Japan is something like THE country of condoms and that is why we’re publishing a little story about condom history in Japan (and condom history in general). During some research I’ve come across a lovely text by Fuji Latex, one of the biggest Japanese condom manufacturers, that’s really fit for translation.
Also much of the technology used by condom manufacturers today was invented by Japanese companies. This is still true today: A super thin polyurethane condom was just released recently, which probably also is one of the most expensive ones on the market: 2000 Yen (22 USD) for 4 pieces.
So here is how it all got started:
Translated and written by Jay Yoshikawa
It is believed that the condom was invented in ancient Egypt where tribesmen wore cylindrical sacks to protect their members from insect bites.
Italian anatomist Gabriele Falloppio documented his method of wrapping the glans penis with linen sheaths to prevent syphilis.
Goat intestines were used for pregnancy prevention in the region of Condom, France. Some theories, however, suggest that the word condom came from an English court physician named “Doctor Condom” who, hinted by gas bladders in fish, allegedly invented a type of silk-made glans sack for King Charles II of England to answer the king’s desire to avoid unprepared pregnancies with his lovers.
1840 (During Japan’s Edo Period)
Condoms made by rubber came on the scene in Europe. In Japan, a product that was described as “Apparatus to avoid pregnancy” appeared in “Yotsumeya”, an early prototype of store catalogue in Japan. It is believed to be a spin-off of silk-made glans sack.
1909 (Meiji Period)
“Heart Beauty”, Japan’s first domestically manufactured condom brand, came to the market. At the time, people commonly believed that losing full sexual feel was unavoidable if one wanted to get away from venereal diseases.
The view of general public about latex condoms gradually began to switch from a disease-avoider to a contraceptive device. Demand for condoms increased.
Nowadays most people acknowledge latex condom as a convenient way for both contraception and STD prevention. Historically, however, condoms began as a probable solution to avoid venereal diseases.
The notion that one must sacrifice full sexual sensation if one wishes to prevent from getting sick, has not really changed for the last 50 years or so though. Well, one must realize that the quality of latex condoms was only substantially improved since the 1950s, and the condom in its modern form, better or worse, still has a short history in this great saga of humanity.
1. Ready to fight?
Today the condom is a great success not only in pregnancy/disease prevention, but also in the show business. Condoms are sometimes used in those killing scenes you see at the theater or on TV.
They are an affordable way to create a bloodshed effect. Actors hide a condom filled with crimson-pigmented liquid, ready to be stabbed. Sounds like an easy piece? Not as easy as you may think, imagine if the intruding samurai pierced the wrong spot? Ouch…careful, careful.
2. Amidst the heat of the Cold War…
As part of Soviet’s psychological warfare, the Russians at one time sent custom-orders for horse-sized condoms in a big quantity to the USA in attempt to undermine the Americans. (On the other hand, we do admit that we the Japanese lost both the war and our inner confidence to the Americans after seeing THEIR condoms after World War Two.)
The Americans obviously realized the Soviet’s gimmick, and counteracted by sending all those condoms with the stamp “Medium Size” on each shipment box.
3. Japan today
A British medical journal published an article “The glorious Japanese condom” in 1973. According to the article, “The Japanese use 450,000 gross (1 gross = 144 piece) of condoms per month, enough to prevent pregnancy in 780 million acts of intercourse a year.
If all these condoms were jointed together, they could circle the earth four times.”
However, over the last ten years, the consumption level of condoms is only 60% compared to its peak period. With this in mind, cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) reported have kept increasing over the years. So as always, be safe and use a condom.
Sincere thanks and credits go to Jay and Fuji.