Reproductive Health in Japan

Japanese reproductive situation seems very different from those of other nations. It sure is. But it is not the exotic mistery that makes ours different. Now, let's exchange the views on sexuality, life, pregnancy, abortion, child-rearing etc... I will try to explain our situation. Would you please let me know yours?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Cursive sex discrimination in Japan

These days, I've been reading a lot of literature about reproductive health and rights, and keenly felt that Japanese women are still discriminated. But the discrimination is so subtle and dodgy that one feels awkward to make a direct opposition.

To inform someone in concern of the Japanese women's situation, here is a good information on the web site below which deals with some of the human right problems in Japan. It was written 7 years ago, but I am afraid most of thier claims are still current.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Difficulty for understanding each other

I found the conversation between Gina and Gene very interesting. I feel the similar difficulty arises between friends of different sexes in Japan, too, especially about reproduction and sexuality.

Please refer to:

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Reproductive Health and Rights Movement in Japan

These days, I have been too busy to access here for (supporsedly) writing my dissertation. Today, let me just introduce an articles written in English concerning the difficulty of promoting the reproductive health and rights in Japan. Please refer to:

Reproductive Health and Rights Movement in Japan Today, by Yumiko OHASHI

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Silence among Japanese over abortion issues

As Masahiro said, Japanese women have mostly remained silence on the topic of abortion except the two occasions, when some conservative politicians tried to change the law to limit the accesibility of the legal operation in 1970s and 1980s. At those times, Japanese feminists called for the necessity of safe and legal abortion, but after the failure of the bill the women's voice became inaudible.

It is hard to pinpoint the reason for this silence, but one of them is surely the frame of discussion for abortion issues in this country. For example, after bioethics was formally introduced here in late 1980s, almost all the talks over the issue fastened on the binary opposition, as the problem between fetuses and women. You can claim such a frame of thinking itself presuppose that a fetus is morally equal to the woman who carries it. This is certainly a pro-lifer's view.

However, there is virtually no objection from the pro-choice league in Japan. There is virtually no alternative way of viewing this problem here in Japan. Why? Guilt may be one reason, but the guilt of abortion for Japanese women is not the one based on Christianity. Instead, it is their inner bind of the idealized motherhood, I should say, that is working here.

The strong motherhood spell for Japanese women has been, and is constructed by many cultural, historical, social, political and/or psychological reasons. I know abortion is a kind of taboo in other nations, too. But Japanese case can serve as an extreme in many ways.

Japanese government allowed its people to use abortion as a family planning method in the aim of limitting the population just after the World War II, but never has it allowed women to choose abortion for their health! And as I told Japanese women little complained about this situation. Instead they pacify their guilt through "Mizuko-kuyo," a modern ritual which became famous among Western scholars by the work of William LaFleur. In the context of this ritual, the women blame themselves and ask the fetus pemission for the "sinnful" conduct as a "mother." From such a mentality, they can never and ever claim their right for such a conduct.

This is only part of the whole problem, however. It is hard to extricate this long-time undiscussable issue, but I think we must challenge it for the better reproductive health for us and our future generation. And I wish our experience could serve a good example for other nations, too.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Almost no abortion counseling system in Japan.

As I answered Masahiro in the comment for the previous entry, most(if not all) of the American and British abortion providers have mental care system including pre- and post-procedure counseling as far as I know. Most providers are operated by pro-choice groups in those nations. That may explain their policy are, in a way, women-centered. Besides, In these nations, the abortion counseling fee is usually covered by medical assurancem, or at least, there seems to be some system to help financially the women who need such counseling. (But, the policy of American Medicaid providers differs a lot, I hear.)

As for European systems, I know Germany has such mandated counseling system as Masahiro mentioned. I once read an article which blamed the German mandated abortion counselings as they were rather relieving women from guilt and brought them to "decide" the abrtion not to avert it. That means even the mandated system can help the women's psychological and mental health sometime. There is no such system in Japan.

A Dutch professor and his wife once told me that they do not have public system to help women mentally but there is a self-help group to offer psychological care to the women. In Japan, however, if a woman gets in psychological problem due to abortion, she must find a way out by herself. Unfortunately, there is no women's group known to help such a woman. Even the nurses are not trained for help women in need of abortion.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Poor reproductive situation among Japanese women

Now I am writing a paper which should be part of my dissertation on the much needed paradime shift of abortion argument in Japan. Actually there is little argument on the topic of abortion here. Abortion is such a taboo in this nation that few people talk about it publicly although more than 300 tousands of the operation were held yearly and more than twenty percent of Japanese women in their reproductive age are said to have experienced abortion. The rate of sterilization is very low among Japanese. Abortion is said to be used more as an alternative of birth control especially among married couples than other countries.

There is much saying that in this high-tech society, the Japanese use only low-tech methods for birth control. Low-doze contraceptive pills were finally allowed here in 1999 when other nations are moving toward legalizing RU-486, the import of which has virtualy forbidden by the Japanese government. Actually, contraceptives in Japan are so highly-priced and there is no refund from health insurance. You won't surprise that only few women go to the bother of using contraceptive pills in Japan after knowing how expensive they are and how hard to get those pills under strict supervision by doctors.

On the other hand, the archaic D & C has been used since Meiji period, and presumably is still used now in Japan, as the main method for the purpose. Even the vacuum abortion seems not to have permiated well among the Japanese ob-gyns. Several times I mensioned the manual vacuum aspiration for abortion to Japanese doctors, which most doctors did not know and barely one doctor recognized as a method used in a poor country. There is no psychological care. There is no pre- and/or post-operation psychological counseling in almost all ob-gyn clinics. A few caring doctors adopt such counseling system, but some of the doctors just do it themselves as a part of their there is no refund not only for the counseling but also for the abortion procedure itself. As a result, the abortion cost itself is very high compared with other Western nations.

After all, since abortion is a taboo here, women who fall into pregnant unintently seek their solution secretly within the limited information. I hope I could clear it out that the reproductive health for the Japanese women has not been respected, and we must change the situation.

(c) Kumi Tsukahara, 2006/04/28.
(The original draft was shown in my Japanese blog on 2006/04/16. I talk more surrounding the topic in Japanese language on

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Reproductive health in Japan

I have started this blog to share information about the reproductive health in Japan. Although Japan literally has liberalized abortion in 1948 to reduce the over-flodded population of this war-inflicted nation, its criminal law has been prohibiting the procedure. Our legal system does not let women to choose our reproductive destiny, and we are barely allowed to choose it for our physical health. Wives still need written permission on the procedure from their husbands. However, Japanese women, even the feminists, keep silence on this topic, probably because the "economic reason" clause if applied so loosely that most of the 300 thousand abortions a year in this nation done on that ground. The Japanese situation is very different from other Western nations, and there is little discussion surrounding the problem. So, I hope we could share the different view on this topic to improve each of our reproductive health situations.