Osaka-based company Morishita Jintan has been around for a long time. Founded way back in the Meiji period, next month will mark the pharmaceutical and medical device maker’s 130th year in business.
Obviously, advances in medical science mean that Morishita Jintan’s product lineup is now very different compared to the wares it offered in its early days. So it was a discovery of historical significance recently when someone in rural Japan found one of Morishita Jintan’s very first products: a condom that’s approximately 120 years old.
The condom was found by the owner of a kominka, or classical Japanese folk house, in the town of Shikamachi, Ishikawa Prefecture. The house has now been converted into an inn for travelers, and the owner found the condom in the adjacent storehouse, which makes one wonder if the storehouse was used for amorous rendezvous by its original owners.
Specifically, it was a Yamato Kinu-model condom that was found. One of the first mass-marketed condoms in Japan, the Yamato Kinu earned its popularity by being billed as a line of protection against infections of syphilis, which saw major outbreaks around the turn of the 20th century in Japan, where it’s known as baidoku (literally “plum poison”). This is believed to be the only Yamato Kinu condom still in existence, and while its exact age hasn’t been determined, newspaper ads for the product from 1896 have survived, so it’s estimated that the condom was sold sometime around then.
Although Yamato Kinu translates as “Japanese clothing” or “Japanese silk,” the condom was actually made in France and imported to Japan by Morishita Jintan, as manufacturing technology at the time in Japan was insufficient to make them domestically. Nevertheless, the Yamato Kinu had a significant impact on life and love in Japan, and Morishita Jintan is considering putting the historical condom on display at its head office since the inn owner who discovered it, having no personal need for such an aged prophylactic, has agreed to donate it to the company.
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