Photo/Illutration“Zenkoku-ban Anohino Erohon Jihanki Tanbouki” (nationwide study of pornography vending machine of yesterdays), right, and “Ero Manga Hyogenshi” (The Expression History of Ero-manga) (Yusuke Kato)

Freedom of expression advocates and a publishers association are turned off by the official designation of two reference books on erotic publications and pornographic vending machines as "harmful" to youngsters in Hokkaido and Shiga Prefecture.

The labeling means sales to those under 18 is prohibited, and they must be shelved in a marked-off area of a retail establishment apart from books for sale to all ages in the prefectures.

Opponents say the prefectures have gone too far in applying juvenile regulatory ordinances to books that are research-oriented and reportage in nature.

“After the 'harmful publication' designation, it would be difficult for libraries to possess the titles in their collections or use them as a reference in public lectures," said Kotaro Ogino, representative of the Uguisu Ribbon, a nonprofit organization that advocates the improved awareness of the protection of freedom of expression. “I believe a healthy society is where an open discussion on the ways and degrees of sexual expression (in various media) is held.”

One of the books is “Zenkoku-ban Anohino Erohon Jihanki Tanbouki” (nationwide study of pornography vending machine of yesterdays) published by Futabasha Publishers Ltd., which was designated a harmful publication by the Shiga prefectural government on March 23.

The other is “Ero Manga Hyogenshi” (The Expression History of Ero-manga), published by Ohta Publishing Co., which the Hokkaido government designated as such on March 30.

In both cases, it was declared that the reference books “may inhibit the healthy growth of juveniles” based on the prefectures’ Ordinance of Juvenile Protection, after a discussion by a panel of experts.

Both titles include pictures of book covers and manga frames that depict female nudity or sexual intercourse.

However, the main theme of “Ero Manga Hyogenshi” is the historical transition of the depiction of breasts or genitalia in erotic and phonographic manga. “Erohon Jihanki Tanbouki” is a photographic documentation of surviving vending machines offering pornographic magazines, books and videos.

These machines were once commonly found in Japan but are quickly disappearing in the age of the Internet.

An official from the Japan Magazine Publishers Association questioned the prefectural governments’ decisions, saying one is “a book of a new type of scholastic research” and another is “product of persevering fieldwork.”

Tetsuya Kurosawa, 60, the author of “Erohon Jihanki Tanbouki,” said of his motivation for publication: “Something that was a big part of life in my generation is disappearing. I thought it was worth documenting them, as almost no records are left.”

Rito Kimi, the author of “Ero Manga Hyogenshi,” maintains that “citing sexual depictions is essential” considering the book's theme.

“I never thought an academic book would get a harmful publication designation,” Kimi said.