Up All Night:A True (Enough) Story

By: Cynthia Dane


I’m not ashamed or embarrassed to admit that, unless it turned out I was being catfished or Hadrian gave me some serious creeper vibes, I was going to fuck him. We could go straight to a love hotel room and I’d be cool with that. I wanted sex. The guy being a decent date beforehand? Fuck it, that was a bonus. And I was down for a good date if I knew I would probably get laid later.

That said, I’m also a woman who is a die-hard realist. I know how lots of (particularly young, and Hadrian was a couple years younger than me according to his profile) men operate. I wasn’t going to assume he was packing his own condoms around. Seriously. How sad is that? I ain’t trusting no man to bring a fucking condom to a date where sex is silently understood to be on the table.

So, being the responsible adult that I was, I left a couple hours early to hit up one of the many pharmacies and convenience stores in my neighborhood to buy some fucking condoms. Just in case, you know.

Here’s a tip: Japan does not make it easy to find condoms.

I don’t know why, other than it’s some great government conspiracy to get the birth rate they’re always harping about up, but Japan has been notoriously dumb when it comes to contraception. You couldn’t even get the pill until a couple of decades ago, and of course that was for “married women.” Young people often confess to never using condoms or any other kind of barrier method. Before you ask, yes, everyone is getting pregnant left and right, although sometimes you never find out about it. All I’ll say is that certain things that are considered hugely political here in America they don’t even bat an eyelash at in Japan.

I go out of my way to explain this so you’ll understand why I call this the Great Condom Hunt 2k16.

Imagine me, some nobody foreigner, popping into no fewer than three so-called pharmacies and four convenience stores looking for a simple box of condoms. This was all within a one mile radius, mind you. Oh, I thought it would be the simplest thing in the world, even if I didn’t find them right away. How hard could they really be to find? I even got on my phone and looked it up online, making sure I knew what they were called and what section you often found them in. Because, as you can probably figure out by now, many other foreigners before me had been as perplexed while on the hunt for Japanese prophylactics. Entire webpages were constructed with the intent of instructing and helping dumbasses like me get safely laid.

Problem: pharmacies are fucking bullshit.

What do you other Westerners think of when you hear the term “pharmacy?” Oh, let me guess! Walgreens. CVS. Rite-Aid. Your local mom and pop pharmacy. You know, those places that double as locations to get your prescriptions filled while picking up OTC meds, other health supplies, and maybe some snacks and even home goods depending on the size of the place. Bonus! Aisles and aisles of makeup! American pharmacies are notorious for cheap makeup gear that will help you get by in a pinch.

Japan is similar. Except not at all.

From the moment you step into most kusuri-ya, which literally translates to “medicine store,” you’ll notice there is makeup everywhere. Hair care, skin care, everything you could possibly do to alter your body into being more beautiful is available beneath bright lights and chirping J-pop music. Walk two more aisles and you’ll find everything you need to take care of your baby while brushing your teeth. Cheap snacks? Yup. They got that.

You know what a lot of so-called pharmacies in Japan are missing? Medicine.

You cannot get prescriptions filled in Japanese pharmacies. Those are filled in other, much smaller clinics that fill prescriptions and sell you nothing else. Fine. That’s how the system is set up in a foreign country? Fine. So give me the OTC stuff, Japan! That includes your “family planning” materials!

Good luck finding vitamins. Good luck finding cold medicine. (That shit is so highly regulated you’re gonna have to suffer.) Good luck finding some fucking condoms!

I majored in Japanese. A quick vocab search in my electronic dictionary gave me the one word missing from my brain that would help me ask the closest person where the fuck they kept the gomu. (Fun fact: they’re called rubbers in Japanese too!) Except these pharmacies were so makeup centric that everyone working there was over sixty-five and female. And not the kind, grandmotherly types, either. The kind that would probably balk the moment a foreign woman asked where the hell the condoms were.

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