Japan 🇯🇵 is an East Asian country. Millions of the Japanese population practice Shintoism or Buddhism, with 1% practicing Christianity.

It is a free constitutional monarchy, with a parliamentary democracy.

Imperial censorship (1868-1945)[]

Censorship (検閲, ken'etsu) in the Empire of Japan was a continuation of a long tradition beginning in the feudal period of Japan. Government censorship of the press existed in Japan during the Edo period, as the Tokugawa bakufu was in many ways a police state, which sought to control the spread of information, including Christianity, the influx of Western ideas, pornography and any political writings critical of the shōgun and government.

Meiji period (1868-1912)[]

During the Meiji Restoration, state censorship of information shifted its focus from protecting the Emperor and the fledging Meiji government. Ideals of liberal democracy were deemed as dangerously subversive and were targeted with the Publication Ordinance of 1869 (出版条例, Shuppan Jōrei), which banned certain subjects (including pornography) , subjecting publications to pre-publication review and approvals. Originally intended as a copyright law, it was quickly adopted as method to control public criticism against the government.

When the cabinet system of government was established, the Home Ministry was charged to carry out this task, issuing various regulations aimed specifically at newspapers. The growth of the Freedom and People's Right Movement caused a reaction from conservative elements within the government to pass strict libel laws in 1875 and the Press Ordinance of 1875 (新聞紙条例, Shimbunshi Jōrei), that was so severe that it was labeled as "Newspaper abolition law" as it gave power to the Home Minister to ban or shut down offending newspapers considered offensive to public order or state security by the government. The ordinance was further strengthened in revisions of 1887, which extended penalties to authors and publishers, restricting as well the import of foreign language newspapers with objectionable material.

During the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 and the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, separate censorship restrictions were imposed by the Army Ministry during wartime.

The censorship laws were revised again in the Publication Law of 1893 (出版法, Shuppan Hō), which remained virtually unchanged until 1949. Newspapers regulations followed suit in the Press Law of 1909 (新聞紙条例, Shimbunshi Jorei), following the regulations of the 1893 Publication Law, detailing punishments for offenses.

Taisho period (1912-1926)[]

Even though the Taisho period is usually stereotyped as one of liberal politics, it was also a period of great social upheaval and the government became increasingly heavy-handed in its attempts of control of the spreading new political philosophies considered dangerous to the government: especially socialism, communism and anarchism. After the end of World War I, the Peace Preservation Law of 1925 gave more power to the police in prosecuting promotion of socialism, communism, and of the Korean independence movement. Censorship restrictions were expanded as well to include religious groups. In 1928, death penalty was added for certain violations and the Special Higher Police Force (Tokko) was formed to deal with ideological offenses (such as thought crisis) on a national basis.

Early Showa period (1926-1945)[]

In 1924, the Publications Monitoring Department of the Home Ministry was created with separate section for censorship, investigation and general affairs. When the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out, the Home Ministry, Army Ministry, Navy Ministry and Ministry of Foreign Affairs held regular meetings with publishers do advise on how follow the ever-stringent regulations. Penalties for violations became increasingly severe and voice recordings (including radio broadcasts) also came under official scrutiny.

In 1936, an Information and Propaganda Department (情報部, Jōhōbu) was formed within the Home Ministry, which issued all official press statements and worked together with the Publications Monitoring Department on censorship issues. The activities of said committee, a consortium of military, politicians and professionals was upgraded to the Cabinet Information Division (内閣情報部, Naikaku jōhōbu) in September 1937, were proscriptive and prescriptive. Besides applying censorship to every media of the Showa regime and issuing publishers with detailed guidelines, it made suggestions that were all but commands. From 1938, printed media "would come to realize that their survival depended upon taking cues from the Cabinet Information Bureau and its flaship publication, Shashin shūhō, designers of the 'look' of the soldier, and the 'look' of the war."

Article 12 of the censorship guideline for newspaper issued on September 1937 stated that any news article or photograph which was "unfavorable" to the Imperial Army was subject to a gag order. Article 14 forbade any "photograph of atrocities" but endorsed reports about the "cruelty of the Chinese" military and civilians.

Giving the example of the Nanjing massacre, Tokushi Kasahara, a modern Chinese history professor of the Tsuru University asserts that "Some deniers argue that Nanjing was much more peaceful than we generally think. They always show some photographs with Nanjing refugees selling some food in the streets or Chinese people smiling in the camps. They are forgetting about Japanese propaganda. The Imperial Army imposed strict censorship. Any photographs with dead bodies couldn't get through. So photographers had to remove all the bodies before taking pictures of streets and buildings in the city. ... Even if the photos were not staged, the refugees had no choice but to fawn on the Japanese soldiers. Acting otherwise meant their deaths..."

A famous example of censorship is related to Ashihei Hino's wartime bestseller, Mugi to Heitai (Wheat and Soldiers), in which a paragraph where the author described the beheading of three Chinese soldiers was cut from the final section of the book in spite of the author's dedication of the bellic effort.

In 1940, the Information Department (情報部, Jōhōbu) was upgraded into the Information Bureau (情報局, Jōhō Kyoku), which consolidated the previously separate information departments from the Army, Navy and Foreign Ministry under the aegis of the Home Ministry. The newly-formed Bureau had complete control over all news, advertising and public events and was headed by a president (総裁, sōsai), directly responsible to the Prime Minister with a staff of about 600 people, which included military officers and officials from the Home and Foreign ministries. In February 1941, a blacklist of writers whose articles were advised to not be published anymore was distributed among editors.

The official spokesmen of the Cabinet Information Division, such as the vice-president Hideo Okumura, Major-General Nakao Nahagi and Captain Hideo Hiraide, became the most popular commentators, who addressed press conferences, spoke on the radio and wrote in newspapers.

However, the Cabinet Information Division only dealt with civilian matters. War bulletins were the domain of the Press Department of the Imperial General Headquarters (大本営報道部, Daihonei hōdōbu), which was made up of the press sections of the Army and the Navy, deploying its own war correspondents and occasionally drafting civilian reporters for coverage.

The National Mobilization Law (国家総動員法, Kokka Sōdōin Hō) in 1941 entirely eliminated freedom of the press, subjecting all mail to scrutiny. In February 1942, all newspapers in each prefecture were ordered to either merge into one paper or cease publication, with all articles by the paper having to be screened by government censors before they could be published. The Japan Publishers League (日本新聞連盟 Nihon shinbun renmei), reorganized in the Japan Publishers Association (日本新聞会 Nihon shinbunkai) agreed to cooperate with the government by conducting internal monitoring of its members through a self-screening of drafts, manuscripts and proofs before final submission to the official government censors. As the war situation deteriorated, the government took over the distribution of paper, releasing supplies only for matters related to official policy. By 1944, only 34 magazines were left in publication, and by 1945, only one newspaper was permitted per prefecture.

Published media and films were subject to censors in order to promote Fascist national unity.

  • Insulting the Emperor
  • Questioning the Constitution
  • Undermining the proper use of the Japanese language (slang)
  • Anything considered "Anglo-American" (fairly random)

Occupation censorship (1945-1950)[]

On 5 October 1945, General Douglas MacArthur began censoring Japanese newspapers. Unlike the Meiji censorship, newspapers were not allowed to black out the offending portions; indeed, mentioning the censorship was forbidden even in confidential conversations.

General censorship[]

After the surrender of Japan in 1945, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers abolished all forms of censorship and controls on freedom of speech. Article 21 of the Constitution of Japan was later integrated in 1947 to guarantee that the Japanese had the freedom to associate with each other and express their thoughts freely. However, press censorship remained a reality during the occupation of Japan, especially in matters of pornography, and in political matters deemed subversive by the American government. Publications submitted by the press were monitored for criticisms about democracy or the problems such as starvation the Japanese citizens experienced during the occupation in the form of regulations set by The Press Code of 1945.

Censorship of certain events related to the Allied forces left various groups of Japanese citizens to be subjected to discrimination by their peers. Hibakusha experienced life-altering physical changes as a result of the radiation they were exposed to and the lack of press explaining the effects of radiation poisoning made it difficult for Hibakusha to fit in. Unable to speak out against the results of the atomic bombs and to assimilate with other Japanese citizens, most Hibakusha had to live isolated within the homes of their family.

The three organizations established by the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers and who were tasked with upholding press censorship were the Civil Communications Section (CCS), the Civil Censorship Detachment (CCD), and the Civil Information and Education Section (CIE). The CCS focused on monitoring what was being broadcast to the Japanese people while the CCD monitored printed and filmed works to ensure that no form of media was spreading messages against democracy. The CIE on the other hand, was primarily used to educate Japanese publishers and producers on how to integrate prodemocratic values into their publications to boost support for the new government.

According to Donald Keene:

"Not only did Occupation censorship forbid criticism of the United States or other Allied nations, but the mention of censorship itself was forbidden. This means, as Donald Keene observes, that for some producers of texts "the Occupation censorship was even more exasperating than Japanese military censorship had been because it insisted that all traces of censorship be concealed. This meant that articles had to be rewritten in full, rather than merely submitting XXs for the offending phrases."

Dawn to the West

Above the political and economic control that Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP), known as the GHQ in Japan, had for the seven years following Japan's surrender, SCAP also had strict control over all of the Japanese media, under the formation of the Civil Censorship Detachment (CCD) of SCAP. The CCD eventually banned a total of 31 topics from all forms of media, which were: criticism of SCAP (individuals and the organization), criticism of Allied policy pre- and post-war, any form of imperial propaganda, defense of war criminals, praise of "undemocratic" forms of government, though praise of SCAP itself was permitted. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Black market activities. Open discussion of allied diplomatic relations (Soviet Union–United States relations). Rape and robbery committed by US soldiers. Although some of the CCD censorship laws considerably relaxed towards the end of SCAP, some topics, like the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were taboo until 1952 at the end of the occupation.

In the four years (September 1945-November 1949) since the Civil Censorship Detachment was active, 200 million mails, 136 million telegrams were opened, and telephones were tapped 800,000 times. Since criticism of the crimes committed by the US military, such as the dropping of the atomic bomb, rape and robbery by the soldiers was not allowed, a strict check was carried out. Those who got caught were put on a blacklist called the watchlist, and the persons and organizations to which they belonged were investigated in detail, making it easier to dismiss or arrest the "disturbing molecule". [1]

Book censorship[]

  • Books, textbooks, fiction, etc. that were patriotic, nationalistic, or portrayed wartime generals in a positive light
  • The Grapes of Wrath

Film censorship[]

  • Films deemed nationalistic or patriotic (nearly all pre-war movies)
  • The Mikado (1939) - banned until World War II because it could be interpretated as insulting the Emperor
  • The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail - because of the "feudal values". Its director, Akira Kurosawa stated that the cause of the ban was because the film was not liked by post-war censors.
  • Citizen Kane - apparently for portraying the United States negatively

News censorship[]

  • "False" or "destructive" criticism of the Allies, even truthful reports of them picking up Japanese girls at docks, or reporting crimes committed by Americans
  • Rapes committed by the American soldiers during the occupation of Japan
  • Criticism of the treatment of Japanese in Manchuria
  • Criticism of the Allies' wartime policies
  • Comments suggesting the possibility of a World War III
  • "Overplaying" widespread food shortages

Modern censorship[]

General censorship[]

While Article 21 of the Constitution of Japan guarantees freedom of expression and prohibits formal censorship, effective censorship of obscene content does exist and is justified by the Article 175 of the Criminal Code of Japan. Historically, the law has been interpreted in different ways—recently it has been interpreted to mean that all pornography must be at least partly censored, and a few arrests has been made based on this law.

As of 2022, Japan is ranked 71st on the Press Freedom Index, down from 67th in the previous year. Reporters Without Borders has noted that issues concerning Japan include self-censorship among its journalists, the national media broadcaster NHK maintaining close ties to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), as well as the exclusion of freelancers and foreign reporters in government events and interviews, fueling doubts about editorial independence. In 2022, an "online insults" law was introduced that would regulate the kind of speech made in the online public sphere.

  • The sale and distribution of pornography in Japan is restricted under Article 175 of the Criminal Code (1907), which states the following:

A person who distributes, sells or displays in public an obscene document, drawing or other objects shall be punished by imprisonment with work for not more than 2 years, a fine of not more than 2,500,000 yen or a petty fine. The same shall apply to a person who possesses the same for the purpose of sale.

The article was amended in 2011 to include "recording media containing [obscene] electronic or magnetic records", as well as materials distributed by electronic means. The definition of "obscenity", which is absent from the text of the code itself, has developed through a series of judicial decisions. In the 1957 Chatterley Case, the Supreme Court of Japan upheld the convictions of translator Sei Itō and editor Kyujiro Koyama, who were accused of violating the law with their 1950 publication of D. H. Lawrence's erotic novel Lady Chatterley's Lover. In its opinion, the Court cited a three-part test for obscenity previously established by the Supreme Court of Judicature in 1928; under this test, a work is considered obscene if it "arouses and stimulates sexual desire, offends a common sense of modesty or shame, and violates proper concepts of sexual morality." Due to this legal interpretation, the majority of pornography produced in Japan undergoes self-censorship; the primary means are digital mosaics and/or censor bars placed over genitalia.

  • In 1964, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government passed the Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance Regarding the Healthy Development of Youths, also known as the Youth Ordinance Bill as an attempt to stop children from buying porn (or at least what the government thinks is porn) by identifying "sexually deviant" anime and manga and cutting their publishers off from other organizations' financial backing. As a clever loophole, pornographic works since then would use tiny censor bars over the naughty bits, such as over the clitoris and the tip of the penis, leaving everything else on show, but not over monster parts such as tentacles.

While Japan is known for its very violent shonen manga such as Fist of the North Star, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure and Attack on Titan, among many other, which can get away with straight-up gratuitous over-the-top violence, ironically, its video game rating system, is one of the strictest in the world, where excessive violence, decapitation or dismemberment either gets heavily edited or even not released in the country. Even if the highest ratings are given, games such as Red Dead Redemption II are toned down for the Japanese release even for the Z-rating (the Japanese equivalent of the "AO" rating of the ESRB), which follows a reversal, where previously, Japanese games during the 1980s and 1990s had to tone down blood and violence to even be allowed to be released in the West.



Kotobagari (言葉狩り, "word hunting") is a term which sardonically refers to the reluctance of the use of words considered potentially offensive or politically incorrect in the Japanese language. For instance, words such as rai (癩, "leper"), mekura (盲, "blind"), tsunbo (聾, "deaf"), oshi (唖, "deaf-mute"), kichigai (気違い or 気狂い "crazy"), tosatsujō (屠殺場, "slaughterhouse"), and hakuchi (白痴, "moron/retard") are currently not used by the majority of Japanese publishing houses, which often refuse to publish writing which includes these words. A school janitor in Japan used to be called as kozukai-san (小使いさん, "chore person"), however, some felt that the word had a derogatory meaning, resulting in the term yōmuin (用務員, "task person") being used. The latter term in turn was considered demeaning too, so there is a shift to use kōmuin (校務員, "school task member") or kanrisagyōin (管理作業員, "maintenance member") instead.

Another example of words which became unacceptable include the replacement of the word hyakushō (百姓) for "farmer" with nōka (農家) and of the word "gaijin" (外人, gaijin) for "foreigner" which is used derogatorily, is replaced with gaikokujin (外国人).

Since World War II, the word Shina (支那) for China written in kanji has been recognized as derogatory, and has been largely superseded by the Japanese pronunciation of the endonym, Chūgoku (中国) or with Shina written in katakana (シナ).

In the 1960s, the Sino-Japanese word Mōko (蒙古) meaning "Mongol" was recognized for its connotation of a "stupid, ignorant, or immature" person (compare the English term “Mongoloid”), and the ethnic group is now referred to by the katakana term Mongoru (モンゴル).

However, Kotobagari led to confusing terminology. NHK, the Japanese Broadcasting Company, runs a Korean study program, but uses the term "Hangul", resulted from both the North and South Korean governments' demands that the language be called by their respective preferred name of Korea suffixed with "language" (go, 語). North Korea wanted the show to be called Chōsen-go or "Chōsen language" (朝鮮語), taken from the Japanese pronunciation of the full name of North Korea, Chōsen Minshu Shugi Jinmin Kyōwakoku (朝鮮民主主義人民共和国) or "Democratic People's Republic of Korea". South Korea wanted Kankoku-go or "Kankoku language" (韓国語) from Daikan Minkoku (大韓民国) or "Republic of Korea". So, as a compromise, "Hangul" was selected and Korean was refered as "the language on this program" ("Kono bangumi no gengo") or "this language" ("kono gengo"), leading to the neologism "Hangul language" (ハングル語, Hanguru-go), which is technically incorrect, as hangul itself is a writing system, not a language.

Book censorship[]

  • Lady Chatterley's Lover - This novel was determined by the Supreme Court to be legally "obscene" in 1957, after the case having originated in 1951. The Japanese translator Sei Itō and the publisher Kyujiro Koyama were both subjected to fines, and unexpurgated versions of the text could not be legally sold under Paragraph 175 of the Japanese Penal Code,  which bans the sale, publication, and exhibition (but not the possession) of obscene works. The 1951 Chatterley trial, indeed, originated the criteria Japanese courts use to judge whether or not a work is obscene. Versions of the novel sold in Japan from the 1950s through the 1990s had the offending parts replaced with asterisks. From the 1990s onward, uncensored versions of the novel began to be sold. Interestingly, on paper the relevant legislation has not changed, and there has not been a legal case that has officially overturned the 1957 ruling. Rather, prosecutors and the government have taken no action against publishers, resulting in a de facto but somewhat confusing change in Japan's obscenity laws.
  • In 1999, Japan's customs authority banned the importation of a book of photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe, despite it having previously been published in the country without incident. In 2008, the Supreme Court overturned the ban.
  • The Bells of Nagasaki, a nonfiction account of the atomic bombing of that city by a survivor, was initially refused publication under the censorship regime during the American occupation. It was eventually allowed to be published with an accurate but off-topic appendix about atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese tacked onto the end, presumably for "balance". Versions published after the end of the occupation, as well as English translations, generally omit the appendix.
  • Historian Saburo Ienaga holds the distinction of being the complainant in the longest civil trial in any country on record. In 1965, he sued the Japanese education ministry over its refusal to approve to his history book, which did not shy away from depicting war-time atrocities by the Japanese. Ienaga and his lawyers argued that the refusal to approve the book constituted censorship, though there was never any ban on the sale of the book, just on its use as an official textbook in schools. In 1997, the Supreme Court finally ruled that although no censorship had taken place, the ministry had nonetheless abused its discretion in not approving the book.
  • Little Black Sambo was banned from 1988 until 2005 to quell "political threats to boycott Japanese cultural exports", although the pictures were not those of the original version.

Manga and light novel censorship[]

As with hentai anime, the censorship was enforced:

  • Although not banned in Japan at national level (and never banned from private sales), Barefoot Gen has been banned from libraries at the local level on multiple occasions:
    • In 2012, a right wing group complained to the Matsue city assembly to ban the manga from school libraries because it contained "unsupported" depictions of Japanese atrocities. The city assembly refused to act, but the local school board subsequently moved all copies in local elementary and middle schools to closed shelves, effectively stopping students from reading the work at school. When this action became widely known nationally in 2013, there was a large public outcry. In the ensuing controversy, Japan's education minister commented that he found the ban to be appropriate, though he took no actions himself. In the end, the school board reconvened and unanimously decided to lift the ban, though it is left it to individual schools to decide how they wanted to treat the books.
      • In 2011, the legal guardian of a child complained to the central library of the city of Tottori that it was inappropriate to have a manga "with rape and other sexual depictions in a place where children can reach it." The library removed the work from its shelves and decided to provide it only to those who specifically asked for it. After the scandal in Matsue mentioned above, the library moved the manga back to the shelves.
  • Imouto Paradise 2 - In May 2014, this manga became the first work to officially be restricted as "unhealthy" in Tokyo under the 2010 revisions to the youth law (The Bill 156, amended to the Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance Regarding the Healthy Development of Youths, which came in effect in 2011) for "glorifying incestuous acts".
  • Manhole - this horror manga about two detectives investigating the mysterious source of a contagious disease was designated as a "harmful book" in 2009 by Nagasaki Prefecture's Youth Protection and Development Ordinance, banning its sale in the prefecture. The author of the manga, Tetsuya Tsutsui, never was actually aware of this ban until five years after the fact and tried to get the ban overturned, but his appeals were rejected. What makes this case strange is that the author never was able to get a clear answer about the reasons for the ban of his manga. There's no real-world controversy attached to it. While some body horror is displayed, it is not any more graphic than most horror manga and definitely, it is neither something which one could call obscene or pornographic. The closest that Tsutsui to an answer even got was that it met some nebulous criteria for "harmful"[2] and the prefecture has since refused to budge on the decision. The author expressed a lot of frustration on the ban, with it serving as the main inspiration for Tsutsui's later series, Yūgai Toshi .
  • Misshitsu - In January 2004, the authors Yūji Suwa, Motonori Kishi, and Kōichi Takada were prosecuted for producing and distributing this hentai manga anthology in the first manga-related obscenity trial in Japan. Police reports found the depictions of "genitalia and scenes of sexual intercourse" featured in the manga to have been "drawn in detail and realistically," with the censor bars meant to obscure genitalia and sexual penetration being "less conservative" than usual. Suwa and Takada pled guilty and were fined ¥500,000 each (about US$4,700), with Kishi receiving a one-year suspended prison sentence. After appealing to the Tokyo High Court, Kishi's sentence was reduced to a 1.5 million yen fine (about US$13,750). He then appealed the case to the Supreme Court, arguing that Article 175 violated Article 21 of the Constitution of Japan and its protection of freedom of expression. In its 2007 decision, the Court upheld the guilty verdict, concluding that Misshitsu satisfied the three-part obscenity test and was therefore subject to restriction. After the convictions of Kishi and Suwa, a number of retail bookstores in Japan removed their adults-only section, a phenomenon attributed to the chilling effect of the outcome.
  • Sugarpot e Youkoso (Welcome to Sugar Pot) - the original edition of this manga was banned due to the youth law (The Bill 156, amended to the Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance Regarding the Healthy Development of Youths, which came in effect in 2011).
  • My Hero Academia - the character known as The Doctor, originally intended to have Maruta Shiga as real name, had to be changed to "Kyudai Garaki" after someone pointed out to Kohei Horikoshi that the Maruta name was a reference to the infamous Unit 731, which was an Imperial Japanese Army unit infamously known for its inhumane experiments on war prisoners.
  • Core Magazine - In July 2013, three people related to this Japanese publishing company focused on adult material, were arrested for selling "obscene images" with "insufficient censoring". They later pleaded guilty in December 2013.
  • Unsurprisingly, the mangaka Go Nagai was a favourite target of the PTAs and other pressure groups since the publication of his first major series, Harenchi Gakuen, which became a nationwide hit. The PTAs even went as far as resorting to have Shonen Jump, where said manga was serialised, banned in certain parts of Japan. When Shonen Jump yielded to the pressure and decided that the series had to be cancelled, Nagai took revenge in his own way having all characters viciously killed by the PTA.
  • Oreimo - the protagonist of this light novel, Kirino Kousaka, was deemed a bad example by Japanese people, due to her being a 12-year girl who collected eroge games.
  • X/1999 - this manga, known for its intentionally and disturbing atmosphere, but with uncomfortable similarities to real-life tragedies which caused the manga to be repeatedly suspended in publication, was suspended at 18 out of a planned 21 volumes as of 2003 due to the controversial beheadings featured in the story, which resembled the gruesome Kobe child murders (known as the Sakakibara Incident) as well as the recurring theme of earthquakes as a sign of the end of the world after the 1995 Kobe earthquake, which happened on 17 January 1995. The current publication hiatus does not have a single trigger, but it can be due to the general post 11 September 2001 climate towards terrorism (which is what the antagonists were engaging in). The authors, CLAMP, stated in interviews that they did not believe that they would be able to get the planned ending published back then and that they did not have abandoned X. The opinions of the fans are mixed about the likelihood of the series restarting publication.
  • Berserk - The chapter 83 of this manga was suppressed from its tankoubon volume 13 by its author, Kentaro Miura, due to him deeming that the chapter gave away too much information about the Berserk universe's cosmology too quickly.
  • Is This A Zombie? - this manga's release was pushed back a week for "violent content" due to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake.

Movie censorship[]


In Japan, movies are regulated by Eirin, short for Film Classification and Rating Organization (映画倫理機構, Eiga Rinri Kikō), which classifies films into one of four categories depending on their suitability for viewing by minors of different ages. It was established in 1949. Its predecessor was the Motion Picture Code of Ethics Committee (映画倫理規程管理委員会, Eiga Rinri Kitei Kanri Iinkai).

During World War II the government of Japan censored films. The job of censoring was the responsibility of the Interior Ministry's Police Bureau. At the time, censorship was subsumed with the Motions Picture Act of 1939. After the end of World War II, the General Headquarters of the Allied Forces who had occupied Japan took on the role of censoring movies. In 1949 Japan's motion picture industry formed its own self-regulating organization, based on the code of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, which later became the Motion Picture Association of America.

Eirin was under criticism for hiring examiners who were part of the same movie industry that financed the organization, resulting in a conflict of interest, as well for criticizing content of some films which came out at the time, such as Nikkatsu's Season of the Sun based on the award-winning book by Shintaro Ishihara.

In response to the criticism, Eirin began to bring in outsiders to join the commission in 1956, and reorganized into a self-financing, independent body, changing its name to Eirin Kanri Iinkai, which is the foundation of today's rating body.


From 1976 to May 1, 1998, there were three rating categories:

  • General Audiences (一般指定, Ippan Shitei) - Patrons of all ages are admitted.
  • Limited General Film (一般映画制限付, Ippan Eiga Seigen-tsuki) - Patrons under 15 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. The first Japanese film to use this rating was Ninkyo Gaiden: Genkai Nada (任侠外伝 玄界灘, Ninkyō Gaiden: Genkai Nada, released May 29, 1976) and the first non-Japanese film to use this rating was Snuff (released June 19, 1976), a movie claiming to show actual scenes of homicide.
  • Adult Audiences (成人指定, Seijin Shitei) - Only adults are admitted.

On May 1, 1998 four rating categories were introduced: R15+ and R18+ are restricted categories and it is forbidden to admit an underage patron to a film with a restricted rating as well as rent, sell, or exhibit DVDs/motion picture releases to underage patrons with restricted ratings. Such violations are a criminal offense and strictly enforced.

Rating Name Description
Eirin Rated G.svg G All ages admitted.
Eirin Rated PG12.svg PG12 Parental Guidance Requested. Some material may be unsuitable for children under 12. Parents are advised to accompany their children during the film. May contain violent content, sexual content, use of drugs as well as underage drinking, smoking or driving. Horror movies usually get this rating.
Eirin Rated R15+.svg R15+ Restricted to teenagers 15 and over. May contain bullying, more extreme violent content, more extreme sexual content, inappropriate language and criminal activity such as the yakuza and crimes of counterfeiting.
Eirin Rated R18+.svg R18+ Restricted to adults 18 and over. May contain glamorization of violence, explicit sexual activity and glamorization of the use of drugs.

The R15+ and R18+ ratings are age restricted. All cinemas are legally required to check the age of all patrons who wish to view an R15+ or R18+ rated film. Admitting underage patrons or to such films is considered a criminal offense under Japanese law and can be punished with fines/imprisonment. It is also illegal to sell age-restricted material to underage persons.

Most Japanese adult videos (JAV) have the genitals of the actors and actresses censored (but not the breasts and nipples of the actresses), due to the Article 175 of the Japanese Criminal Code (1907), which has provisions against "indecent material". This censorship applies also to adult publications, as well as to hentai.

Instances of film censorship[]

  • Black Snow - This 1965 pink film, which depicts the lives of prostitutes on the outskirts of a US military base in Tokyo, was the first film to be prosecuted on grounds of obscenity. However, in 1966, the Tokyo District Court ruled the film as "not obscene", with the lower court holding that the defendants, Takechi and Nikkatsu distributor chief Satoru Murakami, were not culpable, as the film had successfully passed Eirin. The ruling was upheld in 1969 at the Tokyo High Court, which deemed that the film was obscene but acquitted the pair on the basis of the approval the film had received from Eirin. The rulings were followed in 1972 by a series of prosecutions against Nikkatsu's Roman Porno film series, which similarly ended in acquittals of Nikkatsu employees in 1978 and 1980 on the basis of Eirin approvals.
  • In the Realm of the Senses - this film, about the Sada Abe (a geisha and prostitute who murdered her lover and cut off his penis and testicles, carrying them around) incident, was banned for its graphic sex scenes. In 1982, the court ruled in favor of the director Nagisa Oshima, but the film is still available only in a censored cut.
  • Rex: A Dinosaur Story - this live-action adaptation of CLAMP's manga of the same name was pulled from theatres in 1993 after the producer and director Haruki Kadokawa was arrested for embezzlement and drug smuggling in the same year. Since then, no further attempt has been made at live-action films of CLAMP's manga was made.
  • Hereafter - Withdrawn from all cinemas a few days after the 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, two weeks earlier than originally planned.[3] "Warner Bros. spokesperson Satoru Otani said the film's terrifying tsunami scenes were 'not appropriate' at this time".[3]
  • Oppenheimer - it was said that this film about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the ideator of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, was banned in Japan for "not corresponding to traditional values", but actually Warner Bros chose to not release it in the country.

Internet censorship[]

Internet censorship in Japan generally focuses on pornography and controversial political material especially in regards to Japanese history during the Empire of Japan.

According to the United States Department of State, Japanese law provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the government respects these rights in practice. These freedoms extend to speech and expression on the Internet. An independent press, an effective judiciary and a functioning democratic political system combine to ensure these rights. The government does not restrict or disrupt access to the Internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitors private online communications without appropriate legal authority. The Internet is widely accessible and used. While there is little or no overt censorship or restriction of content, there are concerns that the government indirectly encourages self-censorship practices. A Reporters Without Borders survey concluded that media self-censorship has risen in response to legal changes and government criticism.

Freedom House's Freedom in the World 2017 reports that "Internet access is not restricted" in Japan. Their Freedom on the Net reports have rated Japan's "Internet freedom status" as "free" every year since 2013 with scores of 22 each year except for 2017 when the score was 23 (where 0 is most free and 100 is least free). The slight decline in Internet freedom in 2017 was due to changes in the surveillance environment.

  • The 2001 Provider Liability Limitation Act directed ISPs to establish a self-regulatory framework to govern take-down requests involving illegal or objectionable content, defamation, privacy violations, and copyright infringement. Industry associations produced guidelines where anyone can report material that infringes directly on their personal rights to the service provider, either to have it removed or to find out who posted it. No third party can do so. The provider notifies the individual who posted the content, and either fulfills the request with their permission or removes the content without the authors' approval if they fail to respond within two weeks. If the poster refuses permission, the service provider is authorized to assess the complaint for themselves, and comply if they believe it is legitimate.
  • Legislation criminalizing the use of the Internet for child pornography and the solicitation of sex from minors was passed in 2003.
  • ISPs voluntarily filter child pornography, and many offer parents the option to filter other immoral content to protect young Internet users. Depictions of genitalia are pixelated to obscure them for Internet users based on Article 175 of the Penal Code, which governs obscenity. In recent years, content removals have focused on hate speech and obscene content, including child pornography, "revenge porn", explicit images shared without consent of the subject, and increasingly the "right to be forgotten" where search engines are required to unlink inaccurate or irrelevant material about specific individuals.
  • Speech was limited for twelve days before the December 2012 election under a law banning campaigning online. The legislature overturned the law in April 2013, but kept restrictions on campaign e-mail.
  • Amendments to the copyright law in 2012 criminalized intentionally downloading content that infringes on copyright. There were calls for civil rather than criminal penalties in such cases. Downloading this content may be punishable by up to 2 years' imprisonment.
  • Anti-Korean and anti-Chinese hate speech proliferated online in 2012 and 2013 amid real-world territorial disputes.
  • In 2013 new state secrets legislation criminalized both leaking and publishing broadly defined national secrets regardless of intent or content. A July 2014 review by the United Nations Human Rights Committee said the legislation laid out "a vague and broad definition of the matters that can be classified as secret" with "high criminal penalties that could generate a chilling effect on the activities of journalists and human rights defenders."
  • A 2014 law dealing with revenge porn requires Internet providers to comply with takedown requests within two days.
  • In April 2016 the UN special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression said, "The independence of the press is facing serious threats.", noting "weak legal protection, the [new] Specially Designated Secrets Act, and persistent government pressure".

In March 2022, Japan enacted on Wednesday legislation establishing a internet police bureau and a special investigative team at the National Police Agency tasked with tackling serious cybercrime cases.

In 2022, Japan introduced a law to revise its Penal Code that would mandate a jail time for up to a year and a larger fine for making "online insults". Previously, insult charges apply when it is established that an "individual has insulted another in the public sphere to damage their social reputation." The penalty applied to the crime under the pre-revised law were "detention for less than 30 days" or "a fine of less than 10,000 yen.

Television censorship[]

Japan does not have a formal system for classifying television shows but there is clearly a large element of self-censorship. Usually, Eirin film ratings are not applied to television shows.


Anime censorship affects, even if in a minor extent compared to other countries, Japan, the country where these are produced. Compliant to the Article 175 of the Japanese Penal Code enacted in 1907, materials containing images considered as indecent are forbidden. However the laws were dated 1907 and did not vary during the process of actualising the Japanese Constitution in 1947. With time, the standards considerate as acceptable became less clear. The depiction of pubic hair was forbidden until 1991, which led to series such as Lolita Anime and Cream Lemon to use sexualisation of "children" as a loophole. The use of tentacles in series such as Urotsukidoji enabled the creators to avoid a ban on displaying genitals in sexual contexts. In other instances, the content is self-censored through the use of black dots and blurring. When the censorship is removed for overseas release, the basic animation underneath is revealed, leading to concerns over the sexualisation of "children" in those markets.

OVA (Original Video Animation) are basically anime series or movies that are not produced for TV or theaters. Due to this, OVAs can avoid censorship restrictions from TV and other controversies since these are being bought by their core audience.

The 1995 sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway are still a bad subject to be insensitive about in Japan.

  • Neon Genesis Evangelion - as an example of this, said anime which was in production at that time was roughly replanned on the fly in order to avoiding being offensive in an a way not intended to be as such.
  • Pokémon:
    • "Electric Soldier Porygon" - this episode was infamous for its seizure-inducing strobe effects, which affected over 700 of viewers, children and adults. After being aired only once, the whole series was put on hiatus in Japan for four months, and the government required flashing effects like that to be toned down. The bright flashing explosion was caused by one of the electric attacks of Pikachu destroying a missile, but the creators could not get rid of Pikachu (which was the series mascot), as well because the missiles flashed and strobed whatever they hit, making it hard to point fingers. Porygon was taken as the scapegoat due to being the Pokémon of the episode. As a consequence, Porygon, alongside its later evolutions, was never seen again in the Pokémon anime to avoid people remembering about the "Electric Soldier Porygon" incident, except for brief cameos in movie intros. While said episode was removed from Japanese releases for a period of time, it did not saw the light of day in markets outside Japan and never had an official commercial home video release. The episode itself was banned worldwide by order of Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi. On a major scale for the anime industry, traditional hand drawn anime production use of light backing tables to provide light visual effects, while not banned, were dropped and phased out by majority in response to the episode for digital animating techniques, and advisories for viewers to watch action and visually bright anime in a well lit room and a safe distance were made standard in Japan's national broadcasting standards.
    • "Shaking Island Battle! Dojoach VS Namazun!!" - This episode which featured the move Earthquake and a school of Namazun/Whiscash was dropped out due to its scheduled broadcast coinciding with massive earthquakes in Japan, out of respect for the victims. As a result, the moves Earthquake (which was not used since the episode "Whiscash and Ash"), Fissure and Magnitude were banned from usage in the anime.
    • "Team Rocket vs Team Plasma" - this two-parter which was supposed to be one of the main episodes of the "Best Wishes" series as well as the on-screen debut of the Team Plasma, had its airing cancelled due to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and the associated Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. Due to its importance to the season's overall plot, it was originally to just be a temporary delay, but the episodes ended never airing at all. However, future episodes significantly rewrote Team Plasma's role and the animation sequences of this episode would be recycled into later episodes.
      • Said two-parter was originally to be followed up by an episode, involving Cilan entering a fishing competition, which was postponed to be episode 37 due to references to a tsunami, requiring some rewriting, as the episode was supposed to see recurring character Bianca temporarily joining Ash's group. The actual episode 25 features Bianca in the group without many explanations, and the ending of what became now episode 37 was rewritten in order to have Bianca bid the group farewell rather than joining it. The original episode 27 also had Team Rocket returning to their old white uniforms and transitioning back to their old role as comic relief after major backlash over their new serious personas.
    • "An Undersea Place to Call Home!" - this episode, which was scheduled to air in Japan on 24 April 2014, was postponed out of respect for the victims of the MV Sewol ferry sinking in South Korea, as said episode involved a sunken ship. It later aired in Japan on 20 November 2014, but the postponement created a continuity error, because it involved Ash developing a technique he would use in his rematch with Grant.
  • Midori (Mr. Arashi's Amazing Freak Show) - this 1992 ero guro anime film was banned for 14 years due to its depictions of child molestation and graphic violence on animals (which are both shown in an overtly negative light in the film), which was illegal in Japan. It's a miracle it was even made, as no one wanted to sponsor it, and it took the author five years and his entire life's savings to finish it. It did see a limited print run in Japan after the law was overturned. Its master reels were confiscated and wouldn't be recovered until 2013. Once, it was rumored that six minutes of footage were removed from the film and destroyed by the Japanese government for featuring illegal imagery. However, in a 2020 interview with a Lost Media Wiki user, the production company explained that the only parts cut were a narration at the beginning and a brief scene where the screen went black as the sound of an earthquake played, both of which were intended solely for the theatrical viewing, were the only parts removed. It was also stated that, while the film was initially censored via blurring violent scenes and muting discriminatory lines, the DVD version (AKA the one most people have seen) is the uncensored version, which debunked the claims that the film was still in its censored form.
  • Cowboy Bebop: Initially aired censored on TV, later released uncensored on home video.
  • Gantz: Initially aired censored on TV, later released uncensored on home video. When Gantz was aired on Fuji TV during Summer 2004, the violent/gore scenes were censored, however, on cable TV channel WOWOW, it was aired uncut.
  • Osomatsu-san: Some episodes were edited for reruns and home releases. The first episode of this anime has been banned for copyright reasons, as many parodies shown in said episode infringed on other manga. The Episode 3 of Osomatsu-san had an Anpanman parody excised from it due to complaints from parent and teacher groups. To compensate this, a new episode was animated and put on video releases and reruns.
  • Due to some facts of true crime news, many networks decided to self-censor themselves by showing the censored version of many anime. One notable example was on 18 September 2007, when Higurashi no Nako Koro ni Kai was cancelled due to their violent content, after a 45-year-old police officer was murdered by his 16-year-old daughter with an axe, which was believed to be motivated by the her interest in the manga and anime. This led to Higurashi Kai and School Days being dropped from many channels' prime time lineup and Higurashi's opening song was redone in order to change the scene of Rena's cleaver to the scene of the junkyard where she went to.
    • School Days - the finale of this anime, which was originally the scene where Makoto Ito was killed by Sekai for betraying her with Kotonoha, where the latter, out of insanity upon seeing Makoto's corpse, kills Sekai in return, was delayed due to the above-mentioned incident of the 45-year old man murdered by his daughter and replaced by a compilation of scenery footage from all over Europe featuring boats, including Norway, set to August Wilhelmj's "Air on the G String" to fill the timeslot.
  • Moetan - Episode 6 was not aired nationwide, while Chiba TV aired the censored version.
  • Area 88 - Some nudity scenes were removed from opening.
  • Girls Bravo - Fuji TV censored the nudity scenes in the baths by digitally placing steam on the female character's bodies, due to this censorship the female protagonists were known as the "steamgirls".
  • Jojo's Bizarre Adventure - When this anime (adapted from the manga of the same name by Hirohiko Araki) was broadcasted on Tokyo MX, the scenes of underage characters (such as Stardust Crusaders' main character, Jotaro Kujo) smoking were censored by overlaying black shadows on them. Also graphic violence was censored with the organs having black shadows overlayed. Netflix and Crunchyroll use this censorship.
  • Black Jack (2004):
    • The third episode was unaired due to it dealing with an earthquake, as a real earthquake just struck Niigata Prefecture. The decision to not air it left a small plothole, as the episode introduced their pet dog.
    • The episode 28, which was about Shinkansen bullet trains going too fast which caused problems at a hospital near the station they originated from, was delayed two months due to the Amagasaki derailment occurring a month prior. The episode eventually would become the series' episode 24.
  • Blood-C: This anime was censored during its original broadcast in Japan due to its bloody violence, a stylistic choice following the series' themes. For instance, scenes were Saya's friends or other humans characters were killed by the Elder Bairns—the process of which invariably involved extensive blood and gore—were censored with areas of light and darkness. However, the deaths of Elder Bairns and mild erotic elements during a bathing scene with Saya were left uncensored.
  • Interspecies Reviewers: This anime was censored during its original airing on AT-X, Later, in February 2020, during its broadcast on Tokyo MX, the network cancelled its airing due to "changes in circumstances within [the station]", while SUN cancelled future airings of the series at the behest of channel company's management.
  • Recently, My Sister is Unusual: During its first broadcasting, this anime was censored as the timeslot chosen to air the episodes had caused controversy in Japan where a decency investigation was launched. The main complaint of the show was Hiyori (one of the main characters) openly talks about masturbation. Following the investigation announcement, Tokyo MX and Sun TV changed the airing time for the episodes to the twilight hours (1:30 - 2:00am local time). The episodes were also censored which included edits to some of the images, while others deemed offensive were blocked out. With the remedies put into place, no additional credible complaints were brought forward.
  • Pretty Cure:
    • Futari wa Pretty Cure - after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, the third movie suffered several edits during its initial theatrical release to remove a scene where a flood of fairies pouring into the mall the heroines were in, sweeping them away, ending with Hibiki floating on top and crying out "What is going on?!". Said scene was later restored for the DVD release.
    • Suite Pretty Cure - The Melody of Sorrow was completed due to the want of the creators that the kids would relate to the horrific events on that day by having the heroines suffering through a similar event. However, the show still had a happy ending where the characters defeat Noise and the Melody of Happiness is sung. In the Episode 6 of Suite, a glittering effect was added to the cake mix that Souta (Hibiki's brother) was trapped in to make it look less like a fluid.
    • Smile Pretty Cure! - this entry in the Pretty Cure series was made as a response to the earthquake disaster, having a lighter and softer tone than most installments of the franchise.
    • HeartCatch Pretty Cure! - The Kokoro no Tane (Heart Seeds) birth sequence had to be altered due to complaints due to the fairies looked like as they were wetting themselves. Another point of complaint was a scene where Cure Blossom used her "Blossom Butt Punch" attack.
  • Excel Saga - during the first airing of this anime in Japan, the Episode 26 (which was the final), titled "Going Too Far", never aired due to "offensive content", which was lolicon, excessive bloodshed and gore, violence (obliquely referring to the 1995 sarin gas attack on a Tokyo subway by including sarin attacks as a method of exterminating enemies.), frontal nudity, lesbianism, soaplands and a love hotel, which was intended by the director Shinichi Watanabe, who wanted that the episode to be so raunchy that it would get banned for violating the standards of the Broadcasting Act (the Japanese law equivalent of the Standards and Practices). Even if a network was willing to broadcast said episode. the length of said Excel Saga episode, which was one minute long (as well intended by the creators), was an issue, as it cannot be aired in a standard timeslot without cuts. Watanabe himself remarked that it "felt good to go past the limits of a TV series", although he thinks it "is not something that you should do too often". As a result, the episode was released in DVD.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers - the character of South Korea was pulled out of webcast due to protest from Korean groups, it also explains why Tibet, present as part of the East Asian groups was replaced by a panda when one of the strips where Tibet was present.
  • Sazae-san - the original ending segment of this anime, which ended with a short animation of Sazae throwing a bean or a mochi rice cake and catching it in her mouth was replaced with a rock-scissors-paper match due to complaints from parents that their children tried to imitate the former segment and got hospitalized after choking by doing so.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica - this anime was postponed for over a month due to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, as the final episodes showed a city that was destroyed and flooded by strong weather conditions.
  • Oruchuban Ebichu - this anime was designed to push the boundaries of the Japanese Broadcasting Act, trying to get away as much as possible without being censorship. However, while certain parts were censored, some edgy material was kept intact.
  • Kokoro Connect - after a scandal broke during an advanced screening of this anime, where voice actor Mitsuhiro Ichiki's audition for a character role revealed to be a candid-camera prank, every DVD and Blu-ray disc of the anime was delayed for a month in the aftermath, which was also the reason why a new opening for the initial home video release; a member of the band who wrote the original opening theme hinted at the scandal's existence via Twitter, provoking the Internet into counterattacking the producers, resulting into said member into taking a hiatus from the group due to the fallout.
  • Code Geass R2: Lelouch of the Rebellion - the Chinese Federation story arc had its premiere delayed of a week due to the earthquake which struck central China in early May 2008.
  • One Piece:
    • In the Thriller Bark arc, where Absalom stabs Sanji repeatedly with a knife while the latter is protecting Nami, who bites his backisde when he gives his location away by stepping into a pool of blood, was altered in order that Absalom relentlessly beat Sanji up and give his location away by stepping too close to him, due to the 2008 Akihabara massacre (which involved a dagger) ocurring at the same time when the anime reached that arc. The uncut scene was restored to normal in the DVD versions, when it was not an issue anymore
    • During the Dressrosa arc, the first act carried out by Kyros after upon being restored to his human form was to decapitate Doflamingo, who turned out to be a puppet of him. While the decapitation was aired without issue, a few days later, ISIS executed two Japanese hostages similarly, so the scene was edited by hastily slapping a swirl of yarn atop the headless puppet and any frame whcih showed the head on the ground was either zoomed in or cropped in order to avoid showing the severed neck.
  • Coppellion - this anime, alongside its manga source material, was put on hold due to its plot being initiated by the explosion of a nuclear reactor due to an earthquake destroying its cooling system rendering Tokyo almost uninhabitable for more than 20 years, which was too similar to the 2011 Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear central disaster.
  • Soul Eater - two episodes were reaired during the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, skipping two climatic and destructive episodes in favor of two lighthearted episodes which succeeded these.
  • Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu - the first episode of the second half of this anime, which had Kaname getting abducted by a female gang leader and Sosuke responding with the kidnapping (although a fake one) of said leader's little brother, due to a high profile kidnapping case around the same time.
  • Ranma ½ - the "Martial Figure Skating" arc, which featured a girl who stole things and "kidnapped" people and animals out of being out of her mind by their cuteness, was delayed due to several kidnappings which took place in Japan around the time the three episodes were intended to be broadcast. They would only be shown months after the series was back from cancelling and an episode which depicted flashbacks from said episodes was broadcast as part of the initial run.
  • Psycho-Pass - the fourth episode of the re-edited anime, which revolved around a deranged schoolgirl bent on kidnapping and dismembering her female schoolmates to make works of art using their body parts, had its broadcasts cancelled due to violent content, due to the plot resembling the Sasebo schoolgirl murder, where Aiwa Matsuo, a 15 year-old schoolgirl was decapitated and dismembered in her apartment by a 16-year-old girl in Sasebo.
  • Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 - this anime had its 2011 reairing by Animax after episode 6 due to the Tohoku earthquake.
  • Blue Comet SPT Layzner - this mecha anime was cancelled due to the second part of the series had Earth conquered and oppressed by a tyrannical and virulently racist empire, which was similar to how Imperial Japan treated its colonies, in particular, Korea, a few decades ago. While, tecnically, Mobile Suit Gundam, another anime of the mecha genre, did it for years more subtly with the Principality of Zeon, Layzner dealt with the theme more directly. Other reasons of the show's abrupt ending and pacing problems were budget cuts and reduction in the number of episodes due to declining rates, due to Layzner being in the same timeslot as Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam and the sponsor of Layzner, Sanyo, which then was involved in a defective products scandal, had to scale down the anime's funding fo fix the public relations issue.
  • Fire Force - this anime, whose premise revolved around firefighting, had the third episode's, which was about an arsonist trying to burn down a building and kill the people inside it, broadcast halted in the aftermath of the Kyoto Animation arson attack. The following week, the episode aired after being edited, with the color of the flames changed and the impact of the narration being reduced.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL - the "Poseidon Wave" card wielded by Shark, which visually created a tsunami to stop enemy attacks was changed to "Zeus Breath" with the tsunami changed to a wall of wind due to the 2011 tsunami.
  • In January of 2015, Assassination Classroom and Tantei Opera MIlky Holmes were taken off air by their networks due to Japanese hostages being taken and murdered by ISIS at that same date.
  • Super Radical Gag Family - this anime had scenes featuring characters eating curry from various episodes in 1998 due to the breaking news about a woman named Masumi Hayashi putting arsenic in a pot of curry which was being served at a summer festival in Wakayama, killing two adults, a 10-year-old and a 16-year-old when eating it and poisoning 63 others. Another anime, Takoyaki Mantoman, which premiered at the same time, had the scenes of characters eating curry cut.
  • Teppen - the second episode of this anime, which involved some characters getting mixed up in an assassination attempt had its broadcast cancelled days before its release due to the assassination of former Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe. However, the episode was later rescheduled to air on 10 September 2022.
  • Three different anime were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic:
    • A3 - the anime adaptation of the manga of the smae name, which already had a troubled production from the beginning, had an episode delayed due to an unknown scene considered to be too similar to the pandemic
    • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War - the English-subtitled version of the fifth episode of Season 2 originally subtitled a piece of dialogue as "What's the deal with the social distancing?". However, since the subtitle was a translation derived from a current real-life topic that was not present in the original Japanese script, the line was retranslated to the more accurate to the script "Why are you so far away from me?". Aniplex, who made the official subtitles, later apolgised for the mistake.
    • SD Gundam World Sangoku Soketsuden - this series went on a year-long hiatus due to the unfortunate timing of having a Chinese-based series about a deadly virus being spread. When the hiatus ended, every previous material was edited to rename the "Yellow Zombie Virus" (named after the Yellow Turban Rebellion, which the virus is based off of) into the "Etiolation Trinity" to reduce any chance of someone linking it to the coronavirus.

Western animation[]

  • Most Western animation featuring human characters featuring hands with four fingers often have trouble making it past Japanese censors due to the social stigma surrounding people with missing fingers, such as Yakuza members (who have a finger cut off as punishment or as a display of apology and remorse), marginalized people such as the Burakumin caste (who during the Edo period, were placed under the "third caste" in the ancient Japanese caste system), as well due to superstition according to which the number 4 is unlucky, due to the Japanese word for said number, "Shi", is also the same word for "death". However, Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters are an exception to this, as Disney holds its own strict "no-editing" policy for foreign distribution similar to Studio Ghibli.
  • Adventure Time - the episodes "Dad's Dungeon" and "Jake the Dog" were refused airing in Japan for reasons unknown.
  • The Simpsons:
    • "Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo" was never broadcasted and never on Japanese TV and neither dubbed in Japanese, making it is unavailable on the Japanese version of The Simpsons season 10 DVD release due to the offensive and ignorant jokes about Japan and its culture, as well as due to a scene considered offensive towards the Emperor of Japan, depicting Homer tossing the then-Emperor Akihito into a bin of sumo thongs (in Japan, the Emperor is only allowed to be seen in children's books and in the news), the family having an epileptic fit after seeing an anime (a reference to "Electric Soldier Porygon" above), the family going on a sadistic game show, and the implication that the Hello Kitty factory uses live cats in their products. The episode in question is not even available on Disney+ in Japan either, and where available, it is not even dubbed or subtitled in Japanese.
    • The episode "Little Big Mom" was also banned in Japan as a part of the plot involves Lisa tricking Homer and Bart into thinking they have leprosy. Japan has a very controversial history involving discrimination against lepers and to have an episode like that air would be considered offensive (though not as much as "Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo") as well for depicting Lisa (which is a loved character in Japan due to her being in line with Japanese ideals) deceiving her father, which is a disrespect which is taken very seriously in Japanese households.


  • Oshin - this asadora (morning drama) was rejected by several TV stations, as script writer Sugako Hashida stated, "The themes were so harsh and dark that the show was rejected by every television network. Even NHK opposed it. I was told 'We can't confront Meiji issues". However, NHK ultimately decided to air it.
  • Sexy Voice and Robo - the Episode 7 of this TV series, which was scheduled to air on 22 May 2007, was pulled from broadcast because it had a hostage situation, which was similar to the one which happened in real life the week before, so it was not aired to not upset anyone[4]. However, it was released on the DVD set later on.

Tokusatsu (live action)[]

  • Kamen Rider Amazon - while this show was not banned, it was canceled due to protests from parents' focus groups due to fact that the fights involving the titular hero would end with the monster of the week losing a limb or lots of blood rather than exploding after the titular hero defeats them with his Dai Setsudan finisher.
  • Chouriki Sentai Ohranger - this series, originally intended to be written as dark and with the heroes being members of the military engaging in open war against human terrorists attacking Japan, was retooled as with robots bent on wiping out the human race as villains. Another change was that the producers toned down the show's dark storyline, alternating between comical and dark episodes due to the Great Hanshin earthquake in Kobe (where 6.434 people lost their lives), which happened less than two months from the show's premiere and the Tokyo subway sarin attacks perpetrated by Shoko Asahara's doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo (where 12 people died and over 4,000 were ill and some blinded permanently), which occurred during 9 March 1995, after Episode 9 aired.
  • Engine Sentai Go-Onger - after the debut of the Go-On Wlngs, the extra heroes, whose primary weapons were the Rocket Daggers, they avoided announcing their attacks due to the fact that at the time the Akihabara massacre, where a man stabbed 12 people using a dagger, occurred. As a result, the toy versions of said weapons were renamed "Rocket Boosters".
  • Kamen Rider Gaim: In the Blu-Ray edition of the series, the map of Zawame City was altered in order to avoid copyright lawsuits from DC Comics, as the original map was too similar to Gotham City's map.
  • Ultraseven:
    • The episode 12 of the series, "From a Planet With Love" was banned in Japan on the grounds that it offended hibakusha (survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who face terrible discrimination in Japan), as the monster of the week, Alien Spell, resembled an atom bomb survivor, complete with keloid scars and was referred as "Hibaku Seijin" (A-Bomb Survivor Alien). The episode was regarded as of bad taste and the issue was reported on Asahi Shimbun newspaper, causing public outrage, forcing Tsuburaya Productions to first rename as "Kyuketsu Seijin" (Vampire Alien), to then be removed from official publications, broadcasts and home video releases.
      • After March 2011, the episode 26 of the series, "Super Weapon R-1" (which was made as a satire against nuclear deterrents and was made as a reflection of the Cold War) was temporarily removed from rotation in Japan due to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. This is due to a scene where the monster of the week, Star Bem Gyeron, wipes out a power plant with a giant wave after he lands in the sea. However, Gyeron has appeared again, unlike Spell (mentioned above), who only appeared in their debut episode. The episode is also readily available online, and appears to still be popular among both American and Japanese viewers.

Reality show censorship[]

  • Terrace House - this reality show's 2020 season was cancelled after cast member Hana Kimura's suicide.

Television show censorship[]

  • I'm in The Band - the episode "Happy Fun Rock Metal Time" was banned in Japan for featuring a wacky game show an for poking fun at Japanese subcultures.

Variety show censorship[]

  • Game Center CX:
    • Due to legal troubles with the former production company of the show, the actual first AD, Naoki Yamada, was been boycotted from future appearances in the show, events and media (movie and video game adaptations). He appeared in the first episode of Season 1, but was part of the staff until episode 4, before being replaced by Shinichirou Toujima in episode 5. Further reasons were not given.
    • In episode 2 of Season 2, during a segment, footage of a Gradius ROM hack being played in a real Famicom was blurred, in order to avoid legal troubles with Konami.
    • During the GCCX24: Kacho Saves the Lemmings special broadcast, flashbacks from the Tokimeki Memorial episode has missing in-game footage due to copyright reasons. Instead, the in-game footage were replaced by hand-made drawings of the characters by Cameraman Abe.
    • In episode 249 (Gekisha Boy), the words that appears in stage 2, "Kill" and "Fuck", were blurred.
    • During the Game Center CX in Russia special, footage of Arino playing Kart Fighter in a Dendy (Russian model of the Famicom) was blurred, likely to avoid legal troubles with Nintendo.
      • In the same episode, footage of an unofficial Russian translation of Sonic the Hedgehog was shown in a real Sega Genesis and it was not blurred.
    • On episodes 284 through 286 (EarthBound), certain jokes with Ness' nickname being Chinchin (a slang for penis, available as part of the "Don't Care" names) were censored with a beep.
    • Episodes released in DVD, FOD (Fuji Television's own streaming service) and YouTube also include different musics compared to their original TV airings. The secondary corners of the show are omitted as well.
      • Modern re-releases of older episodes also had their copyright lines blurred due to game rights ownership through the time, most notably, games from a copyright of Hudson Soft being blurred and replaced with a copyright line of Konami in the top of it.

Advertising censorship[]

A 1980s Kleenex ad featuring Keiko Matsuzaka and a baby dressed as an oni while she flies a tissue in the wind, set to Jane Lancater's "It's a Fine Day" song was withdrawn from Japanese television after viewers found it unsettling and scary.

Video game censorship[]


10 Japanese Games Censored In Japan But Not Other Regions

The Computer Entertainment Rating Organization (CERO) regulates the console gaming industry in Japan. Since 2006, its rating system consists of five ratings: A (all ages), B, C, D, and Z. Only the last of those ratings is legally restricted to 18 and older. However, any console game containing indecent nudity (e.g. breasts of a female, genitalia), explicit sexuality, or human dismemberment (including decapitation) is not allowed at any rating and must be censored to comply with CERO's content guidelines.

On the other hand, Ethics Organization of Computer Software (一般社団法人コンピュータソフトウェア倫理機構), also known for short as EOCS or Sofurin regulates the PC gaming industry in Japan. Its ratings slightly differ in guidelines to the CERO rating system.

Video games are rarely banned in Japan, and it holds the place as one of the top video game producers in the world. However, for some games, usually western, they may edit or censor their games if they appear offensive to Japan

  • None of the Mortal Kombat games since Mortal Kombat Trilogy on the original PlayStation have been localized for the Japanese market due to excessive gore and violence.
  • Pac-Man - This game, which originally was to be known as Puck-Man was changed to Pac-Man in a preemptive measure to avoid defacements of arcades machines by changing the P to an F.
  • No More Heroes - the Japanese release had the blood spatter removed and replaced with a black dust. Decapitation scenes are implied, but not shown. Scenes of missing body parts after having been cut off, are replaced with the same scene, but showing the body parts fully intact. Also its sequel, No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, had the violence toned down.
  • Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas - the Japanese release was edited to relieve concerns about atomic detonation in inhabited areas and Fat Man weapon was renamed to the Nuka Launcher due to its relation to the real historic event (Fat Man was the codename of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945).
  • Crash Bandicoot 2 - the Japanese release had a death animation that has Crash squashed into a head and feet was altered to Crash simply being flattened, due to its resemblance to the Kobe child murders in 1997, where a serial killer had severed the head and the feet of a victim.
  • Homefront - the Japanese release had all the references to Kim Jong-il and North Korea removed.
  • Judgement - this game's sales had stopped producing future sales in Japan, after Pierre Taki's suspicion of cocaine use. As a result, Sega replaced both the voice actor and the character model having been subsequently removed.
  • Root Double: Before Crime * After Days - this visual novel about a group of people trapped in a nuclear reactor after it went through a meltdown, had further information on it postponed for nearly five months due to the 2011 Sendai earthquake in Japan, which led to the partial meltdown of several nuclear reactors.
  • MotorStorm: Apocalypse - this racing game featuring races through an earthquake-ravaged city was delayed due to the 2011 earthquake.
  • DanceDanceRevolution X3 - one of the Encore Extra Stages, "Tohoku EVOLVED" (now available for standard play), a song made in tribute of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. If the player tried to get a AA score on the Extra Stage with the Wave modifier enabled, the game prevents the player from playing "Tohoku EVOLVED".
  • Final Fantasy XIV - During the 1.0 version, Titan (an earth-based godly being) and Leviathan (a water godly being) were going to be released into the game with an update, but the two boss characters were withheld by Square-Enix when the tsunami-earthquake disaster hit Japan in 2011, since the developers felt launching characters who can cause earthquakes and tidal waves would hit too close to home for its Japanese players. A few years later, both characters were eventually patched into the game.
  • The Zettai Zetsumei Toshi series, which is a survival horror series in which the "horror" is a collapsing Japanese city, was effectively dead for 5 years due to the Sendai tsunami and earthquake.
  • Negligee: Love Stories - this visual novel is banned due to not having the requested censorship.


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