In some countries of the world, notably France, you see it everywhere. Everybody is doing it. Parents do it to their children and also to each other. Women do it to women, and men to men. Even politicians do it publicly. In Japan on the other hand, it is rarely done in public, and if it is it is likely to be met with disapproval or even outrage. What we are talking about here is kissing, something that many cultures consider to be an expression of friendship and affection, whereas in Japan it has primarily only one connotation… sex! Kissing in Japan is part of foreplay, and therefore should only take place in private. In fact public kissing was made illegal in the 1920’s and the law was not rescinded until the occupation of 1945. Many Japanese consider kissing to be an import from the West, but an examination of shunga (Edo period pornographic prints) reveals plenty of images of couples kissing during and prior to the act of sex. However with the increasing popularity of Western-style weddings in Japan, it is becoming more common for the groom to kiss the bride at the end of the ceremony, but the tradition of other male members of the wedding party kissing the bride has not taken hold at all. In the movies kissing is no longer edited out; prior to 1945 kissing scenes in imported Hollywood movies ended up on the cutting room floor, and the first kiss in a Japanese movie, in the 1946 movie Hatachi no Seishun, caused a sensation in the press not dissimilar to the recent hullabaloo in the U.S. over Janet Jackson’s prime-time nipple exposure. In fact, the nipple-incident would not have raised an eyebrow in pre-war Japan. When it was proposed in 1930 to exhibit Rodin’s celebrated sculpture “The Kiss” in Tokyo, the authorities had no problem with the nudity of the figures, but insisted that the heads be covered up. The French refused at that time, but now “The Kiss” is on display at the Museum of Western Art in Tokyo with no covering up at all. So, things have changed, but still there remains the idea that kissing is not really “Japanese”, as evidenced by the fact that while the Japanese language has a word for kiss, seppun, it is rarely used, the English derived word kissu being preferred as by using a foreign word it somehow sanitizes and distances the act from what is truly Japanese.
Japan Sex Glossary