Tokyo gay shop busted for selling ‘obscene’ photo books

Japan's police arrested two staff of a gay shop for selling photography books which included pictures of nude men

Tokyo gay shop busted for selling ‘obscene’ photo books
16 March 2013

Tokyo’s metropolitan police announced that it arrested staff of a gay store in the Shinjuku district for selling a book by photographer Leslie Kee that included images of full male nudity, which they deemed ‘obscene’.

Officers took into custody yesterday (15 March) the 61-year-old manager of Lumiere, a shop located in Tokyo’s gay quarter that sells DVDs and magazines, and one other employee.

The manager of Lumiere told officers that the editor of Japan’s gay magazine Badi said that selling Kee’s books is not illegal as they are considered artistic.

According to officers, the arrested Lumiere employees sold four copies of Kee’s books in 2011.

Last month, Kee made an appearance at the store and sales totaled 880 copies.

Both suspects were subsequently released.

41 year-old photographer Kee, and two other men were arrested on 4 Feburary for selling the books at an exhibition at the Hiromi Ishii Roppongi gallery in Tokyo.

Kee, a native of Singapore, is a popular photographer in the fashion and music industries.

His work includes collaboration with gay icon, Lady Gaga, and famous Japense singers Ayumi Hamazaki, and Yumi Matsutoya.

The photographer was released from custody two days after his arrest.

Article 175 of Japan’s Penal Code prohibits the distribution, sale, or public display of obscene writings, pictures, or other materials.

The law, however, does not define what specifically constitutes as being obscene, which as a result, the definition of ‘obscenity’ is open to interpretation.

Sales of a Japanese version of Mapplethorpe’s book were suspended and banned after Japan’s Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that photos displaying male genitalia was considered obscene. 

In stark contrast to the Japan’s obscenity laws, it is famous for racy shops (brothels equipped with baths) and exceptionally explicit manga comic books that cater to every type of sexual fantasy.

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