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Statia Oct 26th, 2008 03:22 PM

Personal Care Products in Japan
I am contemplating purchasing shampoo, conditioner and other such products in Japan rather than lugging it from home. Can anyone tell me if it's relatively easy to find American products such as these in Tokyo and/or Kyoto?

My only concern is not being able to read the label and thus not being sure what I'm buying. Would I be better off just bringing my own instead? We leave in 2 days so any insight would be greatly appreciated.

KimJapan Oct 26th, 2008 03:40 PM

There is a vast selection of hair products in every supermarket and drugstore nationwide. Some products are similar to US products...Herbal Essence for example. Most hotels and ryokan also provide it in the rooms and baths. In fact, I've yet to encounter any accommodation in Japan that does not provide shampoo, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste. If you find yourself somewhere where there is none, which would be highly unusual indeed, the front desk staff/housekeeper will certainly be able to give you some or point out where to buy. I think it will be a non-issue though.

Statia Oct 26th, 2008 03:43 PM

Thanks, KimJapan. We are renting apartments so I doubt any will be supplied, but knowing I could get Herbal Essence or something similar and be able to read what I'm getting in English is a big relief. I won't bother to tote my own.

Thanks so much! :)

dlai Oct 26th, 2008 04:36 PM

Hi Statia,

I agree with KimJapan that you can find most of the basics here in Japan and she has been in Japan longer than I, however I would add that it could be good to bring your own special products, such as hair conditioner as you may find the water and cold weather to be extra drying. Also, most shampoos and hair products are formulated for sale in Asia and therefore for Asian hair, even though they may have the same brand name as in the US. Since the labels are mostly in Japanese, it can be confusing to figure out what you need sometimes and the selection is often smaller! We like our American toothpaste and have not found a similar substitute but if space is an issue and you aren't picky, then you can certainly make do!

You probably know this already but ,it will be helpful if you bring any products that you may need such as Ipuprofen, hydrocortisone or Neosporin, personal hygiene products, and a small first aid kid. Although you could certainly try to find them at a drugstore, the products could be different-and will mostly likely look different. Many skin lotions and products contain skin bleaching agents here in Japan.

dlai Oct 26th, 2008 04:39 PM

sorry for the typos:

First aid kit (not kid!)

I also have never seen here the correct contact lens solution I use for gas permeable lenses-though I can find it(and many other items) in Hong Kong.

dlai Oct 26th, 2008 05:13 PM

Also, forgot to mention that American products (and even Japanese) will be double, triple and even quadruple the US prices-especially with yen at 94 to the dollar. Not ununusal to pay about 1600 yen for a small bottle of shampoo for example (18 dollars or so right now).

philosophin Oct 26th, 2008 07:10 PM

You could just bring small travel-size bottles, I did that and it didn't take up much space and lasted for 2 weeks (depends if you're sharing tho)

WillJame Oct 26th, 2008 07:27 PM

For the sake of perspective, Statia, don't get too alarmed by horror stories about the availability and cost of shampoo and conditioner in Japan. We bought 550 ml containers of clearly labelled Shiseido shampoo and conditioner (a relatively high-end product) for ¥1400 for the pair. Not American, but an international luxury brand based in Japan. Who knows? You might be like us and prefer it to what you get at home.
Disclaimer: I'm the male of the heterosexual couple referred to here, and though I try to represent her accurately, my wife might have a slightly different view. I once failed in my effort to persuade her that we should try a Consumers Reports recipe for homemade shampoo that consisted of dish detergent, water, and a bit of perfume--items that you could easily get in Japan at any 100-yen store, by the way ;-)
The fact that I'm now promoting Shiseido tells you how much I've changed.

KimJapan Oct 26th, 2008 07:43 PM

It is very unusual to spend ¥1800 for a bottle of shampoo. The majority of the 550 ml bottle sets of shampoo and conditioner (1 bottle each) are under ¥1800 for the two bottles. A set of those lasts the 3 of us about 4 months at least. They sell smaller bottles as well, and travel sets.

It could be an interesting part of your trip to immerse yourself in the shampoo section of a big drugstore or supermarket. High prices are found in convenience stores, department stores, variety stores (they sell all sorts of stuff like gifts, cosmetics, decorations, clothes, and are usually a bit pricey), and in stores that cater to foreigners, National Azabu for example.

mrwunrfl Oct 26th, 2008 10:07 PM

I went to France when I was a smoker and stayed in a small town outside of Paris. Had a terrible cough and went to the tiny drug store. Asked the proprietor, in English, for cough syrup but he didn't understand. I coughed (continuously) and pointed at my mouth and throat. He still did not understand what I wanted. Then I said: "DextroMethorphan" and I saw the light bulb go on above his head (it is the DM in Robitussin DM).

BUT take your ibuprofen with you. I did manage to get some pain reliever in Miyajimaguchi but it was not so good.

I was surprised the first time in Japan to not find American brands. But a lot of things have English words on them. Or, just ask! You will figure it out.

Have a great trip, Statia.

Statia Oct 27th, 2008 03:21 AM

Thanks so much for all the further info. :)

DonTopaz Oct 27th, 2008 05:02 AM

In general, I found the common-brand Japanese toiletries and personal care products to be of higher quality than what I'm used to in the US (soap, shaving cream, toothpaste).

W9London Oct 27th, 2008 02:06 PM

If you don't want to schlep the whole bottle, you can usually find miniature size bottles at convenience store. Supermarkets (often next to main train stations) or drugstore chains like Matsumoto Kiyashi (logo in black japanese characters bright yellow sign) have extensive selections.

I didn't particularly find the price to be more expensive, if you compare among UK/US/Japanese premium products. While description would be in Japanese, you're like to find somewhere on the package actual words "shampoo" or "conditioner" or "body soap" in English. You might also want to take note that conditioner can be also called hair rinse. You can also find 2-in-1s (like the one made by P&G).

I'm actually addicted to grapefruit-scented body soap made by a compan called Lion. I don't know the product name/brand (all Japanese characters, except for BODY SOAP at the bottom of the bottle) but it's white bottle with a picture of a green leaf.

Statia Oct 27th, 2008 06:51 PM

I think I've decided to take a couple bottles of hotel stuff I have in my stash here at home and go from that when I arrive. I'm not too terribly picky considering I live on a very small island and have limited resources here. My only concern was being able to read the label to differentiate various products when there in Japan. But, I have faith we'll figure it out.

Thanks so much for the info. I guess I will just take my "main concerns" along and figure out the shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, etc. thing when we get there. I'm now feeling more at ease with finding it, thanks to my always on the ball Fodorites.

Trip report to follow. We leave in less than 48 hours now and DH is sick as a dog with bronchitis. We NEVER get sick here. What awful timing.

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