As we all know, Japan is full of many weird and wonderful things. A simple trip to the supermarket can turn into hours of wondering what this is and what that does, and the same goes for the drug store. We picked up 10 things from our local drugstore that might shock, amuse, or confuse foreign visitors.
1. Ear cleaners
Japan goes a step further than your usual cotton buds with these devices that claim to get all that icky wax out of your lugholes.
▼One end is solid to get the more… solid bits out.
▼The other end is made of soft rubber for the more flaky bits. Lovely.
▼Apparently it feels really good, especially when someone else does it for you at the hair salon.
2. Warming eye masks
Available in a range of soothing scents, these are more than mere ordinary eyemasks. When you put them on the pads over the eyes start to warm up, and the combination of heat and smell works together to send you drifting off into the land of nod. It actually felt really relaxing when I tried it, and I’m definitely going to be purchasing some of these for my next long-haul flight.
3. Hot pink anti-constipation pills
They may look like candy but you don’t want to eat them like they are or you’ll be spending a whole lot of time on the squatter. Surprisingly, Japanese people tend to be more open about their bowel movements than Westerners and, rather than hiding behind plain, unobtrusive packaging, these anti-constipation pills come in a bright pink packet that appeals to women.
4. Anti-hangover drinks
This is something I’m sure would be a hit in Europe if they could market it right. Drink this “power of turmeric” drink before you go out on the town, and you’re supposed to wake up with a clear head the next day. (Whether it actually works or not is debatable, and something I plan to put to the test in the future. For science, of course.) I was put off by the bottle and the bright orange liquid it contained, but it was actually surprisingly tasty! It tasted a little like Calpol, that medicine from my youth that many a child would fake illness for in order to get a sip of.
▼The liquid was bright orange and slightly thick.
5. Hand warmers
Japanese people buy disposable handwarmers by the dozen during the cold winter months. They contain chemicals that produce heat thanks to exothermic oxidation, and these particular ones claim to stay warm for up to 9 hours. Many people like to stick them in their gloves or in their waistbands to stave off a chill.
6. Anti-allergy spray
Kafunsho, or hay fever, is a huge problem here in Japan with millions of sufferers sniffling through the spring and summer months. Many people cover up with a mask and take tablets, but there’s a new defensive treatment on the market that promises to protect you from allergies just by spraying it on your face.
▼The instructions tell you to hold the bottle about 20cm from your face and spray in a circular motion.
▼Psssh! A fair amount comes out so you have to give it a few minutes to dry.
7. Moist face masks
We’ve all seen the pictures of Japanese people hiding their faces behind their trusty masks. As I’m sure our readers are already aware, this is usually to avoid passing on an illness rather than avoid catching one, or to protect against pollen allergies. Apparently behind at least some of these masks a rather strange secret is lurking. This brand comes with moist pads that are supposed to stop your throat from drying out during the day. They’re also very useful on long flights for the same reason – give them a try!
▼The mask comes with three packets of moist pads.
▼ The pads are fairly thick.
▼You slip them inside the pockets built into the inside of the mask.
▼The pads felt strange and heavy against my face.
▼I didn’t feel any of the moisture in the few minutes I wore it, but once you’d been breathing into it for a while the heat of your breath should cause it to steam slightly, moistening your nasal passages and throat.
8. Ghostly face masks
Face masks are a popular beauty treatment the world over, involving slathering a usually green (why is it always green?) mud-like goop onto your face and leaving it to sit. However, the ones you usually find in Japan are a paper-like mask soaked in an essence.
9. Eyelid tape
We’ve already written a lot about the desire for double eyelids in Asian countries. For those not wanting to take the surgical route there’s always the marginally less painful-looking eyelid tape sold at drug stores all over Japan.
▼Looks more like an implement of torture, but then again most beauty tools do.
▼Detailed instructions on making just the right fold.
▼Before (left) and after (right) – It does make a difference, but is it really worth it?
10. Themed bath salts
Stores like Lush have proved the appeal of smelly things to put in your bath, but Japan takes it a step further with anime-themed bath salts.
▼We tried out the Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan) salts. Each one dissolved to turn the water into a vibrant colour, and smelled good enough to eat.
▼The scents were kiwi, lemon, grape and apple, respectively. They both looked and smelled kind of like flavoured vodka shots, but they sure didn’t taste like it!
Japanese drugstores can be a wonderland of beauty and health products, ranging from incredibly useful things that you then wonder how you ever lived without, to the most pointless things that have you questioning why anyone ever thought they were necessary. And many stores, such as Matsumoto Kiyoshi, are now offering tax-free shopping to tourists so you can stock up on things you won’t find anywhere else!
If you’re in Japan make sure to drop by and check out what’s on offer – I’d definitely recommend picking up some of those warming eyemasks for the long flight home!
Photos © RocketNews24