An old scourge, syphilis, making a comeback

TOKYO —

The Japanese word for syphilis, “baidoku,” literally translates as “plum poison.” It was so named from the chancres (painless ulcerations) that appear on the skin in the disease’s primary stage, which were thought to resemble plum blossoms.

Nikkan Gendai (Nov 27) notes that according to the Shinjuku-based National Institute of Infectious Diseases, reported cases of this ancient scourge of mankind appear to be making a comeback. While 831 cases were reported in 2008, the number declined to 621 in 2010. By the end of October this year, the count was up to 2,037—up from 1,670 for all of 2014.

Most disconcerting, perhaps, is that the largest demographic turned out to be females in the 20 to 24 years age group: the 177 reported cases represented a 2.7-fold increase over the year before.

“We’re in the midst of a worldwide pandemic,” says Dr Yasuhiko Onue, an authority on sexually transmitted diseases. “Among the carriers I believe are also women from Asian countries visiting Japan.”

Koichiro Fujita, professor emeritus at Tokyo Medical and Dental University, tells the newspaper, “It’s spreading because more people are engaging in sex without taking precautions. Young females lacking knowledge of the ways of the world are overly trusting, and are persuaded by males to have sex with them without use of a condom.”

The decline in fears over contracting AIDS appears to be a main factor, says Fujita.

“When HIV was a concern, warnings were ubiquitous, and young people became more conscientious about use of condoms,” he explains. “But more recently there’s been less concern over contracting HIV. And at the same time people regard syphilis as ‘a disease of olden times,’ and they’re not taking the necessary precautions.”

Another contributing factor, Dr Fujita believes, is the insufficiency of vitamin B, which may be responsible for weakening of the surface membrane of the genitals and lowered resistance to infection. Syphilis can also be spread via oral sex.

Unlike gonorrhea, syphilis in its early stages can be asymptomatic, and if a woman is infected during pregnancy, miscarriages or stillbirths are not uncommon. If the fetus does survive, should the syphilis bacteria infect its brain, mental impairment can result.

“It’s very difficult to tell if a woman’s been infected from a superficial glance,” says Dr Fujita. “Some of them tend to have rather sickly complexions. During sex, some of them may have telltale wartlike bumps, or inflammation, on their genitals.

“Some doctors overseas say they can detect infection from the characteristic odor. In any case, they should undergo a blood test as part of a full physical examination, and specifically request the doctor to look for signs of syphilis.

Tertiary cases of syphilis are a relative rarity but if allowed to go untreated a carrier can suffer a fatal aneurysm. Should you find yourself tested positive, Nikkan Gendai advises, you should also inform all of your recent sexual partners, whether they are amateurs or pros.

Japan Today

  • 8

    Yubaru

    Time for better sex education!

  • 4

    SenseNotSoCommon

    Rubber up, boys and girls!

  • 19

    turbotsat

    “Among the carriers I believe are also women from Asian countries visiting Japan.”

    It couldn't be men from Japan visiting sex tourist hotspots in Southeast Asia?

    How about that Japanese guy that visited 12,000 prostitutes, busted with photos/vids of underage ones, JT reported a few weeks or months ago?

  • 6

    kawabegawa198

    If it weren't for me raising the issue myself, pretty much every Japanese girl I've slept with here would have been perfectly fine without me not using a condom. The lack of awareness here is truly astounding.

  • 0

    Dirk T

    "insufficiency of vitamin B," which Vitamin B?

  • 13

    Noble713

    @turbostat

    “Among the carriers I believe are also women from Asian countries visiting Japan.”

    It couldn't be men from Japan visiting sex tourist hotspots in Southeast Asia?

    Agreed. I'm pretty sure the number of foreign women/tourists having sex in Japan is utterly DWARFED by the number of Japanese men having sex across Asia...

  • 1

    TheGodfather

    "inform all of your recent sexual partners, whether they are AMATEURS or PROS"

    Nothing further to add!!

  • 1

    Wc626

    Most disconcerting, perhaps, is that the largest demographic turned out to be females in the 20 to 24 years age group

    Ahh . . the enjokosai gals who have graduated up in the nightlife, and Japan's notorious entertainment and sex industries. Looks like the chicken are on their way home to roost.

  • 11

    RealityofFake

    "Young females lacking knowledge of the ways of the world are overly trusting, and are persuaded by males to have sex with them without use of a condom."

    Why put the blame only on women for not using protection? Why not tell guys they should wrap it up, and stop to convincing women to have sex w/o a condom? I'm not sure what the sex education is like here in Japan, but I've always heard that it needs to be better. It seems to be pretty common for people to only worry about getting pregnant when having unprotected sex, without any care for the dozens of STDs they can transmit.

  • -16

    Wc626

    Young females lacking knowledge of the ways of the world are overly trusting, and are persuaded by males to have sex with them without use of a condom.”

    Yeah. Japanese girls (especially in the 20-24 year old age bracket) are hot all right. So hot, the ones infested with syphilis are now glowing.

    I'm not sure what the sex education is like here in Japan

    Me neither. (RofL...)

    Nothing further to add!!

    How about adding that they're soooo- kawaii!

  • 2

    sensei258

    Young females lacking knowledge of the ways of the world are overly trusting, and are persuaded by males to have sex with them without use of a condom

    Way to blame just the guys. No way could it be the woman's fault huh?

  • -2

    Reckless

    Oh crap,,,

  • 3

    savethegaijin

    Was this article written in 1950? "Oh those stupid women, they don't really get that you can contract STD's or get pregnant with unprotected sex. Men will be men but these women are just too stupid". This reads like satire.

  • 0

    Pukey2

    And you can't blame this on the foreigners either.

  • 9

    TheGodfather

    @Pukey2 - "you can't blame this on the foreigners either"

    You must have missed the part of the article where it said "among the carriers I believe are also women from Asian countries visiting Japan" inserted especially to try to shift the blame!! ;-)

  • -3

    the refugee

    Ahh . . the enjokosai gals who have graduated up in the nightlife, and Japan's notorious entertainment and sex industries. Looks like the chicken are on their way home to roost.

    Presumptive much? While you are at it, I suppose you could drag all the prostitutes from S.E. Asia into this. You know, the ones also famous for getting AIDS and then being sold to to even dumber yak in the countryside?

    The article seemed to indicate that it was normal people though. Although I am not sure the proof they have either.

    I will add that wearing a condom is a man's job, start to finish. The woman can't wear it for him. Yes, she can request one, but its really hard for her know if it has remained on or not, or if the man is using it properly.

    And if you don't like condoms (as I don't), the answer is called "steady partners". It won't reduce your risks to zero, but when you have had a steady partner for a while and have figured out that he or she is sensible and trustworthy (or not) then you might want to talk about not using condoms. I know some people are going to come along and object, but, its not my fault so many people's sex education is so incomplete and also laden with fear mongering. After two decades here with about 1.5 new partners for each year, I never had an STD and I never had an accidental pregnancy. But I don't near prostitutes and I don't bother with daffy, flaky women either.

  • 7

    harvey pekar

    Hhhmmm, in a country with 10 brothels to a every street block near almost every urban train station? Oh, and neighbors to some of the skankiest sex tourism countries?

    And there's a massive syphilis outbreak? Go figure.

  • 2

    TheGodfather

    @the refugee - "two decades here with about 1.5 NEW partners for each year"

    Is that what you call "steady" relationships?? :-(

  • -6

    the refugee

    Is that what you call "steady" relationships?? :-(

    No. I am sorry. I should have compensated for those with poor reading comprehension.

    Basically, I use condoms until a steady relationship has been established, after I have determined that my partner is trustworthy and not flaky.....which cannot be done on the first date, nor the second and rarely by the third. Establishing a steady relationship and vetting partners takes time, as in weeks. In the meantime, I use condoms. And I keep using them until I have determined the person is trustworthy and not flaky (some do get through the initial screening). To sum up, condoms are a great safety net at all times, but after the initial test runs, I sometimes determine I can go without the safety net.

    Is that clear enough now? Or do I need to break out the visual displays and charts?

  • -7

    Wc626

    Basically, I use condoms until a steady relationship has been established

    (Back in the day . . . ) I didn't use condoms. At a love hotel, they're a joke anyways.

    On a US DOD Facility, I had some stashed in my room and used them occasionally. But, boy did I get lucky. Only caught Chlamydia. A shot and a few pills cured it. Never again. Learned my lesson.

  • -10

    the refugee

    I suppose I also should have stated CLEARLY that during the vetting process some women got dumped, as some people might not understand what vetting means. So not all became steady partners. But since we had sex those that were dumped were still partners and counted toward the 1.5 a year. Only those deemed trustworthy and sensible, and apparently not having syphilis, chlamydia, herpes, AIDS or any other STD became the "steady partners" I referred to. Then we talked about condoms and with those who agreed they were not necessary, they became rarely used. (I won't go into the reasons they were sometimes used because I don't feel like righting a manual right now). IOW, all first, second and nearly all third timers had a condom between them and me.

  • -3

    David Howell

    ********Believe me, condoms do not always work.

  • 0

    danalawton1@yahoo.com

    Who writes some of these articles? "you should inform all recent sexual partners, whether they are amateur or pros". What is an "amateur"? Is that the girl next door?

  • 2

    turbotsat

    refugee: Only those deemed trustworthy and sensible, and apparently not having syphilis, chlamydia, herpes, AIDS or any other STD became the "steady partners" I referred to.

    You sure are trusting. "Apparently" instead of a blood test.

  • 0

    shonanbb

    Last year before I had a skin lesion removed they tested me for syphilis. I do not know why, but it was negative.

  • 4

    Alphaape

    “Among the carriers I believe are also women from Asian countries visiting Japan.”

    So are they saying that regular visiting women are coming to Japan and having sex with Japanese men and spreading the disease, or are they trying to gently say that these women visiting from Asian countries are working in the sex industry in Japan and spreading the disease? If the latter is the case, then the rise among native Japanese women would still be largely due to the Japanese male population that visits or haves sex with these women. A funny side note that they like to leave out, the "sex industry" is still largely discriminatory in Japan. Meaning that a gaijin going to the Hinedecho area in Yokohama, or any other of the areas that cater to that industry will still find the doors closed to them, even if they can speak Japanese. So they can't just blame this on foreign women visiting Japan without explaining what they are doing here.

    How about that Japanese guy that visited 12,000 prostitutes, busted with photos/vids of underage ones, JT reported a few weeks or months ago?

    The last time I checked, there aren't many foreign women coming to Japan to participate in the sex tourism trade with Japanese men. I believe it is the other way around. And when they come back, they may bring more than just a few items from the Duty Free shop with them, spreading it to the local population as well.

  • 7

    NathalieB

    We’re in the midst of a worldwide pandemic,” says Dr Yasuhiko Onue, an authority on sexually transmitted diseases. “Among the carriers I believe are also women from Asian countries visiting Japan.

    Oh PLEASE! Stop right there! My best friends now ex Japanese husband brought her home a little gift once. Where from? A JAPANESE prostitute. One of what could have been many and they were ALL Japanese. Another guy I know not 2 days ago admitted to having slept with "several" Japanese women. None of whom mentioned anything about condoms and he certainly didn't. This and other issues do NOT come from foreigners. Many Japanese women and men do not regularly use condoms or any other form of protection and this ignorant perpetuating attitude of "Japanese don't have diseases, only foreigners" is what is causing the spread to continue.

  • 3

    Reckless

    Some Japanese guy was telling a young Japanese lady I was working on that foreigners will give you STDs, and I told him if I have any STD I certainly got it from a Japanese woman.

  • 0

    Eppee

    turbotsatNov. 29, 2015 - 10:11AM JST

    “Among the carriers I believe are also women from Asian countries visiting Japan.”

    It couldn't be men from Japan visiting sex tourist hotspots in Southeast Asia? How about that Japanese guy that visited 12,000 prostitutes, busted with photos/vids of underage ones, JT reported a few weeks or months ago?

    Turbotsat, come on ... You're not new to Japan ... You should know that STDs are not Japanese, it's a gaijin disease.

  • -6

    the refugee

    You sure are trusting. "Apparently" instead of a blood test.

    Maybe one day it will be commonplace and accepted that before sex, three letters of reference, a consent form in triplicate and full STD screening report be submitted.

    Until then we just have to live with the fact that nothing is 100 percent safe and the fact that syphilis is curable.

    Oh, by the way I am not so trusting. Didn't you read what I wrote? Let me fill an obvious blank for you: I don't sleep with every woman I go out with. I vet them. Those whom I have sex with using condoms, I vet some more. And some get dropped. I am not trusting at all. I am extremely careful It seems it is you though, who is simply scared like crazy. You must be real popular demanding a blood test at the door of the hotel!

  • 7

    danalawton1@yahoo.com

    You know I don't know if I've ever read an article on this website, where they didn't blame foreign influence, or foreigners for the ills of Japan.

  • 5

    katsu78

    “Among the carriers I believe are also women from Asian countries visiting Japan.” ...

    “It’s spreading because more people are engaging in sex without taking precautions. Young females lacking knowledge of the ways of the world are overly trusting, and are persuaded by males to have sex with them without use of a condom.”

    Ah, good. We've blamed the dirty sex disease on outsiders and basically denied the existence of female sexual agency. Work in a rant about the communists and we could score a 1950s trifecta.

  • 1

    nandakandamanda

    The article seems to be deliberately sanitized regarding the actual situation on the ground. Medical staff here have told me some horror stories about syphilis in the young. (No mention of routes of infection, either domestic or foreign.)

  • 0

    camnai

    Dr Fujita makes a lot more sense than Dr Onue, unless in the last couple of years there have been more women from poor countries coming here to work in the sex trade than there were before. Logic, however, is soluble in xenophobia.

  • 0

    LFRAgain

    I'm more appalled at how much onus the "doctors" interviewed appear to be placing Japanese women to deal with this issue when, as has been mentioned by other posters, societal, cultural, and historical gender trends in Japanese make it an almost forgone conclusion that Japanese men are key vectors in the spread of STDs in Japan.

    But, as usual, the still well-ingrained asshattery of Japanese patriarchal dominance finds yet another way to reassert itself and lend an odious reek to even the most common sense public policy decisions.

    Yes, there are women who actively seek out casual sex in Japan. I'm not so naive as to think there aren't. But men are overwhelmingly the main instigators in most extramarital encounters in Japan, either via soapland encounters, "compensated dating," hostess clubs with "extras," the infamous sex tours of Southeast Asia, or the classic, not-to-be-outshined extramarital affair. This is a country where a thriving "Love Hotel" industry exists almost exclusively to give Japanese males a private place to sate their sexual appetites in anonymity and privacy.

    To be fair, any women who believes a guy when he insists he'll take care of any unintended results of unprotected sex absolutely has to accept a large degree of responsibility for their ignorance, willful or otherwise. It's not a secret that STDs exist. It's not a secret that condoms help protect against them.

    But when it's also no secret that it usually takes two to tango, to make curbing the spread of any STD, much less syphilis, the responsibility of women alone -- which is precisely what the article implies -- well, that verges on professional negligence, IMO.

  • 1

    Hawkeye

    don't dip your wick into unchartered territory

  • 4

    smithinjapan

    “Among the carriers I believe are also women from Asian countries visiting Japan.”

    Here we go! It's a 'foreigner disease'. Let's say for the sake of argument that this guy is right; it still only means ALSO, as in, not limited to. What's more, let's say you have Asian women coming over to 'visit' Japan, who is it that has sex with them without condoms?

    The 'cause' of this, in any case, is simply lack of education, and lack of access to things and situations that would prevent the spread of the disease. Hurry up and start teaching proper sex ed. already!

  • -1

    Steve Crichton

    But thats impossible. People here dont have sex. Much. Must be another means of virus transmission.

  • -2

    DarkKnghtZ

    @RealityofFake because women are the gatekeepers to sex. Women choose who to have it with and when to have it. Its like asking "why do companies get to choose when payday is?" Because they have the money and you want it, so you play by their terms.

  • 6

    smithinjapan

    Steve: "People here dont have sex"

    Not with their spouses, no.

  • 3

    kurisupisu

    As some previous posters have noted, it is possible for the Japanese male to access unlimited bars, cabarets, brothels and massage parlors. To intimate that foreign women are entering Japan and spreading disease is based on no evidence whatsoever.....

  • 0

    wtfjapan

    back in my prime I was surprised at how many J ladies were fine with having unprotected sex on the first occassion. I personally never had unprotected sex with any woman. except my last partner, my wife. AIDS doesnt care if your the first, long term, short term , parnter your ever going to have. You never know how many unprotected partners your one night fling was had. syphilis you get off easy AIDS your basically stuffed. Dont be stupid people wear a F condom!

  • 3

    turbotsat

    the refugee: In the meantime, I use condoms. And I keep using them until I have determined the person is trustworthy and not flaky (some do get through the initial screening).

    the refugee: Oh, by the way I am not so trusting. Didn't you read what I wrote?

    Still have not seen any indication your listed test criteria would actually filter out actual STDs.

    Like NatalieB's best friend who got the 'little gift' from ex-husband who frequented prostitutes. She could be a prim'n'proper housewife, how would she trigger any of your criteria for not going bareback / exclusion of further congress? It's her ex-husband who's the flake!

    And:

    JT: Unlike gonorrhea, syphilis in its early stages can be asymptomatic ...

    but TRANSMISSIBLE.

  • 2

    Strychnine

    "No Glove = No Love" Learn it Love it LIVE IT

  • 1

    LFRAgain

    . . . . And then you've got two or three posters on this very thread who seem offended at the idea that using protection during sex is a good thing.

    I'd wager a year's pay the one or two brain trusts who boohooed condom usage are male.

  • 0

    1glenn

    The CDC website states that the syphilis bacteria can be cured with some antibiotics, but that damage already incurred will not thus be cured.

    Do annual physical blood tests include testing for syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases, or does one have to specifically request an STD test?

    http://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/treatment.htm

  • 3

    LFRAgain

    Do annual physical blood tests include testing for syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases, or does one have to specifically request an STD test?

    No, STD screenings are not a standard part of annual health check-ups in Japan. It has to be requested and paid for separately by the person requiring it.

  • -1

    mitoguitarman

    "Making a comeback" has a positive connotation, I think. How about resurgence?

  • -1

    Thunderbird2

    After two decades here with about 1.5 new partners for each year, I never had an STD and I never had an accidental pregnancy.

    Wow... and they say romance is dead... More like a stray Tom cat, lol

  • -3

    Wc626

    Like a vehicle's engine, gotta check the "oil" every 3 months or 3,000 mi. Never trust the synthetic crap. If it looks bad & smells bad, drive a new car. . .

  • 1

    Brian Wheway

    my first thoughts after reading this article, is that if its hard to visual detect, how many men and woman are already infected with syphilis, but don't know about it, so the figures above are only the tip of the iceburg until it shows its true colours in full will we will never know what the true figures are, but buy then will it be to late as the infection will be far more wide spread than thought, will also the government impose automatic blood screening for refugees coming into the country?

  • 1

    Jay Que

    Umm, get married and be faithful?

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