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Japanese company puts male office workers through simulation of women’s period pain

Male office workers in Japan experience virtual menstrual pain in Tokyo (Reuters)
Male office workers in Japan experience virtual menstrual pain in Tokyo (Reuters)

Male workers at a Japanese telecommunication firm have been given the rare opportunity to experience simulated menstrual pain.

The pain was generated through a “perionoid” device that sent electric signals via pads placed in the lower abdominal region, to induce the cramping sensation experienced by women during their period.

“It hurts. Oh my goodness!” 26-year-old Exeo employee Masaya Shibasaki exclaims in a video of the experiment, as he winces in pain.

“I can’t stand straight,” says another employee, as he laughs nervously, holding his abdomen.

The device was jointly developed by researchers at Nara Women’s University and start-up Osaka Heat Cool.

“I couldn’t move. It hurt to the point where I couldn’t stand,” Mr Shibasaki said afterwards. “I now understand women have to work while fighting this pain every month. It’s actually amazing how women can do that. I really respect them.”

Exeo said it wants to create an environment where its more than 90 per cent male workforce can be more supportive of female peers, including when it comes to taking menstrual leave.

"We hope those who experienced [menstrual pain] today go back to their workplace and speak about how they felt, and spread their understanding," said Exeo public relations officer Maki Ogura.

Companies in Japan are legally required to allow women to take menstrual leave. However, there is no requirement for the time off to be paid and surveys showed around half of female workers never take it.

About 44 per cent of women in Japan do not take any time off during their period even when they are in serious pain, according to a survey by Tokyo consulting firm Deloitte Tohmatsu Group. At least 5,000 people participated in the survey that was conducted in 10 countries from October 2022 to January 2023.

According to the results, 35 per cent of the respondents in Japan with health problems related to menopause stated they “continue to work without time off no matter the pain or symptoms”.

“It’s not enough for menopausal and period pain leave to ‘just exist’ as a system. Companies need to improve the workplace environment and culture at the same time as introducing it,” Deloitte’s diversity, equity and inclusion manager Yumi Takahata said.