Ladies, we all have that time of the month whether we like it or not. Aunt flow comes by and she does not care whether you are at work, in school, chilling at home or travelling around Japan. Every country has different methods and products that handle our menstruation so it’s important and beneficial to be aware and understand how to take care of yourself when the time comes. Especially with the language difference in Japan, it may be confusing as to which products to choose from.

Feminine hygiene products or 生理処理用品せいりしょり-よう-ひん are sold almost everywhere from convenience stores to supermarkets to drug stores like Matsukiyo. They are displayed in their own section at stores so you are sure not to miss them!

Down below, I have listed the most common products being used in Japan and some helpful translated vocabularies to look out for when purchasing your femine hygiene products.

Sanitary Pads

There are two types of Sanitary Pads:

1. Panty liners or パンティーライナー or 織物おりものシート

These are small pads that help absorb vaginal discharge, light menstrual flow, tampon and menstrual cup backup, spotting, post-intercourse discharge, and urinary incontinence. They come in compact sizes and are usually scented with fragrances like rose.

2. Sanitary Pads or ナプキン

These are the regular pads for when you have your menstrual flow. Japanese pads are not so different from any other pads from around the world, but they are known for their cute designs and packaging. Additionally, some brands have made an effort to make them compact so they can easily fit into your purses in order to not take too much space. There are numerous brands and designs to choose from and are scented with common fragrances like rose. On the package, it will clearly say and show the size, length and whether the pad comes with wings or not. In some stores, there are even samples by the racks to allow customers to see and feel the pad before purchasing.

Tampons or タンポン

Not as popular as the pads, the tampons have a relatively smaller section in stores. There are not as many brands creating tampon products but there are just enough to choose from.
Many foreigners are quite surprised to find the difficulty in finding a tampon without an applicator. It is often rare and if you do want one without an applicator, it is best to purchase it online instead. There are different sizes and variations depending on your type of flow. Some may be compact while others may be long with the applicator stick sticking out.

Although tampons and pads are the two most commonly used feminine hygiene products, some have alternated to different products.

Menstrual Cup or 月経

A menstrual cup is a silicone cup which is inserted like a tampon. It differs from a tampon being that instead of soaking the menses, it simply contains it like a cup. They can be left in for up to 12 hours. The benefits of a menstrual cup is that it reduces bacteria build up, keeps your private areas from drying out, and is an eco friendly product which may be used repeatedly after washing thoroughly. Because of its lack of popularity, menstrual cups are not sold in stores, but you may purchase them online.

Menstrual Sponge or スポンジタンポン

Menstrual sponge or natural sponge is a reusable tampon in the form of a sponge. As you guessed it, it acts like a tampon, absorbing the menses. These sponges are naturally occurring organisms and can be cut into different shapes and sizes depending on you. Unlike a tampon, these sponges do not have strings attached to them so it is inserted and removed using one’s fingers. You can thoroughly wash them with water and can be re-inserted and used for up to 6 months. Menstrual Sponges are very rare and not many know them, so you must purchase them online to get your hands on them.

Washable Pads or 布ナプキン

Washable pads are just like sanitary pads, but they are not thrown away after just one use. They are soaked, washed and reused. These are not as common as disposable pads, but various manufacturing companies have created washable pads in all different shapes and designs from daily use to panty liners to overnight use. This is a great eco-friendly alternative.

Helpful vocabularies when looking for feminine hygiene products:

  • 生理 – menstruation, period
  • 昼用 – day use
  • 夜用 – night use
  • ふつう用 – regular flow
  • 多い日- heavy flow
  • 軽い日 – light flow
  • 超 – super (as in very heavy flow)
  • 羽つき – with wings
  • 羽なし – without wings
  • ライナー – liner
  • ライト – light
  • レギュラー – regular
  • スーパー – super

There you have it ladies! A simple guide to helping you when Aunt Flow comes to town while living in Japan. In contrast to Western pads, you will be sure to love and enjoy choosing your feminine hygiene products, especially sanitary pads as they are not only efficient to use, but have cute and unique designs to choose from.