Birth control in Japan

Birth control in Japan has been available since at least the 17th century, and its evolution has been informed by political, social, and economic contexts. Prior to World War I common forms of birth control included abortion, infanticide, and condoms. Birth control as an oral contraceptive, while know in intellectual circles, was not widely circulated until the interwar period when the debate over birth control gained public support and momentum. However, it was the militarists, whose goal of achieving a strong population in order to establish Japan as an international power prevailed, as Japan prepared to enter World War II. The end of World War II, and Japans subsequent demilitarization brought an emphasis on population reduction by the US-led occupation SCAP (Supreme Command for the Allied Powers) who were fearful of a rise in communism or militarism which would create a threat to democracy and the "free-world."

Today various types of birth control in Japan are available to women either in drugstores, online, or through visiting a clinic. About 80 percent of married women in Japan prefer condoms as their choice of birth control. Other forms of birth control such as the morning after pill are available only through visitation of a clinic and oral contraceptives, which were legalized in 1999, are not covered by Japanese Health Insurance.


  • 1 History
    • 1.1 Pre-World War I (1854-1914)
    • 1.2 Interwar Period (1918-1939)
      • 1.2.1 Margaret Sanger in Japan
    • 1.3 Post World War II (1945-2000)
  • 2 References


After ending a long period as a "closed" country in 1854, Japan began assessing what it meant to be a modern country on the global stage. Noting the strength and power afforded to large militaries, Japan began investing in the quantity and quality of its population as a reserve for its armed forces by encouraging the woman's role in the domestic sphere; however, policies encouraging this were largely ineffective. The creation of Japans 1880 penal code, and its subsequent revision in 1907, stipulated that the punishment for abortion would be up to one year in prison. Good wife, wise mother ideologies were also strengthened at this time as the government outlined a woman's civic responsibility as a citizen through their participation in the domestic sphere. These measures, however, did not fully quell Japanese women's resistance and interest in gender relations, and by the end of the 19th century Japanese feminists were evaluating the pros and cons of birth control in different editorials.

The end of World War I ushered in a new wave of the birth control movement resulting from economic instability caused by Japans economic deflation after the war. Sparked by the visit of Margaret Sanger to Japan in 1922, and through the dissemination of printed information, and the opening of clinics, birth control became widely understood by the general public. Governmental thinking of population as a marker for national power and international strength, however, remained steadfast and lead the Japanese government to ban the sale and use of birth control in the 1930's, considering it harmful to the user.

In 1953 the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare established the Japan Family Planning Association (JFPA), however did not provide any government funding. By the 1960s Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare had begun considering the legalization of birth control pills, but by 1989, they had still not reached a decision. There were concerns that access to birth control pills would reduce condom use, and thereby increase STI rates. There were also concerns about the medication's side effects. In 1999, low dose forms of the pill were approved by the Clinic of Japan Family Planning Association, coinciding with the acceptance of the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra.

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