Toronto

Japanese artist debuts vagina-themed graphic novel in Toronto

From battling a controversial criminal case in Japan, to sitting on panels and signing books in Toronto just days later, Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi, more commonly known as Rokudenashiko, may be a world away from home but says her work has been more welcome at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival than it ever has been in Japan.

Rokudenashiko also known as Megumi Igarashi was one of the feature guests at Toronto Comic Arts Festival

Japanese artist Rokudenashiko poses with her kayak, made with a 3-D printer using a mold of her vagina. (Courtesy the artist and Koyama Press)

From battling a controversial criminal case in Japan to signing books in Toronto, Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi, or Rokudenashiko as she's more commonly known, is a world away from home but says her work has been more welcome at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival than it ever has been in Japan.

Rokudenashiko premiered the English version of her graphic novel What Is Obscenity? The Story Of A Good For Nothing Artist And Her Pussy at this weekend's festival, which took place at  the Toronto Reference Library.

"Unlike in Japan the people have received it very kindly," Rokudenashiko told CBC News. "They treat the book as the fun, exciting, light-hearted piece that it is and not the serious, criminalized work that it is in Japan, so I'm really happy about that."

The cover of Japanese artist Rokudenashiko's graphic novel, What Is Obscenity? (Koyama Press)

The novel is a memoir of the trials and tribulations Rokudenashiko has faced pursuing her artistic mandate: demystifying female genitalia in Japanese culture.

Her work made international headlines when she was arrested in July 2014 after creating a kayak based on a 3D scan of her own vulva. A move shocking to some, it made for material on late night shows including The Daily Show's Jon Stewart.  

On Monday, a Tokyo court found her guilty of a charge of obscenity for sending the 3D printer files used to create the kayak as a thank-you to those who helped crowd fund it.

But Rokudenashiko says being caught up in a criminal case has been a "universally good thing."

"The fact that I get so much attention is absolutely good, I think that's great," she said.

Coming from a country that dedicates an annual festival to celebrating male genitalia, Rokudenashiko hopes that bringing her work to an international audience will positively influence attitudes towards the topic of female anatomy in Japanese pop culture.  

Rokudenashiko also known as Megumi Igarashi was one of the feature guests at Toronto Comic Arts Festival May 14th to 15th. (Tania Mehta/CBC)

"I'm hoping they see that this is considered a positive piece of art drawn and that that will then influence public opinion in Japan."

Rokudenashiko says she's thrilled that her Toronto audience has received the novel kindly.

"In Japan there's a lot of negative criticism lodged against me even still from the Internet and on Twitter, whereas here... I feel only positive reception."

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