Lights, digicam … lower! Japan soul-searching over freedom of expression


TOKYO (Information) – Withdrawn endorsements for movies and artwork exhibitions are re-igniting a debate in Japan over self-censorship, exposing a wrestle to steadiness freedom of expression with a cultural penchant for avoiding battle.

FILE PHOTO: Photograph taken by Kyodo in Nagoya, Japan, August three, 2019, exhibits a statue symbolizing “consolation girls,” who had been pressured to work in wartime Japanese navy brothels. Image taken August three, 2019. Kyodo through Information/File Photograph

The most recent controversy arose when Japan final week canceled its endorsement of an artwork exhibition in Austria commemorating 150 years of diplomatic relations. The gathering contains work that critics say paint an unflattering image of Japan and its prime minister, Shinzo Abe.

“We made the judgment that the contents of the exhibition didn’t promote the mutual understanding and pleasant relations between Japan and Austria,” Seiichiro Taguchi, director of the international ministry’s Central and South Japanese Europe Division, informed Information.

The exhibition, titled “Japan Limitless”, opened in late September and can run to Nov. 24, now with out the official Japan-Austria anniversary 12 months emblem.

It features a video of a likeness of Abe apologizing for Japan’s wartime aggression, in addition to a satirical depiction of U.S.-Japan relations via a rendition of a well-known photograph of wartime Emperor Hirohito posing with U.S. Basic Douglas MacArthur, who led the Allied occupation of Japan after World Struggle Two.

Public broadcaster NHK and different media carried information of the federal government’s withdrawal of its backing for the Vienna exhibition, igniting a clamor on social media – with many individuals, together with lawmakers, supporting for the choice.

Self-censorship just isn’t new in Japan – movie distributors famously lower out newsreel footage of Japanese troopers committing atrocities in Nanjing from Oscar-winning movie “The Final Emperor” within the late 1980s – however a latest worsening of relations with South Korea has unsettled nerves over the subject of Japan’s wartime actions.


The discourse over inventive freedom reached fever pitch this 12 months when the Aichi Triennale artwork competition pulled a statue symbolizing so-called consolation girls – women and girls pressured to work in Japanese navy brothels – after organizers obtained threats.

A number of the Japanese artists featured within the Vienna exhibition had additionally proven their work on the Aichi competition.

Consolation girls had been additionally the topic of documentary movie “Shunsenjo: The Principal Battleground of the Consolation Girls Challenge”, the screening of which was initially canceled at a movie competition final month.

Organizers later reversed the choice, apologizing for caving in to threats and after safety measures had been put in place.

A number of months in the past, Shibata metropolis in northern Japan made information when its board of schooling refused to again the screening of the 2017 biographical movie “Park Yeol”, about an early-20th century Korean anarchist and independence activist that features scenes crucial of Emperor Hirohito.

The film additionally touches on the bloodbath of ethnic Koreans by mobs after the Nice Kanto Earthquake that leveled Tokyo in 1923.

The organizer of the occasion then sought – and obtained – the assist of the town’s common affairs division to point out the movie.

“I believe Japanese folks generally tend to over-think issues – ‘what would occur if we did this or that’,” organizer Tetsuo Saito informed Information. “Consequently, we take the most secure route as an alternative of attempting to interrupt new floor.

“I really feel a way of cultural limitation in that sense. However then again, there are folks – even when it’s a minority – who’re taking over the problem, so not all is misplaced.”

Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; Enhancing by Robert Birsel