Ten years ago this month, the pill was approved for use in Japan, yet despite its popularity overseas, very few Japanese women use it. In fact, Japan was the last UN member country to approve the pill. Of all industrialized nations, France has the highest number of pill advocates at 44%, with the U.K. at 26% and the United States at 18%.

In Japan it stands at 3%. Why?

In a country where porn is abundant, condoms are readily available and love hotels are beating the recession, it’s certainly not from a lack of interest in sex but more a lack of confidence in the pill itself. More than half of the women surveyed about the pill mentioned concern over side effects, and of the 3% of women actually taking the pill, only 30% claim it is for contraception purposes (the pill also alleviates menstrual pain in some women).

With Japan’s dismal birth rates and the problems that may cause, an aversion to the pill is not necessarily a bad thing for the nation’s future. The government is already encouraging citizens to do their part in re-populating the country, and they may have found an unusual ally in the media. As W. David Marx over at Neojaponisme has noted, the stigma of being a teenage mother has turned into a badge of honor, with many magazines and TV shows aimed at the teen demographic finding a receptive audience to what was once considered taboo:

The Japanese slang yanmama (ヤンママ) has lost its original pejorative context, no longer meaning delinquent “yankii mother” but now just “young mother” in a politically neutral tone. Yanmamas are not just heartwarming — they’re fashionable.

It’s going to take more than a few pregnant Morning Musume girls to reverse Japan’s aging trend, but leaving the pill in the packaging is a good start.

More: Read Phil Brasor’s analysis in this paper after the Japan approval in 1999

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