I've been living in Japan for 2 years having a great time and I must say, the topic of circumcision is an interesting one, especially over here. Despite what I have read online, the Japanese most certainly do practice circumcision - just not really in infancy or childhood. A lot of guys get done in their teens here, because of the feeling that it is more attractive and better. I'm guessing there is also an element of jealousy and wanting to be like the Americans (very cool to copy the US over here) - and in fact, most gaijin are thought to be circumcised (and well endowed). Whatever - it is well accepted practice that carries no stigma that I'm aware of.
Go to any onsen (hot spring) and there are many circumcised members on display. It is a cultural thing to pull back the foreskin, but if you know what you're looking for you can easily tell (usually) the difference.
The local girls generally prefer a circumcised penis too, and they can be quite vocal about saying so. There was even a sex show on tv a little while ago hosted by models and they had a story on circumcision followed by a round panel discussion. All of them said the circumcised unit was much better , and it was quite an influential show with regard to pop culture here.
Would like to remember everyone of the Japanese Street Festival named Chiwawa Matsuri or Kanamari Matsuri held in March. Big cocks a carried through the streets and everyone of that phalli is shown circumcised with a well exposed free glans, most of them looking like tight circumcisions.
Mike: We had groups of boys form Africa and the Far East (the schoolwas 50% boarding) and they were generally uncut. Some were also less comfortable about swimming naked- despite the fact that in F./East guys are generally pretty relaxed about being nude (Coom unal baths in Japan /Korea etc). I remember we had one Japanese boy who for his first 2 weeks in the school would not even strip naked to shower - let alone swim. He soon had to get used to it though.
Vernon: I would not be at all surprised if that Japanese boy was uncircumcised, possibly with a long foreskin which he couldn't retract (or keep retracted). In Japan it is considered bad form to appear naked in public with the glans covered so boys are taught to retract. If this is not possible then the boy would be very embarrassed - at least until he had seen that his uncut friends also didn't keep their foreskins retracted.
East Asians are not known for their practice of infant circumcision, but the recent story from the Philippines makes me eager to tell about the practices in Japan. I have lived in Japan and know the language, and I have made some interesting observations.
When bathing in a Japanese bathhouse one is at once struck by the fact that the majority of males display their heads with the foreskin retracted. It is an old tradition and considered manly and sumurai-like. However, trying to look closer it is quite evident that a sizable proportion of mainly young adults have really been subjected to circumcision. The glans is very often completely denuded and a visible scar will sometimes tell the story well. As a fully circumcised European I felt more at home in Japan than in the sauna of my local bath house.
The impression is strengthened when reading Japanese girlie sex magazines for young males (there are plenty!). There are astonishingly often essays (but no pictures!) on "tight foreskin" or "covered penis" (hokei) with the message that this is a problem for hygiene and the women detest the dirtyness. "Covered penis operation" is the remedy that is always suggested, and it means a complete circumcision with freehand surgery or a metal clamp device. One essay I saw was entitled "Transforming your lower parts". There exist numerous private plastic surgery clinics who specialize in circumcising young men.
It is amazing to read the many ads that these clinics publish in these magazines. The target group are boys in their late teens and early twenties who are between school and entering university, and just before they start having regular girlfriends. Telephone numbers are given for "operation discussion". Laser knives are most often used, with local anesthesia. As far as I understand, circumcision is never carried out on babies or on boys before puberty. The cut is described as the "in" thing for young men, making them more masculine and admired by the girls. Hygiene is the most important single factor.
I have an information that Japanese young boys draw their foreskin back rather early and the Japanese males generally don't want to show their penises covered with foreskin, but bare ("denudated"). There exist a Japanese expression "kawa kamuri" which means denudated (bare glans).
My Japanese girlfriend tells me that in that country circumcision is advocated on large-distribution newspapers' front pages. Ads encourage males to shorten their foreskin in order to be more attractive for, or give a surprise to, their women. Circumcision seems to be an argument of common discussion among males and females, and seems to be rather fashionable.
It also seems that the acceptable length of the foreskin is much shorter than in the West. In her opinion, for example, a normal foreskin should not cover more than about one third of the non-erect penis (i.e., the glans should be always mostly exposed).
Japanese men seem to have short foreskins or are they cut?
Short foreskins are common amongst Oriental men. When I grew up in Japan, I would say more than 70% of the boys would have their glanses at least partially exposed when flaccid by the time they finished school. I would say 2-3 in 10 will need to be circumcised, which is usually done at late adolescence, as opposed to infant circumcision done in the US or the Muslim countries.
There are boys who are circumcised when they are younger. In fact, my best friend whom I grew up with was circumcised at 7 due to phimosis. An interesting case is my cousin who moved to the US when he was only 4. I remember my aunt talking to my parents about getting my cousin circumcised over the dinner table when she visited us during the summer holidays one year. My parents asked her why she didn't wait until a couple of years later (my cousin was around 11 at that time) to see if he really needed it (meaning that whether his glans would naturally get exposed). And my aunt said that everybody in his school was circumcised so she's better get it done sooner.
It is common that Japanese boys are taught to keep their foreskins retracted like their fathers. There's a Japanese word, kawakamuri , which means literally "skin covered" and anyone appearing in that state in public showers and bath houses is considered to have committed a serious social faux pas.
I remember reading a sexual manual published in Taiwan, which was translated from the Japanese, in which a medical professor in Tokyo quoted a figure of about 1/3 of Japanese men need to get circumcised as adults because they've got phimosis. In the same book circumcision was also recommended for curing premature ejaculation, otherwise the glans would be too sensitive; failing that they said you should keep the skin permanently retracted to achieve the same effect. I must say that I agree 100% as covered glans tends to be painfully sensitive and I don't see how one can have sex with that. A lot of the anti-circ rhetoric about sensitivity is based more on theory rather than reality as I believe most of them have never had a foreskin in their lives.
So although not very many Japanese man are circumcised you're unlikely to see a Japanese penis with the glans covered. What a pity the same isn't true of European men!
Personally I have never seen a Japanese man with a covered glans. If you watch a Japanese sex video, you will find that most of the men there look circumcised. If you look at them carefully, some are with frenulum and some are not, so I suspect a number of them are actually circumcised.
Circumcision may be on the rise in Japan as the lifestyle and outlook of the Japanese have been rapidly Americanized after World War II.
I have read and heard that in Japan the custom of keeping the foreskin retracted with the glans exposed is preferred by most Japanese. Exactly how is this accomplished and at what age do boys start doing this? Who teaches the boys how to keep their foreskins retracted and that it is desirable to do so?
Japanese boys starts retracting their foreskins when they become about 12 years old, in the age of 12 is, I think, boys are getting interested in their genitals. Boys want to get the information, but sex education is not enough in Japan. So they must rely on magazines or their senior students or their friends for getting sex information. Then, they are taught that they should retract their foreskins.
When they are aware that their foreskins cover their glans, they pull up their foreskins to expose their glans. But the more time passed, the looser their foreskins become. So again they pull up their foreskins.
I have also read that circumcision is starting to become popular in Japan and that some adult Japanese are having elective circumcisions and that some parents are even starting to have their infant sons circumcised shortly after birth like in the USA.
First, adult circumcision is becoming popular in Japan, but doesn't have come into wide use. Because it costs much (I hear the price is US$1250). The reason is that Japanese men don't want to have circumcision scar left: It is counter result. So Japanese circ by freehand, not by Tara KLamp, and so on.
Second, I heard such a discussion on USENET, but I never seen circumcised Japanese infant boys, and infant circumcision in Japan is not starting popular yet, either in the future, I think.
The reason is (of course it's expensive) doctors don't want infant boys circumcise without medical reasons.
Naoto, Tokyo, Japan
There is a web site that introduces a Japanese urological and obstetrical clinic. This clinic is located in the suburb of Nagoya City, Aichi prefecture, Japan.
For men, the special operation of circumcision and treatment of sexually transmitted disease can be given in this clinic. Many Japanese young men are feeling anxious about their phimosis. Their special technic of skin cutting & suture (many pictures are shown in this home page) makes a scar as small as possible in the grove just behind the glans where it cannot be seen. The procedure is performed without pain of any kind.
The cost is about $800 - $1,000 US.
I've been asked about a novel "Nip the buds, shoot the kids" by Kenzaburo Oe who won Nobel Prize for literature before.
I heard that there is a reference to a youth from a reform school/youth penal institution who was "circumcised all reform school boys". And I was asked whether this was a mistranslation or whether circumcision is used as a means of marking offenders in Japanese jails.
I found the book of "Nip the buds, shoot the kids ("Me-Mushiri Ko-Uchi" in Japanese)", and read the day before yesterday. Certainly there is the expression of "circumcision" in the novel. But this doesn't always means that the boys had their foreskin cut off.
In Japanese, we call "circumcision" "Katsu-rei". Japanese culture doesn't have a custom of "circumcision", you know. The word "Katsu-rei" was made for necessity of translation of the Bible, I think. And the word "Katsu-rei" usually means rather "ritual or initiation into society" than "cutting off the foreskin" in Japanese usage. (I often hesitate to use the word "circumcision" for "cutting off the foreskin". So I often use "circumcision (cutting off the foreskin)".
It is difficult to find whether Oe used the word "circumcision" for "cutting off the foreskin" or not. I think he may use it for "ritual". But there is such an expression that (a boy) showed his genital to villagers proudly. I can explain that he wanted to do so because a circumcised penis was very rare in Japan.
There is a Japanese Aesthetic clinic which assists Japanese men in understanding and becoming circumcised. They have a web site which can be found at:
This site is very unique. This site shows why circumcisions are necessary BY COMICS. Full text in Japanese, and no photos.
From a CIRCLIST Member
Circumcision a Mark of Honor in Japanese Army
Markus Benjamin sent me the following extract from a book called "Samurais and Circumcisions." The book was written by Leslie Poidevin who was an Australian Army doctor and surgeon, imprisoned by the Japanese Army in Timor and Java during World War Two. It is an account of his experiences and those of other prisoners at the hands of the Japanese.
One of the things Poidevin mentions in his book, is that a gold tooth and a circumcision were status symbols for some Japanese troops. On page ninety-four he recounts, "I was summoned to the Japanese Sergeant's office. He shut the door and standing in front of me grinning hard, proceeded to undo his fly buttons. He showed me his uncircumcised proud possession and asked "You potong, yes?" ("Potong" is a Malay word meaning "to cut".) I had not realised it till then, but it became apparent that a gold tooth and a circumcised penis, in someone with the rank of Sergeant, would always take him to the head of the waiting queue at the Japanese brothels. I arranged to potong our Nip sergeant. All I required was an ampoule of local anaesthetic, as I was not prepared to use our own scarce supply of Novocain. The procedure must have been successful and to his liking, for our relationship ever after, was fine. Moreover, this simple procedure was actually the beginning of a large and lucrative practice over the next year or so. Very few weeks would go by without two or three occasions when a stray Japanese with his rifle and bayonet would be seen wandering near our mess and sheepishly asking for the "potong doctor." All I asked was an ampoule of local anaesthetic and a packet of cigarettes."
and the Law