Japan vs the West – statistics and graphs

It’s easy to idealise a certain country or people, as I frequently do with the Japanese. But let’s take a look at the hard facts, according to the various country “top lists” available on Wikipedia. In this post I’ll focus on life and death matters.

I’ve compared Japan with Sweden (since I’m Swedish), Germany (since that’s where I live) and the US (just to get some perspectives on how diverse “the West” apparently is). Here we go:

1. Life expectancy

I consider life expectancy the most basic and most comprehensible way to measure a country’s success. With a life expectancy of 82,6 years, Japan is number 1 in the world. Sweden is number 9 with 80,9 years. Germany and the US come in at place 20 and 36:


2. Homicide rate

Just like life expectancy, the murder rate is easy to measure and compare between countries. (Crimes like rape and abuse might be defined differently in different countries, but a murder is always a murder.) Japan is famous for its low homicide rate of only 0,46 murders per 100 000 inhabitants and year.

This again makes Japan the world winner, because you can’t really count countries like Monaco and Iceland, the only two countries that score higher. (With a population of only 36 000, Monaco’s most recent murder rate is 0,00. Down from 3,1 in 2006. The statistics fail with such small populations. Likewise, Iceland’s most recent score is 0,31 – but only in year 2000 it was 1,79. Iceland has 318 000 inhabitants.)

USA’s score of 5,0 murders per 100 000 inhabitants per year is 10 times higher than Japan’s. And 5 times higher than Europe’s average. I knew there were many murders in the US, but I didn’t know there were that many.


3. Traffic deaths

These results make me proud as a Swede. With only 2,9 traffic deaths per 100 000 inhabitants we’re the world number 1, because counting states with under 100 000 inhabitants is just ridiculous. (The world number 1, Marshall Islands, scores 1,7 and has a population of 68 000 people.) But Japan is close to Sweden with 3,85. Germany is not bad either, considering its car culture. As with murders, USA scores spectacularly bad.


4. Suicide rate

When I rant about how good Japan is, people always tell me: “But isn’t there an awful lot of suicides in Japan?” Well, here’s the answer: There is! Even though Japan, as the world number 7 in most suicidal nation, is far from South Korea (31,2 suicides per 100 000 inhabitants per year) and the “winner” Lithuania (34,1).

My spontaneous reflection: I think that suicides reflect the Japanese honour culture. There are plenty of suicides in early Japanese literature (Saikaku for example), and Japan’s probably most famous author Yukio Mishima killed himself through seppuku (harakiri) in 1970 after a failed coup attempt. I can think of more charming cultural traits than this suicide-fetish, but at least it’s better to kill yourself than to kill others. There is also a beauty in the black-and-white pureness of the act, reminding of the perfection of the tea ceremony, but that’s another post.


5. Cigarette consumption

What, Japan loses again? Well, I’m not surprised. Cigarette vending machines are ubiquitous in Japan, and you can smoke in most restaurants and cafĂ©s. It’s a mystery why Japan’s high cigarette consumption is not mirrored in its life expectancy. Maybe tobacco isn’t so bad for you after all? 🙂 And like with the suicides: Cigarettes might be unhealthy, but at least they only kill yourself.


6. Birth rate

This is where the US gets back the population it lost in traffic accidents and murders. Sweden scores surprisingly well, which is probably due to the world’s most heavily subsidised parental leave. I worry about Japan though.


Does anyone feel tempted to draw any conclusions from these statistics?

Swedish manga translator still guilty of child porn charges

Svea HovrÀtt, a regional court in Sweden, today found manga translator Simon Lundström guilty of possession of child pornography, because of 51 drawn pictures (cartoons) that were considered child pornography. The court thus confirmed the verdict from July 2010 by local court Uppsala tingsrÀtt, but lowered the sentence a bit after scrutinising the drawn cartoons.

In a press release, Svea HovrĂ€tt explains that “in four images, it cannot with absolute certainty be ruled that they depict children” and that “in eight images, it is uncertain if they are pornographic in the sense of the law”.

But they also write:

Regarding the remaining 39 images, the court finds that they are, from a legal perspective, to be regarded as pornographic images of children.

It should be remembered that there were no real children depicted in these images – all were cartoons. It was thus fantasy creatures that the court investigated. A bit surprised, they note that some of the “children” have “cat ears and tails”. Nevertheless, they come to this conclusion in the verdict, which I have read:

Even if some of the images do not appear real in all details, there is no doubt that they depict human beings.

Lundström is thus sentenced for child pornography of the lower degree, and has to pay a fine of 5,600 SEK (632 euro).

Lundström is Sweden’s most famous manga expert. He is teaching in this subject at the university and has translated over 80 manga, most of them published by Bonniers, Sweden’s biggest publishing house. One could expect that Bonniers would defend Lundström, since this verdict will most definitely affect their own business, but instead they chose to stop working with him, according to DN.

As a manga expert, Lundström possessed about three million pictures, that were investigated by the police. Of these three million, only 51 were considered child pornography (or 39 of them, according to Svea HovrÀtt). One can also note, that out of these 51 pictures, 20 were duplicates from a backup disk.

Lundström says he is surprised at the verdict, and concludes that he must now stop working as an expert of manga in Sweden (from TT Spektra/SvD):

“I can work as a translator, but not as a manga expert, as I would need access to the erotic cartoons that exist in Japan. I’m not even allowed to visit manga artists’ homepages in Japan, since that is considered a crime”, he says.

Many are surprised that drawn cartoons, where no child has been involved in the creation process, can be deemed child pornography in Sweden. In its press release, the court explains the aim of the law:

The reason why the law has been extended to include drawn images is that such images are seen as humiliating to children at large, and not only to the child that might have been used as a model.

Personally, I’m very surprised too. I was convinced Svea HovrĂ€tt would find Lundström not guilty – the court always has a choice to interpret the text in the law. Hopefully, Lundström will appeal to Högsta domstolen, the highest court in Sweden, and it will repeal the ruling.

I’ve chosen to illustrate this post with a painting by Gaston Goor (1902-1977), a French illustrator who worked closely with Roger Peyrefitte. This painting is now most definitely illegal to possess in Sweden. (Neither me nor my blog’s servers reside in Sweden.)

Some Swedish blog reactions to the verdict:

  • Wille at Prylfeber recommends Swedish manga fans to go through their mangas and cut out any picture that might be considered child porn in Sweden.
  • äč‹äčŽè€…äčŸ on what he calls “blaspedy”.
  • MĂ„rten Schultz analyses the verdict, and regrets that fiction, here in the form of cartoons, are not protected by the constitution.

Also read my three posts in Swedish (but with illustrations that everyone will understand), about ways other than sexual that Ecpat and other defenders of the law think are goods way to humiliate children in drawings (murder for example):

I’m still convinced this interpretation of the law will not hold, or that the law will be changed. But until then, Sweden should be considered a no-go area not only for manga fans, but for artists in general.

Swedish manga translator in court again

Sweden’s most famous manga translator Simon Lundström was convicted of possession of child pornography in July 2010. The local court in Uppsala found that 50 out of his three million images – drawn cartoons, that is, and 20 of them being duplicates from a backup drive – were to be considered child porn, since the definition of child porn in the Swedish law includes drawings.

Yesterday, Mr Lundström was up in the next court, Svea HovrĂ€tt. The prosecutor asked for a trial behind closed doors, but the judge decided they would be open. So for the first time, the public were allowed to see what kind of images the police, prosecutor and court considered child porn. I read this report by Steamboat Willie on Facebook and publish it in its entirety here (in Swedish) for those of you who don’t want to visit Facebook:

Nu har jag precis kommit tillbaks frĂ„n en nĂ„got komisk – men Ă€ndĂ„ skrĂ€mmande rĂ€ttegĂ„ng.

Det var alltsÄ frÄgan om den omdiskuterade manga-rÀttegÄngen i hovrÀtten vars förhandlingar hölls i dag i en fullsatt rÀttegÄngssal.

Jag kan bekrĂ€fta för alla som antagit att det varit vĂ€rre Ă€n man trott… Samtliga Ă„hörare som gick dĂ€rifrĂ„n var slagna av det faktum att det generellt var ovanligt oskyldiga bilder. Åklagaren yrkade sĂ„ klart pĂ„ stĂ€ngda dörrar, men hovrĂ€tten tog det visa beslutet att avslĂ„ Ă„klagarens begĂ€ran – sĂ„ den samlade pressen kunde med egna ögon se vad som i dag av experter och Ă„klagare rĂ€knas som barnporr. Bland annat en bild pĂ„ tvĂ„ sedesamt tecknade seriefigurer omgivna av frukt – Ă€tandes bananer. Inte ens min mormor hade sett detta som pornografi. Bild pĂ„ bild radades upp – och expertvittnet frĂ„n barnporrgruppen fick vrida ovch vĂ€nda sig som en korkskruv för att fĂ„ argumenten att hĂ„lla. Ett samfĂ€llt skratt hördes frĂ„n publiken nĂ€r hon förklarade att en figur som utför oralsex pĂ„ en annan var barn för att den hade raka höfter och smĂ„ bröst… Vilket i sammanhanget vore nĂ„got skumt dĂ„ figuren skulle förestĂ€llas vara en pojke.

Samtidigt Ă€r det en skrĂ€mmande uppvisning… Att sĂ„ pass oskyldiga bilder skall leda till rĂ€fst och rĂ€ttarting?

Åklagaren gjorde flera fruktlösa försök att sammankoppla bilder av sĂ„ kĂ€nda seriekonstnĂ€rer som Ichigo Mashimaru med avbildningar av riktiga övergrepp gjorde hela förestĂ€llningen Ă€n mer smaklös.

Åklagarens rena lögner att det finns teknik som gör att man snabbt och lĂ€tt frĂ„n ett foto kan framstĂ€lla vilken serieteckning som helst firekt frĂ„n foton med “gratis neddladdningsbara program pĂ„ internet” Ă€r en förolĂ€mpning mot alla hĂ„rt arbetande serietecknare i vĂ€rlden. Om det vore sĂ„ enkelt – varför finns det överhuvudtaget nĂ„gra tecknare kvar?

Dagens citat:”Jag har bedömt bilderna som pornografiska för att de innehĂ„ller barn.” — Cecilia Wallin-Carlsson, Barnporrpolis

Faktum Àr att samtliga besökare hÀr pÄ forumet bör ta sig i akt. Om de snÀllaste bilderna blir fÀllda sÄ lÀr det vara mycket fÄ personer med serieintresse som inte har vÀrre bilder Àn sÄ hemma. Det har fokuserats pÄ de tre bilderna med samlagsscener i domen, men minst lika intressant Àr de fem pÄklÀdda bilderna som bara visar strandliv.

Domen faller den 28:e Januari.

(Found through äč‹äčŽè€…äčŸ, who as usual makes a good reading – also in Swedish. Plus a short text in DN.)

The Steamboat’s main point is that the prosecution is a joke, and that everyone in the audience was shocked that these apparently very innocent cartoons were considered child porn. There were also laughter when the prosecutor explained that the drawn girl in a sexual act was a child because of her “slim hips and flat chest.” No wonder – it was a boy.

On the whole, I find this trial very unheimlich. It shouldn’t matter if the comics are innocent or gross. If you argue that this isn’t child porn because the drawn images are innocent, then you at the same time admit that it could be child porn if the drawn images were of a more serious nature. Which it can’t.





For fuck’s sake.

I’m pretty sure the court will go against the text in the Swedish law and free the man. (The law in Sweden is shaped only partly by the text in the law book, and partly by the way the courts interpret the text.) Always remember that the politicians who vote for these stupid laws are often without education and though well-meaning, not very smart. That’s why we have the courts. Unfortunately we lack a constitutional court in Sweden, that is, a court that can rule laws unconstitutional, as sometimes happens in for example Germany. (On the other hand, the constitution is changed so often in Sweden that such a court probably would be superfluous.)

The verdict will be official on January 28, 2011.

Update January 28, 2011: Guilty!

Swedish state pre-examines indecent drawings

Carl-Michael Edenborg runs the Swedish publishing house Vertigo, which has published Swedish translations of nasty stuff from de Sade to Dennis Cooper since 1992. Next up is Pierre LouĂżs. Edenborg reports (my translation) about the police’s pre-inspection of his book:

Today I talked to Björn Sellström at the child pornography unit of Rikskriminalpolisen (the national criminal police). He looked at the 1920s illustrations for Pierre LouĂżs’ Trois filles de leur mĂšre and held the view that it shouldn’t be any problem for us to print them in the Swedish edition.

It’s nice to be able to print the book in its original state, without taking away any images.

Yes, it’s nice. I think Edenborg’s blog post brilliantly exposes the state of freedom of expression in Sweden right now: Publishers asking for the approval of the “Reichskriminalpolizei” before they print drawings. Logically, text should be up next.

Update 8 nov 2010: Since this post reached a larger readership after featuring in today’s Journalista, I must point out that the publisher voluntarily contacted the police’s child porn experts. There is no requirement by law to do so. However, just the fact that publishers check with the police just to be sure, and that the police takes the inquiry seriously, is news enough according to me. Since we’re talking drawings.