Ladies! This is a post I’ve been wanting to tackle for a while. I’ve heard various comments that pads in Japan are smaller than their Western counterparts, and also various recommendations to bring pads along with. How silly! Sure, pads can serve as excellent packing materials, but so can clothes. Whether you’re moving to Japan, or even just coming for a visit, rest assured that finding pads is quite easy.
Of course, most packaging has a picture so you can see what the pad looks like, whether it has wings or not, is it regular or long? Some stores even display sample pads for you to check out and admire. But here’s my extended guide to choosing pads – and to dispel any more ridiculous myths out there: THE PADS IN JAPAN ARE NOT DIFFERENT. Or smaller. Or thinner. There are a variety of sizes to choose from, including super, maxi sizes. You can even get cloth pads or special underwear with built-in pads. Or something essentially resembling a diaper, called “shorts.” You can choose wings or no wings, different lengths, thick or thin, slim or “wide.” And if none of that works, well, there’s always an aisle full of adult diapers. (But who are we kidding, if your flow is that heavy I know it’s no easy thing to deal with anywhere!)
Now, there are a variety of brands to choose from, but probably the main ones you’ll see anywhere are Whisper (ウィスパー); Laurier (ロリエ); Unicharm (ユニチャーム), which also includes Sofy (ソフィ); Center In (written in English on the packaging); and Elis (エリス). Megami is another common brand but is part of Elis.
There aren't many differences between brands – more or less subtle things, which is probably what you are used to in your home country. I generally use Whisper, so you’ll see quite a few pictures of their products here, but don’t take it as my sole recommendation. For alternative options, stay tuned for an upcoming post.
First, words to know: (have these on hand when shopping for pads and you are good to go). And keep in mind that if the pads have wings, the package will say 羽つき, and if not, 羽なし. Other descriptions are below. Also, 生理用 may precede ナプキン in descriptions or at the store, though usually you should be fine looking for ナプキン. (Well, it's not like they are that hard to find in general...)
ナプキン napukin sanitary napkin ふつう用 ふつうよう futsuyou regular day (use) ライナー rainaa liner 多い日用 おおいひよう ooihi you heavy day (use) 夜用 よるよう yoruyou night (use) 軽い日用 かるいひよう karuihi you light day (use) 昼用 ひるよう hiruyou day use 長時間 ちょうじかん choujikan long lasting すっきり sukkiri "trim" しっかり shikkari reliable スリム surimu slim さらふわ sarafuwa "smooth/fluffy/airy (but not necessarily thick)" ふわ fuwa fluffy/thick (pads) ガード gaado guard 羽 or 羽根 はね hane wing つき tsuki has なし nashi none, doesn't have 超 ちょう chou super (absorption) 吸収 きゅうしゅう kyuushuu absorption 吸収力 きゅうしゅうりょく kyuushuuryoku absorption strength 熟睡 じゅくすい jukusui "sound sleep" ぐっすり gussuri “sound sleep” 安心 あんしん anshin relief, peace of mind
light days & liners: Liners typically have ライナー on the front. If you need something a bit more substantial, then look for 軽い日 (meaning, light day). They are small, as you would probably expect. I've found them to be about the same size as in the States.
|Thin cotton liners|
regular days: These will almost always have ふつう用 on the front. Now, regular largely depends on what you consider regular. Or maybe you don’t even have regular days. Personally I only need pads for heavy and light days. Though, I will say that the regular size pads I used in the US are about the same size as the heavy day pads I use here in Japan - though the sizes vary greatly. And I didn't like the extra long "heavy day" pads in the States anyway.
You have plenty of options for regular pads: thick, thin, slim, fluffy, wings, no wings, extra long, etc. Typical length: 20 - 23 cm (7.5 - 9 inches for my fellow Americans... you'll get used to metric system soon enough!)
|Thick pads for regular to heavy flow. Day use. With wings.|
|Thin pads for regular to heavy flow. Day use. Left: no wings. Right: with wings.|
heavy days: Commonly seen as 多い日. I'd say a fair amount of the pads are labeled for heavy flow. Again, a variety of styles: thick/fluffy, thin, wings, no wings, extra long, and all kinds of options for guards and absorption (although I don't really know if the absorption is that different between everything... I haven't tried every single kind).
Typical length: 24 - 32 cm (9.5 - 12 inches)
|Thick pads for heavy days or regular nights. Long-lasting. With wings.|
|Thick pads for heavy flow. With wings. Day use.|
|Thin pads for heavy flow. With wings. Day use.|
nights: Look for 夜用. Many packages will also have the kanji for heavy day, meaning you can use them for either, though it largely depends on your needs. You might only need something like the following, which are a bit more like the pads in the heavy days section.
|Thin pads for heavy days or nights. With wings.|
However, this simply won't cut it overnight for those with a heavy flow. Thus we move onto the super maxi pads:
|Super absorption overnight napkin, with side and back guards. No wings.|
|This is the sample pad of the package above.|
Most overnight pads such as these are thick, and many offer side guards (I liken them to bumpers) for extra protection. Some have wings, though even if not they usually have extra guard protection around the back, making a sort of saddle-seat effect. To quickly determine the length, simply subtract the zero from the number on the package. So, if 360, then the pad is 36 centimeters. If 400, then 40 cm, etc. Of course, the package will also have the length in actual centimeters, but it's faster to determine from first glance. Typical length of overnight pads run anywhere from 29 - 42 centimeters.
|Overnight pad with wings. Says "400," so length is 40 cm.|
|Super absorption overnight pad with wings. Says "340," so 34 cm in length.|
|Super absorption wide overnight pad with wings. 42 cm.|
You may also consider cloth pads, or something environmentally friendly like the Diva Cup (iHerb also carries the Diva Cup). You can also find chlorine-free pads and natural pads through iHerb.
So there you have it ladies (and gents who so bravely read through the entirety of this post, like my husband), your comprehensive guide to sanitary napkins in Japan.