Megumi Igarashi, who works under the pseudonym Rokudenashiko, roughly translated as “good-for-nothing girl,” is a Japanese artist known for using her vagina as a motif for her art. Igarashi was arrested in July 2014, for her artwork displaying figurines modelled on her vagina and for her 3-D vagina kayak project. On May 9, 2016, a Japanese court ruled that Igarashi was guilty of obscenity, but not for “displaying obscene materials publicly” and exhibiting the physical objects, since her figurines did not immediately resemble a vagina and qualified as art under Japanese law. Igarashi was fined 400,000 yen for distributing obscene data, from sharing 3-D printer information of her genitals. The data was labeled obscene, allegedly because it could have been used to create a replication of her vagina for sexual arousal. After the ruling, Igarashi expressed disappointment at the court’s decision: “the ruling explained my artwork was OK because it didn’t look like real female genitals. It still says genitalia are obscene objects.”  Igarashi continues to battle Japan’s definition of obscenity with the publication of her book in 2016, What is Obscenity?: The Story of a Good For Nothing Artist and Her Pussy.

Case History

Megumi Igarashi, whose art largely focuses on vagina molds, has said that she wants to make vaginas “more casual and pop,” to mirror the way penises are integrated into Japanese pop culture. Igarashi’s art, which includes vulva-shaped iPhone cases, chandeliers, and figurines, is created with the motivation of fighting the stigma against female bodies and helping women feel comfortable with themselves in a culture that shames them. Since her arrest, Megumi Igarashi has since published a manga memoir, titled What is Obscenity? The Story of a Good For Nothing Artist and Her Pussy, which seeks to make the vagina “cute” and explores the discrimination and taboo surrounding female genitalia.

The culture of shame in Japan that Igarashi targets in her art is an often overlooked and understated aspect of Japanese society, since the country is known for honoring genitalia at its traditional fertility festivals. Most notably, the annual Shinto fertility festival, Kanamara Matsuri, held at the Kanayama Shrine, celebrates the phallus and features phallic sculptures and memorabilia. Stone images of both vulvas and phalli are sometimes featured in Shinto shrines. However, censorship of genitalia and obscenity laws on the depiction of genitals remain strict outside of these religious environments.