Lessons from Japan: Part 1

September 23, 2008

In my last post I Showed and Told you about my visit to the Sensoji Temple in Tokyo and its special wishing well (more of a wooden grate). But on my trip to Tokyo last week I had two experiences that directly pertained to fertility.

The first was hanging out with a Japanese family with one young child. I learned that the average number of children per family is not much higher than 1, and therefore the most common experience for Japanese families is to have only one child. My first thought was that this would be a relief for those dealing with secondary infertility, because there wouldn’t be the pressure to have a second child nor questions about when the next one would be coming. One child would be enough, at least for as long as it took to create the second. I drew the conclusion that Japan is better for people with secondary IF than the countries with very high birth rates where large families are the norm, or even than the countries (like the U.S.) where the birth rate is between 2 and 3 and therefore having more than one child is the most common experience.

My second thought was that Japan would be terrible for those dealing with primary infertility, because if you’re only going to have one child, you’d better get down to business. When 1 is the optimal number, 0 children is definitely not enough. My local friends confirmed that there is tremendous pressure to have a child, particularly since the role of women in Japanese society is very “traditional” (in many ways, an early-1960s version of the U.S. in terms of gender politics). Japan is a fascinating and beautiful country, but I have heard from many people, both native and gaijin (non-Japanese foreigner), that it’s a problematic place to be a woman.

As an aside, it’s funny that my first thought pertained to a situation that has nothing to do with me (secondary infertility) instead of a situation that has everything to do with me (primary). It’s not at all funny that I walk around the world viewing everything through an infertility lens.

During my trip I learned something else much more shocking about fertility in Japan — but you will have to come back tomorrow to find out what that was!

(Cue cliffhanger music: daa-da-daaaaaaaa!)

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2 Responses to “Lessons from Japan: Part 1”

  1. Echloe Says:

    o.k i’ll guess i’ll come back tomorrow. I can’t resist cliffhanger endings (Actually my last blog post has to do with this very topic).

    Anyway I just read an interesting article about how IF affects women in developing countries where motherhood is basically all a woman can strive for. And the cultures do not allow for the husbands to give sperm samples so the wife has to basically have sex with him and then have the semen washed out of her. Anyway we think we have it rough but for some of these women if they can’t bear a child their husband has every right to take on another wife or divorce her. I wish I had the link.

    ICLW

  2. Ginny Says:

    Stopping in from ICLW 🙂


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