Muffling the baby boom in postwar Japan

Today, courtesy of my girlfriend's marvellous used-book sense, two Japanese advertisements for contraceptives in a small booklet about birth control (産制 = 産児制限) that was given away free with the February 1955 issue of Shufu no tomo, a perfectly respectable magazine for married homemakers.

少なく産んで豊かな暮らし -- "Bear sparingly, live comfortably." Can't argue with that. Below the image is one of the greatest marketing slogans I have ever encountered:

1姫 2太郎 3サンシー

"1: Princess. 2: Heir. 3: Sancy." The first two items constitute an old Japanese saying about the ideal family-building order: girl first, because then she can help look after the the eldest son too. Item 3 is Sancy Jelly's suggestion regarding where you might go from there in an era of reduced child mortality but increased belt-tightening.

Moving on...

This one is more involved. The heading sets the scene: In the vanity drawer of a young woman soon to be married... the hidden contraceptive. The narrator explains:

As far back as I can remember, mother had Sampoon in her vanity. I felt so disillusioned... But she taught me well, and now whenever I see my wonderful trosseau, I feel respect for her instead, and so much gratitude... Mother isn't saying a word, but my trosseau is definitely going to include a contraceptive -- naturally, my mother's brand, Sampoon. Planned births (計画産児) are common sense...

Note that birth control isn't presented as women taking control of their own sexuality so much as taking control of the rate at which their assumed and inevitable reproduction takes place. I suppose you have to start somewhere.

You can still buy Neo-Sampoon. I don't know about Sancy Jelly, but they do make condoms now. And it's not a coincidence that they both start with /san/, by the way -- it echoes the Sino-Japanese phoneme for birth, /san/ (産).

And, finally, a successfully planned baby holding a tin of formula as big as his head.

Popularity factor: 4




I think actually it's "Lebens Milk", but I can't be sure... they, too, are still in business, so I suppose I could call them up to ask.


I usually translate the Chinese for 計画産児, 计划生育, as family planning.


Yeah, that makes sense. I'm not really familiar with the field, so I was just trying to maintain the structure of the original phrase. Next time... next time...

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