Japan Only G7 Country Where Virtual Child Pornography Not Regulated









In an elementary school classroom, a male teacher engages in a series of sexual acts with girls. A boy is being groped and trained by his male tutor. A Girl with a school bag on her back is taken into a car by men and sexually assaulted. ......

We can now see these kinds of representations in manga, anime, video games, and other forms of entertainment. If you open the Internet screen on your smartphone, you may see banner ads for comics that depict children as objects of sexual desire, even if you don't want to look at them. Such works made in Japan have been translated into several languages for foreign audiences and have gained popularity under the name "hentai".

Problematic because they are fictitious

This paper will refer to manga, anime, games, and other forms of depictions of children that do not exist as "virtual child pornography". Some people argue that there is no problem with virtual child pornography because it is a fictional story and does not directly depict sexual acts on real children. However, the fact that the content is fictitious makes it highly problematic.

Fictional stories are basically "anything goes". A real child would experience immeasurable pain if forced to have sex with a young body, but a fictional child would be overcome with pleasure. The message that "it is okay to perform sexual acts on children" is easily spread through legal means.

Can "freedom of expression" really push through?

In Japan, the issue of virtual child pornography has been the subject of much heated debate each time the "The Child Prostitution and Child Pornography Prohibition Law" was enacted (1999) or the "Tokyo Metropolitan Government Ordinance Regarding the Healthy Development of Youth" was revised (2010). The main point of contention was whether or not it violated freedom of expression.

Freedom of expression is, of course, an important right of ours, but there are certain restrictions, and not just any kind of expression is allowed. Can freedom of expression really push aside content that depicts sexual abuse of children as entertainment and tramples on children's sexual dignity, as seen in virtual child pornography?

Virtual Child Pornography and Children's Human Rights

This paper would like to read about the issue of regulation of virtual child pornography with the keyword "human rights". Human rights are "inherent rights that all human beings have based on their human dignity" (Ministry of Justice: Japan). Naturally, children also have human rights.

To affirm the existence of virtual child pornography, even if its contents are fictitious, or rather because they are fictitious, would lead to the violation of children's human rights. This is the issue of this research.

Only Japan in the G7

Looking at the world, international conventions on child pornography regulations have recently tended to include virtual child pornography in their scope of regulation. Even at the country level, legislation to criminalize virtual child pornography is progressing in North America and Europe. Among the seven major countries (G7), Japan is the only country that continues to exclude virtual child pornography from the scope of regulation.

In the midst of this international trend, Japan has been singled out as a "major source of virtual child pornography" by the United Nations and other global conferences, as well as by the foreign media, and is under intense scrutiny.

How should Japan deal with the issue of virtual child pornography and children's human rights? This study will consider the role required of Japan while taking hints from the perspectives of the international society, particularly in Europe and the United States.

The G7 Hiroshima Summit will be held in May 2023, and Japanese manga, anime, and video games are likely to attract worldwide attention as "Cool Japan". This will be an opportune time for Japan to present itself as a country that has acquired a sense of human rights appropriate for the global age. This summit will hopefully contribute to the realization of a truly mature Japanese society where children's sexual dignity is protected.

Mayuko Watanabe (Official Website)


Relationship between "Sexual Expression of Drawings" and "Real-Life Sexual Harm" in the Media (Conference Paper Abstract)

Japan Association of Gender and Law 2013 Annual Symposium Individual Report

Media Researcher and Journalist                                   
Mayuko Watanabe*

Relationship between "Sexual Expression of Drawings" and "Real-Life Sexual Harm" in the Media

-On the Proposed Amendment to the Child Prostitution and Child Pornography Prohibition Law





In June 2013, it was decided that the proposed amendment to the Act on Punishment of Activities Relating to Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, and the Protection of Children (hereinafter referred to as the "Child Prostitution and Child Pornography prohibition Law"), which had been submitted to the ordinary Diet session, would be continued for further deliberation. In addition to introducing a "simple possession prohibition," which would prohibit the possession of child pornography, the amendment calls for the government to conduct research on the relationship between cartoons, animations, computer graphics, etc. and sexual crimes.


With regard to the latter in particular, there is strong opposition from the publishing industry and general users. One point of contention is whether "drawings depicting non-existent people should be subject to regulation," even if they depict sexual abuse, and no unified view has yet been reached.


Does a creative work not cause actual victims? This report focuses on the relationship between "sexual expression in drawings" and "actual sexual victimization," examines several recent cases of sexual crimes and research theories and data on the effects of sexual expression, and discusses the harmful effects of sexual expression in drawings.




Child pornography cases are on the rise, with both the number of cases and the number of people exposed in the first half of 2012 increasing 19.9% and 37.2%, respectively, from the same period last year to 764 cases and 612 people, both record highs. Internet-related cases accounted for 85.7% of child pornography cases. In addition, more than 80% of child pornography of younger children is produced by means of rape or indecent assault. The Child Prostitution and Child Pornography Prohibition Law was enacted in 1999 and was revised in 2004. However, the current law does not prohibit "simple possession" of child pornography, which is the possession of child pornography simply for personal viewing, and has been criticized by the international community amid the global proliferation of images via the Internet. Therefore, based on the view that regulations should be strengthened, the Liberal Democratic Party, Kōmeitō, and Japan Restoration Party jointly submitted an amendment to the 183rd Diet session in 2013, but it was decided to continue deliberations.


What makes this amendment particularly controversial is the fact that it calls for the government to conduct research on the relationship between "drawn child pornography" such as manga, anime, and computer graphics and sexual crimes. One of the points of debate is whether "drawings depicting non-existent people should be subject to regulation," even if the content depicts sexual abuse.


In the academic literature, there have been several reports on the relationship between sexual crimes and pornography, particularly adult videos (AV), but I am unaware of any studies that focus on drawn pornography. Therefore, this report first examines the relationship between the sexual expression of drawings and actual sexual victimization, based on recent cases of sexual crimes. Then, research theories and data on the influence of sexual expression in drawings will be organized and discussed from a social scientific viewpoint.


As a case study of "infringement of the rights of real children by drawings," it will report a case in which sexual abuse of a real child was the "source of material" for drawn child pornography, which was a comic book. As for cases of "use of drawings in sex crimes," it will introduce cases that occurred in the 2000s, in which supposedly the sexual expressions in drawings was imitated in real sex crimes, or in which the view that real children are sexual objects was planted, or in which a distorted perception of real women in general was formed.


However, it can also be inferred that perpetrators of sex crimes cite media such as videos and comics as the reason for their crimes in order to shift the blame for their crimes to external reasons. It is also generally accepted that it is "some special people" who are affected in this way by the media. In the latter half of the report, it will examine the effects of media representations of sex on viewers from a social scientific perspective.


Various impact studies have shown that exposure to sexually explicit materials increases the tendency to form sexually violent attitudes and decreases the sense of guilt for sexual crimes. In "Limitations of the Effects Research on Sexual Expression," it reports on factors other than pornography that are associated with sexual aggression, as well as preventative factors that are believed to mitigate the effects of these risk factors.


In summary, based on the above reports, this paper will discuss the measures against sexual expression in drawn child pornography in Japan.


▶PDF download


*Mayuko Watanabe Official Website





To be an educator capable of teaching "How to deal with Sexual Information"

 A 29-year-old employee of the Shibuya Ward Office in Tokyo was arrested this month on suspicion of quasi-forcible sexual intercourse. He allegedly forced a woman in her 20s, with whom he was dating, to drink milk tea containing a sleeping pill at his home and sexually assaulted her.
This incident came up as a topic of conversation at "Ginza Mayumedia College" (M College), an adult learning institution of which I am the president.

At M-College, people involved in "children and sexuality education," such as midwives, nurses, school nurses, and other medical professionals, national public officials, university faculty members, and police officers, are studying online from all over Japan. This semester, the "Developping the text of Sexual Information Literacy Education" class has begun. Discussions were held on the actual impact of sexual information disseminated by the media and "sexual consent."

The classic love manual of Japanese media is that "a girl who comes to my house is willing to have sexual intercourse." In other words, the manual instructs that "consent" is considered to have been established at the time she comes to the house. As a pretext for inviting a girl to one's house, the following phrases are recommended: "Let's watch a DVD together," "Let's have a drink together," and so on.

According to reports, the suspect in this case also invited the woman to his home, saying, "Let's watch a movie together. " However, although she came to his home, she did not want to have sexual intercourse. If the suspect had been working based on media's sexual information, he might have been puzzled by the unexpected turn of events.

The suspect then allegedly gave her a cup of milk tea containing a sleeping pill and then proceeded to commit the crime. There is not the slightest hint of an attempt to obtain sexual consent from the other party.

The Japanese media is full of sex-related communication that is out of touch with real people's minds and does not respect the dignity of the other person. It is necessary for adults to teach students at school and at home how to deal with such sex-related information. The Ministry of Education's Courses of Study for junior high and high school students also state that children should be taught how to deal with sexual information.

What is important for children to be able to deal with sexual information appropriately is media literacy, or "sexual information literacy," which is the ability to critically read and understand sexual information in pornography, the Internet, social networking services, and other media without simply reading it.

Since its opening in 2020, M-College has been developing educational materials to cultivate sexual information literacy, the first such initiative in Japan. We are looking forward to seeing what kind of teaching materials will be completed this semester. We hope that by fostering in children the ability to read and understand sexual information, sexual violence, which is suspected to be influenced by misguided sexual information, will be eradicated.

Mayuko Watanabe Official Website


How to handle Sexual depictions in drawn child pornography in which the child victim is "not real"











The problem is the content of the work

An elementary school girl gleefully reaches for the lower half of a male teacher's body.
A graphic incest between a teenage sister and brother.
A young girl is bound naked in chains and subjected to sexual torture.

All of these contents were published in "general-interest" manga magazines not designated for adults. The naked girls on the color pages are very realistic in terms of their pre-secondary sexual characteristics and skin color. They are displayed in bookstores without being covered, and children can easily pick them up.

The proposed amendment to the Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance Regarding the Healthy Development of Youths requires that manga and anime depicting rape and other malicious sexual acts against young people be displayed on adult-oriented shelves. The current system for designating unsound books limits the criteria for regulation to "clear depictions of genitalia" and other factors. Thus, cartoons depicting rape, gang rape, or incest of children are practically unregulated as long as the genitals are blurred out. 

Some people argue that there is no need to regulate the depiction of sexual violence in manga, anime, and other virtual child pornography because the victims do not exist. However, the problem is not that simple. Cartoons influence children's sexual awareness and behavior.

According to a survey by the Japanese Association for Sex Education (2005), "comics/magazines" are the second most common source of information on male-female relationships and sexual intercourse for junior high and high school students, after "friends". Since parents and schools do not teach sex properly, comics are valued as "sex textbooks.

Last year, I conducted a survey of male and female university students in Tokyo on the relationship between media and sexual attitudes and behavior. One boy, in his third year of junior high school, asked his girlfriend to have sexual intercourse for the first time. However, she was not interested. In the end, he forced her to have sexual intercourse with him. After that, she left him.

"In the manga I used to read at the time, there were many scenes of girls having sexual intercourse in which they were reluctant to say 'no, stop that,' or 'no, no,' but gradually became pleased. I thought they would at first pretend to be shy," he said.

Manga depictions of sex often include the "rape myth," which drowns out male guilt, by saying that "girls really want to be attacked. It is very possible that children with little life experience will believe these myths.

Furthermore, cartoons and animations that portray rape and incest as if children willingly accept them may make children less resistant to them. If children are made to believe that their youth and sexuality are "valuable commodities," they may be tempted to engage in prostitution and underwear sales. A study by the Asian Women's Fund (1997) found that high school girls who engage in "Enjo-Kousai" (prostitution) are more likely to believe information from the media.

Because drawn works can be "anything goes," certain restrictions are necessary. It is not a question of whether or not the work features real people, but rather what kind of "message" it sends. At the same time, I would like to call for the incorporation of literacy education for children at school and at home to critically read and understand the sexual information from the media. 

(Mainichi Shimbun, "Discussion Points," published June 11, 2010)

Mayuko Watanabe Official Website


The key points regarding the revision of Japan's Child Pornography Prohibition Law

When Will the Third Amendment to Japan's Child Pornography Law Come?

Since last year, a number of illustrations and cartoons, such as "Onsen Musume" and "Tawawa," have been criticized for their sexually explicit content.

In addition, petitions concerning "a request for the third revision of the Child Prostitution and Child Pornography Prohibition Law in line with the UN recommendations" have been frequently submitted to the Diet. 

There are growing calls for the criminalization of sexual expression in cartoons and animations.

These developments are reminiscent of the eve of the second revision of the Child Pornography Prohibition Law (2014).

Toward the third amendment, what are the points of discussion?
For your reference, here is what I once said in an interview with Kyodo News, which is now available online for the first time.

The need to eliminate the sex crime factor

-The background of the argument for stricter regulations is the international criticism that "Japan is a child pornography powerhouse."

"Child pornography originating in Japan is very popular overseas. Japanese pornography often features violent stories that subordinate women and give men a sense of superiority. In other countries, there is a lack of such stories, perhaps because of the strong position of women. "

"The number of cases involving child pornography in Japan has been increasing every year and is at an all-time high."

-What is the relationship between child pornography and crime?

"People who commit sex crimes, such as child prostitution, have various factors, such as stress in their relationships and family environment, and they use children as an outlet for their dissatisfaction. Child pornography is at least a factor, as it can be a clue, or a trigger at the end of a crime. It cannot be said that if we don't look at it, it will disappear completely, but we must eliminate the factors one by one."

"I am conducting surveys and interviews with students at several universities to determine the impact of media sex information, and we have found that they are quite turned on by it since childhood. One male student forced to have sexual intercourse with his girlfriend when he was in the third grade of junior high school. He said it was because there was a pattern in many comic books of girls refusing verbally to have sex with him but gradually becoming pleased. Many boys believe that it is OK to come on to a girl when she comes to their house, and there is no end to the damage done to girls as a result of this."

-Is the influence of manga, anime, and video games significant?

"Manga and anime depict children who are happy to be sexually victimized. It eliminates the sense of guilt. In addition, manga and anime are accessible entertainment for children and inexpensive. They are a significant source of information."

"In games, the influence of them in which you are the main character is great. When they see how girls react to bishojo (beautiful girls) games and the like, they assume that real women are the same way."

-There is a fear of violating freedom of expression. Are the current regulations insufficient?

"I want to protect freedom of expression because I was also a creator of TV programs. However, I do not think it is right to allow depictions of humiliation that use force to subdue women to go unchecked. It goes beyond the guarantee of freedom of expression."

"There are many stakeholders in the pornography market, and an incomplete approach will not stop child sexual abuse material. In fact, the regulations that have been put in place so far have not stopped it."

-How do you see the way newspapers and TV stations handle the issue?

"The newspapers' tone varies, but I get the impression that they are somewhat biased toward opposition to the regulations. They seem to be too focused on the crisis of freedom of expression, and their tone seems to be one of opposition for the time being."

"Recently, there have been reports on TV blaming children, saying that children are voluntarily selling their naked pictures and selling their bodies, and that this is shameful. This is outrageous. The focus is not on the problem of the adults who buy them. We should make it clear that this is a problem for us adults."

(September 1, 2010, "What to do about child pornography regulations," Kyodo News Disputes)

 Mayuko Watanabe Official Website


Japan-made Pornography and Literacy Education

Japan-made sexual media, such as pornography including adult videos, comics (manga), animation (anime) and games, are now quite popular in all over the world. As you may know, Japan is a big exporter of pornography which is called "Japorn" or "Hentai." You also may have heard the term "yellow fever."

In late years, the young people in your country (probably!) are able to see Japan-made sexual contents more frequently by the spread of the Internet.

The characteristics of Japanese pornography is that women represented there are always passive and obedient to men.

However, this situation often causes troubles for Japanese women in overseas. While I lived in Canada, I have heard that Japanese women tend to be seemed easy to hook up with, and be asked abnormal sexual play by Canadian men.

In order to deal with this, Media Literacy education for Japan-made pornography would be necessary not only in Japan but also in foreign countries. Media Literacy means the ability to analyze media critically.

We should teach the watchers of Japan-made pornography that it is different from reality and its expression violates women’s human rights. I hope this approach would lead to the world of gender equality.

Facing the coming opening of the Tokyo Olympics, as a president of the Association of Sexual Media Literacy Education in Japan, I am going to discuss some more about pornography in this country. Stay connected!

Mayuko Watanabe Official Website