Breastfeeding in Japan: Nursing Room Locators

At the date of this post, I'm still somewhat new to the whole breastfeeding thing (just as I was new to the pregnancy and childbirth thing...). I must admit, the idea of carrying on a normal life while breastfeeding (meaning, being able to go out and do things occasionally, not that I have much energy to...) was a bit daunting at first, and to be honest, still is on occasion. Especially right now as the little one is going through an eat-only-while-being-walked phase. Not rocked, but walked. And she ain't gettin' any lighter, that's for sure...

On the plus side of all this, breastfeeding is commonly practiced in Japan, and many places are breastfeeding-friendly (particularly department stores, as they often have nursing rooms), but it's still largely unexplored territory for me. It helps to read the experiences and knowledge of others, so if you have an experience to share, I'd love to hear it.

So, in my anxiousness figuring out this whole nursing thing while going out, I was curious if I could find any specific information on breastfeeding-friendly places in Japan, and lo and behold, I came across a couple independently-maintained sites with databases of places all over Japan that have a breastfeeding or baby room of some sort. The sites are all in Japanese, but for those who can't read it, I've made a quick guide below for how to navigate and understand them. As long as you know the kanji for the place you are going to, it's not so difficult. (And if you don't know the kanji, it helps to check the names on Google maps, since they show up in Romaji and then have the kanji underneath the name, or else just do an internet search and somewhere you should be able to find the kanji).

Also, these nursing rooms are helpful even if you're using formula, as many of them have hot water machines. That aside, they also usually have diaper changing stations. Good to know whether you're breast or bottle feeding your little one.

The first site is Ikusapo (育サポ), short for childcare support.

Healthcare in Japan: Checkup Options

Today's guest post comes from Sara of Japan Healthcare Info - a very helpful resource for expats in Japan. You can read more about JHI here, but I just want to say they have been incredibly helpful to me in finding specific types of doctors (like pediatricians) and dentists in my area, along with helping me figure out Ai-chan's vaccination schedule, including where to find the recently-approved-in-Japan rotavirus shot (I'll be writing about this in the coming months). I highly recommend checking out JHI if you need help with medical issues here in Japan, especially if you don't speak any Japanese, but even if you do they are still a very helpful resource. -Ashley


Hello! Today I’d like to talk about health checkups in Japan. Checkup systems in Japan can be a little complicated and hard to choose from. I hope this post will give you a better idea of what to expect and look for so you can feel more confident and save money and time.

First of all, there are 3 major health checkup categories in Japan:

School/Company checkups for full-time students or employees

Your school or company in Japan typically provides annual health checkups for free. The screening items are general ones like taking your height and weight measurements, a blood/urine test, and a chest X-ray. Some companies offer expensive, full checkup courses that include a gastroscopy, ultrasound, mammogram, etc.

At school, checkups are done on campus. As for company checkups, employers will often provide a list of contracted hospitals for employees to choose from. Or if you work for a large company, health-screening companies may send a van with healthcare staff and equipment to the company site.

Pros: The checkups are free and if you’re lucky, you may see an English-speaking doctor who can explain the results.

Cons: You can’t choose the testing items. In most cases you get the results by mail in Japanese.

What to do: Your school or company notifies you of the time and place for checkups. For company employees with a list of hospitals, you need to make an appointment.

Private Health Screening Center

Q&A: Order from Japan?

Aldo wrote in asking if I knew of any mail order-type/intermediary companies that accept domestic shipments from within Japan and then ship them overseas. I haven't ever tried to do this myself (since I still live in Japan, of course), but I thought perhaps some of you out there might be wondering the same thing, or know someone who is.

I thought the following might be possible options:

Flutterscape (probably not as useful if there is something exact you want and prefer to order it directly, but

JShoppers (not viewable from within Japan - goes to company site instead if you are)

Aldo wrote back and suggested Tenso, which he chose to go with.

Do you have any recommendations for mail forwarding companies in Japan that ship overseas? Let us know in the comments!

A Guide to Laundry Detergent in Japan

Doing laundry is another one of those important things, right up there with brushing your teeth or wearing deodorant. I've received several emails asking me to do a post about laundry detergent and I agreed it's a vital topic to cover. So here you are, a guide to laundry detergent in Japan:

Words to know
You should know at least some of the following words when shopping for laundry detergent, but read on below this chart as well for more use-specific words and ingredients.
洗濯 せんたく sentaku laundry
洗剤 せんざい senzai detergent
粉末 ふんまつ funmatsu powder
石鹸, 石けん, せっけんせっけんsekkensoap
柔軟剤じゅうなんざいjuunanzaifabric softener
漂白剤ひょうはくざいhyouhakuzaibleaching agent
蛍光増白剤けいこうぞうはくざいkeikouzouhakuzaioptical brighteners
詰替用 or つめかえ用つめかえようtsumekaeyourefill

Q&A: How to find a hair diffuser?

Q: I'm going to Japan next week and will be there until July next year and I've found your site extremely helpful. I have naturally curly hair and I use a blow dryer with a diffuser attachment, but I'll have to leave it at home.

In Japan, I expect that they would have plenty of hair dryers but have you come across any with a diffuser attachment; are they common? Do you know of anywhere online I can order one? Also, I've checked and the majority of blow dryers are all out of stock, only one that I could see came with an attachment.


Surviving in Japan is now on Google+!

Hi everyone, just wanted to drop a quick note to say that Surviving in Japan now has its own Google+ page, if you use Google+ at all. If so, do drop by and add SiJ to your circles! Many thanks in advance.

We've also got a discussion going on over there (and on Facebook) regarding how easy or difficult it is for students who've spent time abroad (any kid who has been raised in Japan) to assimilate back into the Japanese public school system after having spent time abroad. If you have any thoughts on the matter, would love to hear your experiences. This is for an upcoming column.

You can join the conversation on Google+ or Facebook, leave a comment below, or feel free to send me an email with your thoughts.

Thanks in advance!

Giving Birth in Japan: Reflections and Advice

If you haven't yet read Part 1 and Part 2 of the "Giving Birth in Japan" series, it may be helpful to read those first so you have some background in regards to my reflections below. - Ashley

How was it, being pregnant in Japan?

I honestly had a pretty easy pregnancy, and being in Japan really had no effect on my views of pregnancy (aside from even more stares at the sight of my burgeoning belly). At least where I was, people were really kind most of the time about giving up seats so I could sit down, etc. (only in months 7-10, though, when it was obvious). I don't experience that kind of thing much the rest of the time so it was a nice change. I'm sure this depends on where you are in Japan though, so that's just what happened for me.

The main thing I didn't like was how hot it was this summer in Japan (hotter than usual), before we had an air conditioner. Was pretty miserable.

Another thing I didn't like is how difficult it is to avoid smoking when going out. I already have issues with smoke with my allergies, but with a little one growing inside me I was more paranoid about it, which meant there were very few places we could eat out at (we had to get in all the couple time we could, and I'm glad we did, since we get zero time now). [This obviously depends on where you are in Japan, since some places have a lot more non-smoking restaurants and places to go.] Or just walking in certain areas, or things like that, it can be difficult to avoid cigarette smoke and not everyone is very conscious of others when they smoke, which annoys me. This is still an issue now with a baby.

Was it difficult finding a caregiver?

Costco, Ikea, and more from Yoyo Market

Note: I wasn't asked or paid to write this post. Like I've said before, I will not promote things on Surviving in Japan unless I think it's a good service or resource for readers. Even when I have a sponsored post of any kind, it will only be because I think it's a good product or service that would somehow be helpful to others living in Japan, and I will make sure that's clear within the post.

You likely already know of some online supermarkets in Japan selling Costco food and imported goods (The Flying Pig and Foreign Buyer's Club), especially as I've mentioned them in some previous posts, but today I'd like to introduce a newer online store offering a lot of similar food and services, and even a bit more - Yoyo Market.

Preparing for winter in Japan

It's that time of year again. The temps drop (despite the fact Fall [Autumn] has been so lovely this year), and the sun only shows its face for a few hours (at least it feels that way).

I noticed these 2 posts have suddenly been climbing the "most visited" links list lately, so if you haven't seen them yet, here's what you need to know to prepare for the cold months in Japan. (Well... most of Japan; some of you are lucky - I'm looking at you, Okinawa.)

8 ways to winterize your Japanese apartment (or house)

A guide to heaters in Japan

And just a note for those of you who celebrate Christmas and are looking for a Christmas tree this year, you may want to check out:

HOW TO: Find a Christmas tree in Japan

Time for me to find my slippers. Stay warm!

HOW TO: Look up Japanese medicine

It's scary, I know, not knowing what's in medicine, or having no idea what your prescription actually is (What did the doctor just give me!? Why so many pills?).

When I had labrynthitis nearly 2 years ago, I was prescribed various drugs from various doctors in my search for a diagnosis. And seeing all those prescriptions all the time worried me, not knowing what was in them exactly. The doctors usually explain what they are giving you and why, but if not you can ask and they'll tell you (and even then, the pharmacists usually tell you what the drugs are for also), but there is still some mystery surrounding the whole thing if you've only been living in Japan a short time, and especially if you can't speak Japanese well enough to really ask (unless you have an English-speaking doctor and grill them about it, but even then the doctor may not be so keen on explaining everything - it all depends on the person).

I know not everyone is concerned about this, and I'm not saying you shouldn't trust your doctor (although there are certainly times to be skeptical - unfortunately I've had far too many of these, both in Japan and the US). But if you DO want to know what's in the medicine being prescribed to you in Japan just for peace of mind, or if you want to compare it to other countries, you certainly can.

How? By using a 薬のしおり (くすりのしおり, kusuri no shiori), or "drug information sheet," or in other words, a drug/medicine reference guide.

Q&A: How to avoid Sodium Lauryl Sulfate?

Q: I have eczema. It's not so bad when I'm in England, but when I go over to Japan in the winter, it flares up and makes me break out in welts.

I need to avoid SLS/SDS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) when I go to Japan, and I'm hoping you have recommendations, as well as places to find things like shea butter, aloe vera, etc.