with China escalated, writers were forced to either produce propaganda or not write at all. Tanizaki Jun’ichiro was particularly affected by wartime censorship, as both his modern translation of The Tale of Genji (ca. 1008) and his novel Sasameyuki (1943–48; tr. The Makioka Sisters, 1957) were subjected to censorship.Following the war, the Allied Occupation force set up its own censorship system, which came to an end with the Occupation and the establishment of Article 21 of the Japanese Constitution prohibiting censorship. Although Japanese literature has been free of censorship ever since, there have been subsequent obscenity trials focusing on the translation of works by D. H. Lawrence and the Marquis de Sade.See also ITO SEI; MARXISM; MILITARISM; SHIBUSAWA TATSUHIKO; THOUGHT POLICE.
Historical dictionary of modern Japanese literature and theater. J. Scott Miller. 2009.