Friday, 10 December 2010

Abortion and contraception in Japan: A taboo subject?

Spending four months in Japan allowed me to learn more about this Far East culture I never thought I could encounter. I came in Japan late August with a very basic knowledge about Japan, about its language and its culture.

I traveled quite a few times through Kansai area and I never saw adverts regarding contraception, protection against AIDS/HIV like I usually see in the western part of the world. I would assume that Japanese don’t feel comfortable to talk about these personal issues- especially not to foreigners since we will never be considered a part of their society no matter how many years we spend here. But what about the birth control? What about the abortion? Is it legal? Is it  a taboo subject?

 I wanted to discover why and I think I found the answer to some of my questions during these 3 months spend in Japan. I came from an Eastern culture where very many things are similar to Japan. People don’t really receive sexual education about these issues. As a female you may be considered promiscuous if you know too much about sex and its negative sides or how to protect yourself. People do not talk about it. Especially not the older generations who grow up in a different system.

The birth control pill was made legal in Japan in June 1999 after Viagra was legalized 6 months before. Women do not use birth control because they are afraid about the consequences. They are also afraid of what people may say about them and their family if they have the freedom to choose when to have a family by using this modern contraception method. Why is abortion preferred over contraction?
Abortion in Japan is legal, not covered by the national issuance and its costs may vary from $1000 to $2000. Many females use abortion as a contraception method which may be more harmful that the pill. After having an abortion a female usually goes and and solves her moral dilemma by having a mizuko kuyo or or a water child.

I am wondering why Japan which is considered as one of the most developed countries in the world does not use modern contraception methods? Why did the government have to legalize first Viagra and not the birth control pill? I though that Japan is pretty open towards modernization. My impressions towards Japan changed. I am still surprised to see how the government have prejudices against the contemporary issues Japan (and other many countries) are facing nowadays.

Coleman, S. (1983). “Chapter 7: Sexuality,” from Family planning in Japanese society,  Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 156-183.
Hardacre, H. (1997). Marketing the menacing fetus in Japan. Berkeley University of California Press.
Perrett, R.W. (2000). Buddhism, abortion and the middle way. Asian Philosophy, 10(2), 101-114. 
Sahar, G. & Karasawa, K. (2005). Is the personal always political? A cross-cultural analysis of abortion attitudes. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 27(4), 285-296.
Yoshimoto, A. (2009, October 12). Birth control pill still unpopular in Japan. The Japan Times

Pictures borrowed from:

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Hikikomori and Otaku

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to get informed about one of the most controversial social problems in Japan. My classmates talked about Hikikomori and Otaku in Japan.

Social issues in Japan affect both girls and boys. Things such as social withdrawal equally affect growing boys and girls because of different social experiences and expectations. However, with this being said, the condition known as Hikikomori affects boys more than girls. These boys are from the middle or upper classes of society. Usually, the cause for this shift toward the Hikikomori lifestyle is from traumatic events such as academic or social failure.  
What are Hikikomori?

 Hikikomori are people who do not want to leave their house or room and isolate themselves from society for a period of more than six months. In some cases, people remain in isolation for years or even decades.

What is an otazuku?

Otaku is the name given to people who have immersed themselves into the world of Anime and Manga. They somewhat stray away from the social norms of society. Most otaku are socially awkward in normal terms, however unlike Hikikomori they have the ability to communicate with others for networks of connections with people who share their interest. Hikikomori, on the other hand, simply shut people out completely.

Do they have a disease?  

Hikikomori has been connected with people who go through pervasive developmental disorders, which are also known as PDDs. PDDs are a group of disorders which include Asperger’s PDD-NOS (Atypical Autism) and “Classic” Autism. However, these are Western terms, which describe things according to a Western mindset. What puts Hikikomori in a different light is that Hikikomori occurs with social and cultural pressures that are found in Japan.

When did this issue start?

    - Tokokyohi -> School Refusals
    - Otakuzoku -> Obsessive Anime and Manga Fanatics
    - Great economic prosperity of post-war Japan and the technological boom, which changed Japan’s social structure.   

I never thought that these people exist! The first time I met one was here at Kansai Gaidai; a female born in the United States. I tried to have a conversation with her and it didn't go well because I have no clue about manga, anime and video games. I asked her polietely where is she from and what is her name. And the reply was, “I am from United States. Do you like pokemon?”

Is she a hikikomori or an otaku? I don’t know. I came from a less fortunate part of the world where people cannot afford these kind of expenses. Can be manga and anime regarded as a hobby, passion, obsession, or a lifestyle? I don’t want to judge anybody. Yet I would like to ask why some people spend money on games, anime and manga as opposed to having intimate relationships with others (both plutonic and romantic).