You can’t make vagina kayaks in Japan.
Megumi Igarashi, a Japanese artist who goes by the name Rokudenashiko (translates roughly to “good-for-nothing child”), was arrested for the second time on December 3, 2014 because of her vagina-shaped kayak. The first arrest in July 2014 was for starting a crowdfunding campaign that paid for the boat’s construction. Dubbed the “Manbo,” or “Pussy Boat” (“Manbo” is a combination of the Japanese slang term for “pussy” and the word for “boat”), the kayak is made from a 3D rendering of Igarashi’s genitalia.
Igarashi has been creating vagina-inspired sculptures for a while—the artist has said that her intent is to make the vagina more “casual and pop,” breaking down taboos around the female genitalia. Her cute, colourful projects include such unique pieces as a vagina smartphone cover and vagina dioramas. The “Pussy Boat”, which continues Igarashi’s tradition of playful, boundary-pushing art, ended up being a crowdfunding success. Igarashi paddled her controversial kayak across the Tama River, between Tokyo and Kanagawa, before putting it on display at the Shinjuku Ganka Gallery in Tokyo.
Despite its reputation as a nation with a creative and unconventional pornography industry, Japan continues to enforce some pretty strict obscenity laws. Igarashi’s first arrest prompted many people to question Japan’s decision to censor all depictions of genitalia. “I don’t believe my vagina is anything obscene,” Igarashi was quoted as saying in a press conference after her first arrest. As media coverage of her story grew, a petition demanding Igarashi’s freedom eventually gained over 20,000 signatures and she was quickly released.
Igarashi’s second arrest comes after the artist is said to have distributed “obscene data” of the 3D-print project to a large number of interested contributors. Anyone who has the data for the boat and access to a 3D printer would be able to create their own vagina-shaped kayak—meaning that maybe someday Japan’s residents will see a whole fleet of Pussy Boats floating down the Tama River. In the meantime, Igarashi’s data sharing has the potential to lead to up to two years in jail and a fine of up to 2.5 million yen (about $24,000 Canadian).