Author: M. G.
This HIV awareness ad by the Japanese healthcare firm ViiV recently showed in Tokyo’s gay neighbourhood Ni-chome. The authorities of the city repeatedly asked the firm to change their billboard since they received complaints about the indecency of the illustration, that was defined to be against “public order and morality”. This sweet muscled guy wearing just underwear is a bit too much for the Japanese standards, therefore a T-shirt and a pair of pants were added in a second version of the drawing, which unfortunately still wasn’t good enough, but for a different reason: cartoonist Poko Murata, creator of the illustration, didn’t agree with the ridiculous remarks received and still wanted to show a bit of underwear through the pants of his cartoon.
Murata also added more arguments against the absurdity of this situation on his blog. In fact you just need to walk few blocks from Ni-chome to meet Tokyo’s red light district, where you can find hostess bars, massage centres and similar places targeted to a straight audience where the advertising is way more explicit. Apparently, when it comes to women, everything is allowed: just to give you an idea, together with any kind of female nudity, you can also find other original ideas like a series of giant motorized female robots advertising the Robot Restaurants, a club for female cabaret. This is the Japanese way.
What’s interesting about contemporary Japan is that homosexuality is more despised now than some centuries ago. Sexy, if not pornographic, illustrations were already huge in the XVI century and, at that time, gay scenes were far from being rare. They depicted male actors playing female roles in the traditional Kabuki theatre, actors who often were extremely sophisticated sex workers too.
Actually I don’t know which of the two scenarios I prefer, but what’s sure is that gays in Japan still have to wait a long time before being decently accepted by their own society.