A Guide to Tampons in Japan

Sure enough, I’m back with some “alternatives” to ladies pads… So, sorry again guys, it’s just one more you have to sit out. (And I wouldn't recommend reading this as there are pictures of actual tampons below). Feel free to pass this along to any women who may find this helpful, though.

Ladies, today I want to examine Japanese tampons. Yes, tampons. Some of you may be thinking, “can you even FIND tampons in Japan?” Certainly! Most daily goods/drug stores sell them, and you may even find some convenience stores sell them as well. Though, they are much less prominent than pads, and usually only take up one shelf versus an entire aisle at the store. And, only one company produces tampons in Japan: Unicharm or “Charm” (チャム) for short. There are also some called エルディ, but they are also produced by Unicharm.

For words helpful to know when choosing feminine hygiene products, see my post on sanitary napkins.

However, a few words to know are:
タンポン - tampon
レギュラー - regular
スーパー - super
スーパープラス - super plus
ライト - light
ソフト - soft
コンパクト - compact

Before I show you the available options, let’s do a quick comparison of Japanese and American tampons. Many people will say you can’t find tampons in Japan, or that they are smaller. I can’t speak for light tampons, but I’ve found the regular and super sizes to be pretty much the same as their American counterparts.

Below,  I’ve compared actual tampons and applicators of the American Tampax brand, and the Japanese Charm brand, in super and regular sizes. They are, in order from top to bottom: Tampax pearl super compact; Charm super compact, Tampax regular, and Charm compact regular.

Tampax super, Charm super, Tampax regular, Charm regular
As you can see, the super size tampons are identical. (The American ones are a bit puffy at the top from me carrying them around in bags and the tops getting shoved out). The applicators are also similar, though the plastic Tampax applicator is a bit bulkier (see below).

Tampax super, Charm super, Charm regular, Tampax regular
The regular tampons are a little different in that the Tampax regular is slightly longer than the Charm regular. Though the applicator size is identical (see below), the diameter of the American Tampax tampon was just a hair bigger than the Japanese one. Unfortunately I have no other American brands to compare.

Top view of Tampax super and Charm super applicators

Top view of Charm regular and Tampax regular applicators

From this, one can see that Japanese and American tampons really aren’t much different, and any differences could be just as true between Western brands.

So when purchasing tampons in Japan, how do you know what your options are? Let’s check them out:

Light: The light tampons are shorter and smaller than the regular (of course). Look for: ライト. You can also get a long, slim tampon advertised for beginners (the applicator is thinner and smaller than even the light tampons, but longer).

Left: Super tampons. Right: Light tampons.

Regular: Look for: レギュラー. The choices include compact, regular (length-applicator) and “finger" type (meaning, no applicator). 

Left: Slim, "beginner" tampon. Right: Regular tampon.
Left: Regular, compact tampons. Right: Super, compact tampons.
"Finger" tampons (no applicator). Left: Regular. Right: Super.
エルディ "brand". "Finger type" again. Left: regular. Right: super.

Heavy: Similar to regular, you can choose from compact or regular length applicator, or "finger" application. Look for: スーパー. There is also a large pack of “super plus” (スーパープラス) tampons, that I was unable to buy for this comparison, but from the pictures and descriptions on the box look to be slightly wider though not much longer. (If anyone has used these feel free to confirm this in the comments).

"Super Plus" tampons - the largest size available.

So really, if you have to use tampons, or if you prefer using them, there's no reason to stock up and bring a bunch with you to Japan – they are generally readily available. And if you can’t find them at any stores near you, Amazon.jp carries them.

If you really can’t bear the idea of not using Western brands, keep in mind you can order Western tampons from The Flying Pig and Foreign Buyer’s Club. You can also find organic tampons on iHerb.com.

If looking for something similar to tampons, but an alternative, a Diva Cup might work for you. I’ve read plenty of good feedback about them, not to mention you can wear them for a long time without risk of TSS and as an added plus, they are eco-friendly. Personally I feel as though my bladder is squished when I wear it, (and this happens when I wear tampons sometimes too) but I like it aside that.

I hope you can now successfully locate tampons in Japan. And, uh, I have a bunch of extra from buying some for the pictures above, so if you need any...

*Note: I have not been paid by any of these companies or sites to promote anything I've written about. I simply gather information to inform readers.

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