Kota Hakoyama is a Japanese student who is currently traveling the world as “The Pregnant Man”!
Don’t be confused, as Kota is not really pregnant himself, he is making his world trip wearing a pregnancy simulator. And he is asking you to try it too!
Kota is a medical student from Japan whose dream it is to become an Obstetrician/Gynecologist in order to be able to help as many mothers and babies as possible. To make this dream come true he is now traveling the world with a pregnancy simulator learning and educating about pregnancy related public health issues all over the world.
I’m traveling around the world with a Pregnancy Simulator which enables anyone to simulate and experience a pregnant mother’s suffering. I am currently traveling around the world with the pregnancy simulator and everywhere I go I talk about women’s health with local people, especially men. My hope is that men with a kid wish will become good fathers!!! I think a good father makes a great family and I’d like to make them more aware about the pregnancy related tribulations of the mother. I wanna change the world by making it more friendly for pregnant mothers all around the globe! By inviting local people to wear the pregnancy simulator I make them more aware what it is like to be pregnant.
This project maybe seems to be a bit stupid but I’d like to chase my dream as much as possible. Basically, the reactions are fine. At first, most guys feel shy and aren’t willing to wear the simulator. But once they do it, they smile and take loads of selfies. Most people love selfies!. And then I tell them “Please take care of your wife and mother!” and they agree to this idea.
The Pregnancy Simulator
The Pregnancy Simulator is indispensable for Kota’s pregnant man world trip. His equipment consists of a jacket and a inflatable belly part. The belly part can be filled with water to simulate the weight of the amniotic fluid and it can be worn on the body with the help of the strap on jacket.
Kota is traveling by public transport and he tries to wear the pregnancy simulator as often as possible in public places. To avoid troubles he does take it off from time to time at border crossings to avoid being classified a smuggler!
When he fills up the pregnancy simulator with water his ‘pregnant belly’ weighs between 8kg~10kg. But when drained it looks like he just gave birth and no belly can be seen whatsoever.
Start of the Pregnant Man world trip in Hong Kong
On the 19th of February 2015 Kota started his world trip in Hong Kong. And it was a bit of a false start:
My journey started at the Hong Kong airport. When I arrived I worried a lot about how much money to change, which hotel to stay at and what kind of foods I could eat without poisoning myself… That’s why,I can’t smile.
In addition, the middle of February is Chinese New Year. A lot of shops were closed, the accommodation charges were super expensive. For the people from Hong Kong Chinese New Year is a happy and exciting time but for me it was the nervous start of my first solo trip…
I was just a beginner tourist, so I was worrying a lot an not really enjoying my trip in China. I tried wearing the pregnancy simulator multiple times and asked people to try it on. It seemed nobody was interested in me let alone the pregancy simulator. So my project did not work at all. In hindsight I understood it was due to my own condition not feeling well, worrying too much and just not having enough confidence.
So the results for his first visited country were utterly disappointing with exactly zero people trying on the pregnancy simulator. But Kota did not give up and continued his trip to the next country: Vietnam.
The ‘pregnant man’ in Vietnam
After Kota arrived at Hanoi he started reflecting on why his project did not work in Hong Kong. He quickly realised it was due to two problems: A lack of language skills to be able to explain his project to strangers and a lack of confidence and determinism to make it work no matter what.
To tackle the language barrier Kota got himself a little white board which he would start using to write down his project idea in the local language. In Hanoi his guest house owner translated his project idea from English to Vietnamese. To top it off he even added a drawing for some more visual explanations…
The second problem – his lack of persistence – was in parts caused by the language barrier. “In Hong Kong I tried to explain my idea to passersby but stopped quickly after 5 or 7 people refused not really understanding what was going. However with a little more patience, I am sure I would have succeeded.”
After Kota’s guest house owner had helped him preparing his white board in Vietnamese he dashed outside and started approaching locals. And to his great delight some guys were willing to try on the pregnancy simulator. In the end Vietnam became the country of Kota’s first success and in Hanoi, Hue and Hoi An 30 people tried on his pregnancy simulator.
With that success in mind he got the confidence he needed to continue his pregnant man world trip.
100 people wearing the pregnancy simulator in Cambodia
In Cambodia Kota celebrated even bigger successes.
After hearing about Pol Pot’s genocide and seeing the Killing Fields and the Genocide museum Kota was shocked. “The most suffering thing for me on my trip was my own apathy. And I thought I would make more and more efforts in this country. That’s why I set the target of my action, 100 people.”
While in Phnom Penh Kota visited the Reproductive Health Association of Cambodia (RHAC) where he met Dr. Sreng who showed him a lot of clinics and project sites.
Dr. Sreng really inspired me. He enjoyed his work, his life. I’d like to become a public health expert like him in the future. Thanks to him, I fulfilled my target of finding a 100 people wearing the pregnancy simulator in only 2 week. What a great country that is.
From Cambodia Kota continued his trip to Thailand and Myanmar. In Thailand 38 people wore his simulator and in Myanmar 19. To his own surprise a Myanmar newspaper got note of his project and devoted an article to him. The first media exposure of the pregnant man world trip had been achieved!
In spite of falling ill in Bangladesh Kota managed – with the help of 2 Japanese Overseas Cooperation Volunteers – to get 86 people trying on the pregnancy simulator. This was followed by 75 people trying in India and 15 people in Nepal.
The ‘pregnant man’ in Iran
In Iran his project got a new boost.
Iran is famous for people’s hospitality, so I was determined to visit the country. Still I worried a little bit mainly because I needed to wear the strange pregnancy jacket. But actually, my anxiety was totally not grounded! The city I visited (especially Isfahan!) was the very existence of peace and I had a great time thanks to its kind people and beautiful historical buildings. My life in Isfahan is hard to forget. All the people listened my story eagerly, and said VERY GOOD to me! 48 people participated and they all gave me the great brave to continue my project.
A new setback
From Iran Kota continued to Azerbaijan where he didn’t find the same enthusiasm for his project as he had encountered in Iran. Only five people participated. Armenia was even worse with only one person willing to try on the simulator. On his facebook page Kota reflects about that time:
In Yerevan, my doing was completely not good. I think it is because of my rough preparation (translation), and the lack of confidence. I couldn’t talk with a smile…
One old man saw my introduction paper and snorted with laughter. And then, he threw it away. I felt like hitting him. Of course I didn’t, but I felt so tired and disappointed…
My heart is not strong enough. Some people laugh at me (which is natural), but I have to continue. Armenian people are so kind, but I gave up for a minute, that’s why the result was not good. I wanna be more strong.
In Georgia and Turkey things changed for the better though. With a new positive mindset he found many people willing to participate. He then hopped on a plane to Helsinki. Finland with its great welfare sytem became a real eye opener to Kota.
Do you know that every pregnant woman gets a maternity package from the government? It is a box filled with things to bring up a baby and all mothers can get it for free! Through couchsurfing I stayed with a Finnish family. (Venla san, Jakko san, Marty, Seppo, Thanks!!) and I saw the box is really working. Yes! I think this system is very good and Finland is the best country for a mother I’ve ever visited!
From there Kota traveled to Estonia – where his project reached the 500 participant milestone – Latvia, Czech Republic, Germany and Poland.
In Europe his project was generally very successful one of the reasons being that most people could speak English very well. This way Kota was able to explain his project very well.
Poland was the last stop on the European leg of the pregnant man world trip. Next on the agenda are Africa, North America and South America. All with the goal of raising awareness to female pregnancy and public health.
Find more about Kota and his pregnant man world trip here: https://www.facebook.com/kota.strange.journey