|The story below is originally published on Mainichi Daily News by Mainichi Shinbun (http://mdn.mainichi.jp).|
|They admitted inventing its kinky features, or rather deliberately mistranslating them from the original gossip magazine.|
|In fact, this is far from the general Japanese' behavior or sense of worth.|
Keeping it clean, Meiji-style: The rise of the condom in Japan 2007,09,08
Asahi Geino 9/6 By Masuo Kamiyama
In 1868, the first year of the Meiji Era, George B.Newton, a physician attached to the British military, opened the Yokohama Lock Hospital.
Its function was to examine prostitutes for syphilis.
Before his death three years later, the good doctor was to establish two similar hospitals in Kobe and Nagasaki.
Such institutions were sorely needed, because, as Dr. Newton was to confirm, the disease was rampant in Japan's brothels.
As a public health measure he strongly urged the use of condoms.
But, writes historian Koshi Shimokawa in Asahi Geino (9/6), suspicion arose in some quarters that the British government and Newton might have some ulterior motive, and Japan insisted on repeating the examinations using native physicians.
The Yubin Hochi newspaper of June 8, 1874 reported that the rate of carriers in Yoshiwara was less than one in four.
However through subsequent inspections in Akita prefecture and elsewhere, it was estimated that between 30 to 40 percent of licensed sex workers had contracted the disease, and the rate was believed to be much higher among unlicensed ladies of the night.
Eventually the Japanese were forced to concur with Newton's findings.
It took a full decade, but finally in 1879, the government formulated health policies toward prophylactic disease prevention and treatment, and eventually 135 out of Japan's 510 Western-style hospitals boasted clinics specifically for treating prostitutes.
An offshoot of this movement was the utilization of condoms.
Birth control pioneer Takeshi Umashima had written that around the turn of the 20th century, members of the aristocracy used to procure condoms from the United States in lots of 100 dozen, which they would distribute to their friends as much-appreciated gifts.
Not all such gift-giving was socially acceptable, however.
According to one story, around the time of the Russo-Japanese War, a Japanese soldier discovered sending French letters to a proper young woman was tried by a military tribunal. (The outcome, alas, is not provided by Asahi Geino.)
The most popular term for condom in those times was "sayogoromo," a word dating back to a racy novel published in 1702 and written with three Chinese characters meaning "small pajama." During feudal times, women prevented pregnancy by inserting a cotton pad to block the entrance to the uterus, similar to the diaphragms of today, and this inspired revival of the old literary term, which came to be applied to imported condoms when they first appeared in treaty ports such as Yokohama.
Condoms, however, failed to catch on among the hoi polloi well into the Showa Era (post-1926); the main reason being that contracting a social disease was regarded as sort of a badge of courage among the lower classes.
Condoms were also disdained, according to Giichiro Takada, a doctor of forensic medicine, due to a misconception that wearing one prevented a woman from being sexually satisfied.
In 1909, "Haato Bijin" (heart beauty), the first condom to be manufactured in Japan, made its appearance.
Its creator was Hosaburo Inoue, who worked in his brother's rubber plant in Tokyo's Honjo district.
A U.S.-trained pharmacist, Hisataro Kojima, had brought back condom samples from abroad and persuaded Inoue to produce them.
Producing condoms proved relatively easy, although time-consuming.
In those days the sheaths had to be inflated by the craftsman, who would puff air from his mouth, and then "fit" the condom by slipping them over sections of bamboo.
A dusting compound of mica was then used to roll it off, although this method had a high failure rate.
Inoue's sales strategy was to open small specialty shops selling Heart Beauty condoms adjacent to Yoshiwara, Tamanoi and other brothel areas, where their purpose was immediately evident.
It was not long before competition arose, in the form of a rival brand named "Shikishima."
After Japan's victory in the Russo-Japanese war, writes Shimokawa, Japanese prostitutes, known as "Karayuki-san," became a major export, with between anywhere from 50,000 to 80,000 women contracted to work in brothels in Asia, North America and other areas.
One operator, Shiro Hiraoka, having been deported from Canada in 1909, transferred his operation to Hong Kong.
The Karayuki-san's unfamiliarity with condoms and resulting problems with disease, a factor in the troubles that had led to Hiraoka's earlier deportation, prompted him to develop a better hygiene regimen.
It was not disease that spread, but the reputation of his Hong Kong establishment for keeping customers and girls healthy -- to the degree that British colonial administrators in Singapore and Malaya sent out feelers via diplomatic channels to obtain more information.
Asahi Geino promises a continuing stream of more esoterica in upcoming issues.
(By Masuo Kamiyama, People's Pick contributor)
（Mainichi Japan） September 8, 2007