For Ladies Only: A Guide to Female Sanitary Products in Japan

  • HOW TO
  • When you pack up your life and move to the other side of the world, there are lots of big things to think about: learning a new language, getting used to a new currency, a different climate, cultural differences, change in diet… etc. So with all these big things on your mind, you may very well often forget about the little things until you’re right in the thick of it.

    So when you’ve just moved to Japan and… shock horror… it’s your time-of-the-month to pop down the pharmacy for some female sanitary items, don’t be surprised if you recognize absolutely nothing on the shelves. There are dozens of brands to choose from, and of course, it will be trial and error in finding something that you like… so here is a quick introduction to some types of sanitary pads available in Japan and how they compare to what you get at home.

    If you’ve travelled abroad before, you might have some horror stories regarding how different sanitary pads are to what you get at home. Some of the pads I bought in China were such bad quality that they fell apart, and tampons were stocked pretty much nowhere at all. So you can imagine my relief on discovering that in Japan, sanitary products are very similar to those that are available in the UK. Nothing weird about them, just normal sanitary products.

    First, a few words you might find useful when you go shopping for your lady-items. The word for ‘sanitary napkin’ is ナプキン (napukin) and ‘sanitary liner’ is ライナー (raina). Some types of sanitary pads are quite thin and could be mistaken as liners, but often there are laminated examples of the pads displayed next to the packets, so you can have a look and see what it actually looks like. If not, measurements and sizes are displayed clearly on the packets.

    Without knowing any Japanese, you can usually tell what the product is like just from looking at the packet. Night-time pads are often found in darker coloured packets that, helpfully, have little pictures of stars and the moon on so that you know they’re for the night-time. Likewise, you can look to the packet to discover if the pad has wings or not, and how thick it is, the shape, the size, etc.

    Some of the night-time pads I’ve bought have turned out to be HUGE. (picture above) Seriously, they are like nappies. You can even get full shorts-type pads which are basically pants. They seem a bit mad to me but I guess if you have a heavy flow and you also wriggle around a lot in your sleep, then those are a good option.

    There are a number of different brands and I recommend that you try out a few to find your favourite, but they’ll all do the trick. My favourite brands for sanitary pads are ‘Whisper’ (ウィスパー) and Laurier (ロリエ), both of which are similar to the type of products I use at home. As for panty-liners, I recommend ‘Kiyora’ from Unicharm (ユニチャーム) which come in a variety of scents including sweet rose, fresh green and ylang ylang.

    That’s all there is to it! You can buy sanitary products in any convenience store, supermarket or pharmacy and it won’t take you too long to discover a product you’re happy to use. If you need more information or useful translations, check out this great blog post about sanitary napkins in Japan:

    Guide to Sanitary Napkins in Japan

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