In 1966, the birth rate in Japan plunged by about 25 percent as people avoided having girls in the year of Hinoeuma (fire-horse) in the East Asian calendar, as fire-horse girls were believed to be too aggressive. That year the average number of children born to a Japanese woman over her lifetime (gōkei tokushu shusshō-ritsu) went down to 1.58. Though the gōkei birth rate recovered to the normal level (2.14) by the next year, fertility continued to decline steadily over the next decades and finally, in 1989, went below the 1966 level (to 1.53), which “shocked” Japanese leaders.1 This has been a source of national concern, as the short supply of labor will compromise Japan's economic competitiveness and the current pension system will not be sustainable. Evidently, by the mid-1960s Japanese people had become competent in controlling their reproduction, and...

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