Document 45: Ayakawa Takeji, "A Consideration of the Birth Control Theory," Part III, Unidentified newspaper, [1922?], Japanese Foreign Ministry Archival Documents, Diplomatic Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Tokyo. Translated by Kazuhiro Oharazeki.


   The following document was preserved by the Home Ministry with internal records and reflects an anti-Western point of view that the Japanese government found compelling.

Ayakawa Takeji, "A Consideration of the Birth Control Theory
Part III, Civilized and Cultural Life That Birth Control Theories Are Promoting"[A]

[Unknown location]

[February or March 1922?]

   In her article "Birth Control" (jōyoku to sanji seigen), Mrs. Sanger writes: "The primary reason why France is one of the most prosperous countries in the world, and why the average amount of gold currency held by each person in the country is higher than those in other European countries, is the low birth rate";[B] "Birth control is necessary in every country in order to maintain the standard of living--this is a universal fact regardless of the kind of economic system adopted in a country" (the same journal, [same year], p. 108).[C] Furthermore, in the same journal Dr. Havelock Ellis argues that "it is evident, like a law of nature, that when we are making efforts to lower the birth rate, we are making efforts to raise the standard of living.[D] A brief consideration of the opinions of the two theorists will be useful in understanding the actual meaning of "civilization" that birth control activists are promoting, that is, to increase "the amount of gold currency held by each person" and to raise "the standard of living." By "civilization," they mean the hedonistic, materialistic civilizations in Europe and the United States.[E] For them, to maintain and raise the standard of living is to maintain and raise the quality of materialistic cultural life. Their "civilization," by its nature, seeks to hold a large amount of currency, produce hundreds of thousands of machines that make life convenient, build transportation and communication systems of telegraph, railroads, and cars, buy expensive clothes and foods by using interest on bank deposits, build huge skyscrapers that have no artistic value, enjoy leisure activities that only make people nervous, buy expensive art works not to appreciate the art but to show off one's wealth, develop all kinds of shrewd, practical sense, and make people nervous and wear them out continuously.

   They pretend to save humanity, but they actually make them suffer.

   Is this the kind of "civilization" that humanity really wishes to have? Let me introduce a cultural critic's comment on the Russian Revolution: "The European civilization failed to save Russia. Neither could it save Europe itself, not to mention the world. Lenin tried to save Russia and the world by using an idea of civilization or culture that was very different from that of Europe."[F] The European civilization is a materialistic, hedonistic one, the primary goal of which is to achieve material prosperity. It seeks to advance material and cultural lives endlessly. However, as Europe attempted to maintain and improve the quality of material, cultural, and hedonistic lives, it faced a problem of a rapid population increase, and to make the matter worse, the material and cultural resources--namely, the sources of hedonistic lives--could not catch up with the population increase and the people's ever-growing desires. As a result, the people began to compete for the remaining resources. Those who had "gold currency" gained the freedom to buy goods, and those without it did not. Yet, the people's desires continued to grow, hedonistic ideas spread more widely, and the people began to have a strong sense of social insecurity. In other words, Europe is suffering from the nature of civilization that it created. Who does have the courage to say that materialistic civilization saved Europe? We don't need to turn to a cultural critic for the answer.

   Birth control activists are trying to advance and impose on humanity [at large] the civilization that is making Europe suffer. They appear to be hoping that humanity will repeat Europe's mistake and suffer from it. They are claiming that they wish to save humanity, but they are actually making humanity suffer.

   At the beginning of his article, "The Problem of the Races," published in the Far Eastern Review (July 1921), George Bronson Rea introduces [passages from Whitaker's Almanack]: "It has been estimated that the earth can maintain a population of 6,000,000,000, a total [of] which will be reached about A.D. 2100" (p. 420).[G] He further cites a portion of Report of the Japan Sociological Society (1915): "The earth can support a population of 2,200,000,000 living according to the American standards of life, or 5,600,000,000 according to German standards, but if all the peoples of the world should live according to the Japanese standards, old mother earth could easily support a population of 22,400,000,000. In 150 years, at the present rate of increase, the population of the earth will be ten billion" (p. 420).[H] These sources are a little old, but the rates resulting from the calculations will not be far from the reality. According to the calculation by Whitaker's Almanack, the world can feed a population of 6,[0]00,000,000, but according to Report of the Japan Sociological Society (1915), the world can support a population of 2,200,000,000 according to the American standard of living, 5,600,000,000 according to the German standard, and 22,[4]00,000,000 according to the Japanese standard.[I]

   If birth control is necessary to prevent the lowering of the American standard of living, half or more of the population in Japan and other densely populated, poor countries must be killed in order to maintain the standard of living equal to those in the United States. If the races of the world wish or need to have the Euro-American cultural or hedonistic lives, the world will be able to sustain only a little more than the present-day population. The present-day population is estimated at a little less than 1,700,000,000.[J] Therefore, if the population increases at the present pace, the world's population will reach, within ten years, the limit of population that can be sustained according to the American standard of living.

   Now, one must ask whether we should approve of the maintenance and improvement of such cultural lives without any limitation. If the Euro-American cultural lives were the most ideal ones, all the members of humanity must strive to achieve their standard of living. Yet, if humanity wishes to follow the [Euro-American] ideal of civilization and pursue and improve such cultural lives, the world can sustain only a much smaller population. Even the present-day population is already too large [to maintain this standard]. Is this really the most ideal state of civilization and culture? In my opinion, it isn't (I will discuss other types of civilization later).[K] Do birth control activists still have the courage to claim the necessity of birth control to achieve such civilization or culture and impose their idea on humanity as the most humane one?


A.The first two parts of the article have not been found.
Back to Text

B.Sanger published articles in Kaizo and as a three-part series entitled "Birth Control--Past, Present and Future," in the Birth Control Review, 5:6-8 [June, July, August, 1921]. In the Birth Control Review version, the quote was: "In great part it is owing to the low birth-rate that France had been one of the most prosperous countries in the world, and that her gold reserves per head exceeded the known averages of other European nations." Margaret Sanger, "Birth Control--Past, Present and Future, Part 1," in Birth Control Review 5:6 [June 1921]: 11; Kaizo 3:6 [June 1921], 132).
Back to Text

C.In the Birth Control Review version, Sanger wrote: "the control of births is necessary to hold up the standards of subsistence in any country--this is true whatever may be the particular economic system prevailing. It is as true for the Orient as for the Occident. Wage slavery is the inevitable consequence of the uncontrolled reproduction of new wage slaves; and it will continue as long as wage slaves are ready and willing to create new units to perpetuate the same miserable conditions." (Sanger, "Birth Control--Past, Present and Future, Part I," p. 125.)
Back to Text

D.See Havelock Ellis, "Sanji seigen to sei no kōsatsu," ("Birth-Control") Kaizō, 3:13 (Dec. 1921): 76-91.
Back to Text

E.Ayekawa's statement reflects a growing criticism of the impact of Meiji values on Japanese culture and society, and a larger rejection of domestic bourgeois values of the West. (Najita, Tetsuo, and H. D. Harootunian, "Japanese revolt against the West: political and cultural criticism in the twentieth century," The Cambridge History of Japan, 1st ed., Vol. 6 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 711-74. Cambridge Histories Online, accessed online 20 September 2013 at
Back to Text

F.The source of this quote was not found, but it was possibly written by Yamakawa Hitoshi, one of Japan's most well-known Meiji socialists. (Peter Duus and Irwin Scheiner, "Socialism, Liberalism and Marxism," in The Cambridge History of Japan, 1st ed., Vol. 6 pp. 181-93. Cambridge Histories Online, accessed online, 20 September 2013 at
Back to Text

G.Rea's article began with a text box that enclosed the quotes on population size from Whittaker's Almanack and from the Japan Sociological Society. This is followed by a note from Rea indicating the article's facts and arguments were prepared for American authorities in 1917 and "undoubtedly helped influence the highest military officer in France to advise President Wilson against sending an American army to Siberia." This article was designed to update German and Japanese population problems. In it, Rea argued that Japan and Germany's growing populations would again lead to war unless the United States allowed them to find outlets for the excess. In effect, he was justifying expansionism of these two nations. (Rea, "The Problem of the Races," p. 42.
Back to Text

H.Whitaker's Almanack was a British reference work.
Back to Text

I.Tongo Takebe, "Kenkyū Hōkoku: Jinkō Mondai" (A Research Report: The Population Problem), Nihon-Shakai-gakuin Nenpō (Report of the Japan Sociological Society), 3:1-2 (1914-1915), p. 226.
Back to Text

J.In 1999, the United Nations estimated the world population in 1920 at 1,860,000,000. (United Nations, The World at Six Billion, Table 1, "World Population From Year 0 to Stabilization," [1999], p. 5.)
Back to Text

K.The last part of this article was not found.
Back to Text

back to top