Guide to Sanitary Napkins and Tampons in Japan

Ladies, when traveling to another country like Japan, there are some things you just assume will be available like back home. Sanitary napkins and tampons are two of those things. Sure, you’ll likely take whatever is left of your current stock when you travel, but never really expect things to be so different as the menstrual cycle is certainly a universal occurrence. Rest assured, there are plenty of pantyliners, sanitary napkins and tampons in Japan. However, the variety and choices may truly vary from those available back home.

Walk into any drugstore, supermarket or convenience store looking for sanitary napkins and tampons in Japan and you will find the sanitary goods isle stocked high with more pads than one might ever imagine. Choose from winged or no-wing, plenty of sizes, day or night versions, light to extra heavy flow models, scented & non-scented and those made with natural materials, all in flowery and colorful packages. A similar situation exists for pantyliners.

You acknowledge them, even nod with content at the detailed infograms helping you choose what you need, and move on to search for tampons. Now, take a few steps back because you probably just walked passed the miniscule tampon section. “This can’t be all there is…” you think. Surprisingly, Japan has very limited choices of tampons compared to the west. At most, you might find 2 to 3 brands, each offering sizes to match your flow.The most common tampons in Japan will be either Sofy Soft Tampon (ソフィソフトタンポン) or Charm Soft Tampon (チャームソフトタンポン). These brands both come in plastic applicators and are available for light to extra heavy days. Compact sizes (コンパクト) are also available, especially in convenience stores. Sizes of tampons do not differ much from the more familiar Tampax brand in the United States. Compared to sanitary napkins, which sell for 350 – 400 yen per pack of 25 – 35 pieces, tampons are much more expensive at 900 – 1,000 yen for 30 – 35 pieces, and rarely ever go on sale. You pay a little over two-times the price and still don’t get as many as you would buying napkins. Another commonly sold brand, Unicharm Eldy Tampon (エルディ タンポン) are sold without applicators (finger-type) offering an economic alternative at 500 – 550 yen per pack of 20 pieces.

Some of the reasons napkins are more popular for Japanese women include cheaper price, abundant variety, and the fact that cultural shame is sometimes associated with using tampons. Fears of not being able to take tampons out, forgetting you’ve left one in, TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome), and incorrect usage are the tampon issues most are concerned about. Used more commonly by some as a last resort item for such occasions as swimming, bathing, exercising, and sleeping, tampons simply do not hold the same necessity as napkins for Japanese women.

These days, reusable and washable napkins are gaining in popularity since they are easier on the wallet compared to restocking on disposable napkins or tampons, contain fewer or no chemicals and are often organic and better for the environment.

When purchasing disposable versions, be careful not to buy adult diapers. You can distinguish them from your requirements by the general lack of decorative designs and the fact that they usually have images of elderly folks on the package.

Whatever you choose to buy, the quality of these items is never second best. The cashier will kindly place your sanitary napkins and tampons in Japan in a black plastic or paper bag so as to be discreet and hide what you bought from the peering eyes of other customers – as if anyone ever cared to look.


Relevant Terms:

Sanitary Napkin  “Seiri-yo napukin” (生理用ナプキン)

Pantyliners (パンティライナー)

Tampons (タンポン)

Winged “Hane-tsuki” (羽つき)

No-wing “Hane-nashi” (羽なし )

Slim-type: look for words with “スリム“ on the packaging (i.e. 超スリム、極うすスリム)

Light “Karui-hi-yo” (軽い日用)

*Normal “Futsuu-no-hi-yo” (普通の日用)

*Heavy “Ooi-hi-yo” (多い日用)

* Usually one version for both normal and heavy

Super Heavy  “Tokuni-ooi-hi-yo” (特に多い日用)

Day  “Hiru-yo”(昼用)

Night “Yoru-yo” (夜用)

For Panty Liners

Scented “***no kaori” (***の香り)

No-scent  “Mukouryo”(無香料)

Deodorant “Shou-shuu”(消臭)