Letters from Japan: “Quick Fire Questions”
Ask Hilary: Questions From Readers Answered
April 28, 2023
Savvy Tokyo's resident "Love in Japan" columnist, Hilary Keyes, answers anonymous questions from readers on everything from dating in Japan to women’s health issues. Got a question you’d like to ask Hilary? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hi Hilary! What’re the best options for period products in Japan?
Good for you for doing your research in advance! The standard products available in stores here are pads, pantyliners and in some pharmacies, you’ll find tampons. The main issue with period products in Japan tends to be the size and flow differences.
Most pads and pantyliners come in the 20-24 centimeters length range which, if you are a size 4-6 in Western clothes or under may be an acceptable length. If you are over that, you will need to look at the longer, typically nighttime range of products.
Likewise, if you have a heavier flow, you should also look into the larger, more robust pads. To get an idea of what products are available, take a look at the Sofy feminine products line-up.
Tampons are a bit harder to find but come in four types: light, regular, super and super plus. Again, the flow differences can be surprising, but the light, regular and super are generally safe to use for up to eight hours at a time.
Super plus on the other hand recommend changing far more frequently. I haven’t seen non-applicator tampons available, but they may be found in some stores. For more details on tampons in particular, please check out the Unicharm website (Japanese only).
If you’re staying in Japan for the longer term and would prefer something more sustainable, then you’ll want to visit La Foret shopping center in Harajuku. On floor B0.5, you’ll find Love Piece Club. This store aims to make female health more approachable and carries products such as menstrual cups, period-friendly underwear and so on. You can see the products in person this way, and the staff are able to help explain their use as well.
My Japanese husband and I aren’t as young as we used to be and we’re in need of some lubricant. We don’t need some massive bottle or the slimy stuff they use in those kinds of movies. I want to find one that’ll be gentle for everyday use, essentially. What are our options?
—Still Got It
You can find smaller bottles of the ubiquitous Tenga lube in places like Don Quijote, but I understand wanting something more discrete. KY Jelly and Astroglide are also available in some stores but might not be what you’re looking for either.
If you and your husband use condoms, then you’ll want to avoid any oil-based lubricants or lotion (ローション ro-shon) of course. Water-based lubes are luckily the more common option in most Japanese pharmacies.
Luve Jelly (リューブゼリー rube zeri) is a water-based personal lubricant that can be used for vaginal dryness in general. It’s one of the cheapest but most highly rated lubricants available because it’s odorless, colorless and non-allergenic.
Another popular, reasonably priced option is Okamoto Zero One Junkatsu-zeri (潤滑ゼリー). This one is designed to work with their condoms but of course, can also be used on its own. It contains collagen and hyaluronic acid and is said to feel very natural.
If you go to sex shops or even the 18 and up section of Don Quijote, you can find other brands or warming lubricants, organic oil-based products, and so on. Some of these organic products may contain allergens such as flower or nut oils, so if you do have allergies, please keep this in mind.
I used to be able to get yeast infection creams etc from my local pharmacy but now I can’t seem to find them anywhere. What gives?
I had no idea this had happened and so I asked my pharmacist what was up. I got a very neutral answer but the gist of it is ‘for some reason’ at some point during the pandemic, a number of pharmacies no longer stocked over-the-counter treatments for yeast infections. Specifically, any products that could be used to treat candidiasis or kanjida chitsuen (カンジダ膣炎).
There aren’t any reliable herbal remedies for yeast infections either so my pharmacist’s advice is to make an appointment with your general physician or gynecologist if you want to get treatment in the most timely fashion.
If you are willing to wait sometimes up to a week for relief, you can order some types of yeast infection treatment online. However, and depending on the seller, you will have to answer a survey first (in Japanese) and, as I said, may need to wait up to a week for your treatment to arrive.
Your best option is to see your doctor and, should you encounter your usual treatment in a store somewhere, buy extra just in case.
Hey Hilary, I’ve got a Japanese business culture question. All of my female-presenting coworkers wear stockings or pantyhose with their work clothes – apparently also when they wear pants. Like full-length pantyhose under their suit pants. Is that a thing here or do I just work with some weird people?
—Not Gonna Do It
That’s a good question. I’ve heard it was a thing before but always assumed that most people wore knee-high ones at the most. I can’t imagine wearing full pantyhose under pants is very comfortable though.
After consulting with a few friends, the general consensus is that it’s not as common as it used to be but some do wear full-length stockings under work pants.
“If you want to prevent having a muffin top over your work pants, wearing pantyhose with a control top is ideal” (Japanese, 30s).
“I do it in the winter since I get cold really easily but those are heat tech ones” (Japanese, 40s).
“I’ve done it a couple of times when I was going on a date after work, but not regularly” (Japanese, 20s).
On the other hand, a few pointed out that wearing pantyhose and pants, as well as the generally unbreathable nature of Japanese underwear, is a good way to end up with yeast infections. Given the information from the question above, it might be wise to avoid the combo of stockings and pants altogether unless you intend to spend more time visiting your doctor than you want to.