Japanese sculptor and conceptual artist Megumi Igarashi was first catapulted to international attention in the summer of 2013, when news of her arrest went viral across the world. Igarashi had been detained by police under suspicion that she had broken Japanese obscenity laws. Her apparent crime? Sharing a 3D-scan of her vagina with around thirty crowdfunders, who had chipped in to assist Igarashi in realising her artistic vision. The result? A quick sojourn in Tokyo’s Tama River in her 3D printed ‘Pussy Boat’ – a canoe created from this scan of her vagina. Unfortunately, this righteous freedom paddle led her into the long arm of the Japanese law.

Igarashi, who operates under the pseudonym Rokudenashiko which translates from the Japanese as “good-for-nothing girl,” has a body of work (ahem) in which recreations of her vagina are constantly reworked, decorated and made available for public display. From dioramas to lampshades and even iPhone covers, figurines and art work, Rokudenashiko is fascinated by taking something so private and, in Japanese culture, repressed and making it available for public consumption. Her utilisation of a Takashi Murakami-inspired super flat aesthetic, which pays recourse to the pop cultural forms of anime and manga fits within her stated M.O. – “I wanted to make Pussy more casual and Pop” she has ambitiously declared.

Though likely to raise an amused laugh here in the UK – where the story being picked up served mostly as reenforcement of the apparent ‘bizarreness’ of much of Japanese culture – Rokudenashiko is fighting a very serious fight. Japan’s pornography laws permit surprising, and frankly disturbing, types of content, but recently progress has been made, particularly with last year’s banning of child pornography (though this was passed into law with a caveat allowing the continued distribution of anime and manga featuring children). But what the country’s obscenity laws seem primarily fixated upon are genitals themselves. Whether pixillated in pornography, or repressed by the police when their architectural coordinates are emailed out, Japanese law apparently does not want anyone seeing a grown woman’s reproductive parts, a fact which Rokudenashiko intends to set right. Her desire to display her vagina is a statement of demystification, and of support to other women who may have experienced the alienation and anxiety that she did regarding the normalcy of her genitalia. Now she offers monthly workshops to other women looking to immortalise their private parts in pastoral scenes.

The treatment of Rokudenashiko has often been contrasted with Kawasaki Prefecture’s officially sanctioned annual Kanamara Matsuri festival, which celebrates a gigantic dick shrine where sex workers would pray for protection from STDs. The annual festival is able to fully capitalise on its infamous sculpture, with merchants crowding the streets to hawk phallic lollies, cock-shaped candles, and most terrifyingly of all, Groucho Glasses with pink knobs flopping about where, by all notions of common decency, the nose should be. Rokudenashiko shares this festival’s sense of joy in the public act of taboo busting. After all, this is a women who created a diorama of the Fukushima nuclear plant collapsing into her vagina. She’s truly at the edges of the vagant-garde

With the legal case still pending, and the boat in question sequestered inside Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ganka Gallery, Rokudenashiko has moved towards illustration and painting, but still focussing on themes of women’s issues in a country where she feels they are too often ignored. But for a woman whose work is so interested in representing one particular part of her anatomy, it’s surprisingly our hearts that she’s really managed to capture.