There's a funny (or sad) story about Japan not approving the pill until only recently. Despite pressure from women's groups, the Japanese government kept claiming there wasn't yet enough data for them to make a firm decision. This is like after 30 years. The Japanese Ministry of Health even tried to argue that pill production would be bad for the environment. The net effect of the pill not being available was abortion tended to be the number one method of birth control (in 1997 there was roughly a ratio of 1 abortion for every 2 live births) with condoms being a close second. If there was a silver lining, wide-spread condom use contributes to lower incidences of sexually transmitted disease. That said, when Viagra was approved in the USA, male Japanese authorities approved Viagra in record time (six months), using mainly American data.

Women's groups were absolutely livid. They had been urging the Japanese government for decades to look at American data for evidence of the pill's safety and effectiveness (notably the low dose version). The health ministry claimed they fast tracked Viagra because so many Japanese men were obtaining it via the net and traveling abroad. The willie was out of the bag, so to speak. Uh huh. In the words of a skeptical member of the Family Planning Federation of Japan "The old men who run the parliament were dying to try this Viagra."

Even the male Japanese authority had to admit some hypocrisy, or at least the potential for international embarrassment, and in 1999 they approved oral contraceptives for women.

Oddly, pill sales have remained low. Many Japanese women have heard horror stories for years and are reluctant to try the pill. As well, many Japanese gynecologists resist prescribing the pill. Some with a more conspiratorial mind set believe gynecologists are simply trying to protect their abortion cash cow.