Rokudenashiko (aka Megumi Igarashi) is a Japanese artist best known for creating a kayak that was based on a 3D scan of…an intimate part of her body. And she paddled around in it. Happily. The Japanese government was somehow offended by this and prosecuted her for obscenity—the trial has taken place and a verdict has not been rendered yet.
Her memoir What Is Obscenity? The Story of a Good For Nothing Artist and Her Pussy, will be published this spring by Koyama Press, and she’s coming to North America for a series of lectures and signings sponsored by arts organizations and free speech advocacy groups. And appearing at TCAF. So you will be able to hear all about her travels and canoeing*** in person.
There’s still a chance that she’ll be jailed for her pussy canoe. This is a country that sells panties in vending machines and invented moe, hentai and many other outrageous but (to our eyes) protected art forms. Why is one thing okay and not another? Soon we’ll find out.
Manko is Japanese for pussy, and dictum non gratae in Japan. Rokudenashiko is Japanese for “a good for nothing.” For years, Rokudenashiko—or Nashko—has been emancipating manko from chauvinist censors, expounding her own version of a vagina monologue through comic books and cute, playful merchandise like iPhone cases and vinyl figurines. The controversies surrounding her artwork were benign at best, until the Tokyo Metropolitan Police decided to make a public example of her.
The trial of Japan versus Rokudenashiko has drawn to a close (February 1), and is now in deliberation. Verdicts are determined by judges and not juries in Japan, and the presiding judge for Rokudenashiko’s case will be announcing a determination of guilt or innocence on May 9, 2016.
Undeterred by the threat of a constitutional reckoning, Rokudenashiko begins her tour May 14 at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival as their international guest of honor. From Toronto she will make her way to New York, speaking at the Asian American Writer’s Workshop, co-hosted by PEN America, followed by a residency and speaking program at the Eyebeam Institute in Brooklyn where she will explore open source art as a form of feminist resistance. She will be promoting her first English-language book, What Is Obscenity? The Story of a Good for Nothing Artist and Her Pussy, out from Koyama Press in May.
— ろくでなし子@地裁判決日5.9 (@6d745) October 27, 2013
What Is Obscenity? The Story of a Good For Nothing Artist and Her Pussy is a comic book/memoir of the artist’s time in jail, and explores the titular question: what is obscenity? Why are the Japanese so afraid of pussy and why are the people who decide what’s appropriate female representation, all old straight men? Rokudenashiko’s take-no-prisoners sense of humor makes an otherwise tragic situation a comical treat and source of inspiration.
*** PS: I know that a canoe and a kayak are not the same thing. Sometimes you gotta go with the joke however.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.