Ultimate Guide to Baby Products in Japan - Part 1

You're having a baby. Or maybe you already have a baby or two and you've just moved to Japan. You might know what kind of stuff you need (since a lot of that information is available in English) but how do you find what you need in Japanese? Are the car seats safe? Are the bottles BPA-free? Can you find organic bedding?

I attempted to answer these in the latest issue of Metropolis magazine, which you can read here, and then went ahead and elaborated a bit more below. I know there are many, many more baby products, but I believe most of what I've listed below are some of the more important ones, plus a few extras added in. I've also added my thoughts here and there in terms of what we've done to save money or what I like, but I believe that everything is different for every baby and family, so it's just there for anyone who might be curious or wondering.

And please, let me know in the comments what you'd like me to cover next, or what you've used and liked, didn't like, or whatever. I'm particularly keen to hear from those of you who use/have used bottles, as my kid wanted them desperately for a month and then refused them, so my knowledge of slow-flow - fast-flow or whatever it's called is limited.

On to our Japanese baby products:

Bottles 哺乳びん

Most bottles aren't labeled BPA-free unless they're foreign brands, but baby stores generally have a good selection of glass bottles (ガラス) in addition to plastics (プラスチック). Despite not being labeled BPA-free, the plastics used in the bottles aren't generally types that would contain BPA or phthalates, but if you're concerned and would rather it be labeled, stick with glass, order from abroad, or check out stores like Earth Label Relaxing, which carries a few foreign brand baby items.

The main brand is Pigeon, but you'll also see Bean Stalk and ChuChu Baby.

You can buy various types of nipples, with various hole shapes and and contour shapes, and many list the age or stage they are best for. These are generally made out of silicon.

Elle also offered a useful tip if you live near a Daiso store:

"Some branches of Daiso are currently selling TOMMEE TIPPEE bottles and soothers (pacifiers) for 105円. I kid you not!"

Breast pump さく乳器

breast pump, Japan, manual, automatic

If you plan to breastfeed and think you might need to pump, it is possible to get breast pumps in Japan, although the selection isn't that big, i.e. mainly the Pigeon brand. You do have the option of a manual (手動タイプ) or electric (電動タイプ) pump. You can find some Medela pumps on Amazon.jp, but if you're going to be pumping a lot and want those labeled "BPA-free", I would get your pump from abroad if possible.

Keep in mind too that some doctors/nurses/clinics will frown upon using a breast pump and might even discourage you to use it. They might tell you that pumping by hand (and hand only) is the way you should do it. This was what I was told in the first few days following my daughter's birth, and we just hid the pump when they weren't in the room and used it anyway. Hurt like hell initially, but feeding hurt that much regardless, and I was too exhausted to sit there and do it by hand every time.

Average New Price: 3000 to 6000 yen

Nursing / Feeding Pillow  授乳クッション

Lots of nursing pillow options at baby stores and online, so you shouldn't have to worry about this one. I found it difficult (read: near impossible) to find any organic types, though, so if that's a concern for you, keep that in mind.

Pacifiers / Binkies / Dummies  おしゃぶり

Again, similar to bottles, these aren't typically labeled "BPA-free", but are usually made of silicon and polypropylene (some might vary a bit from this). You'll of course see the Pigeon brand, but I've Nuk quite a bit as well. And Amazon.jp has some all natural Eco Baby pacifiers.

And if you do get a pacifier you might also want to get a strap for it, called an おしゃぶりホルダー .

Diapers おむつ

Disposables are 紙おむつ and cloth diapers are 布おむつ. Daily goods stores, housewares stores and drug stores carry disposable diapers, as do baby stores, of course, including Pampers and several Japanese brands. I haven't seen much in the way of more eco-friendly disposables here, although you can get some via iHerb.

We've been all cloth since birth, even while traveling, and believe me when I say it's not as hard as it sounds, if it's something you're considering (or even if you're just considering doing both cloth/disposable). It's easy to throw them all in the wash after dumping out/scraping out any excess waste into the toilet and then hang them outside to dry in the sun. On rainy days I'll add baking soda to the diapers and then hang them inside, often over the dehumidifier so they dry quickly. Occasionally we'll take them to the laundromat to throw them in the dryer (especially if it has been rainy/cloudy for a while).

We use both hot and cold water to wash the diapers. On sunny days, knowing that they'll be out in the sun all day, we usually use cold water, but on other days, we'll use hot water (up to 60 degrees Celsius, which is as high as our water temperature will go, but we might not go that high, depending). The washing machine directly pumps the water from the bathtub after we've connected the pipe (read more about how to do that here).

diapers, inserts, wipes, cloth, Japan, hang dry, sun, outside
Our diapers, inserts, and wipes hanging in the sun to dry!

We had most of our cloth diapers sent as gifts, but Loopist is an online Japanese store that specializes in cloth diapers, including many western brands, such as Fuzzi Bunz,  Happy Heinys, Bummis, and Loveybums, to name a few. They also have disposable liners.

I don't prefer the Japanese cloth ones as much that you find in stores here, because they are usually pre-fold types and I like all-in-one pocket diapers (just easier for us). Doesn't mean they don't work well! I just don't use them. However, you can get special pre-folds that have a liner for older babies to help with potty training (it makes them feel wet and uncomfortable). And of course you can buy waterproof covers (布おむつカバー).

Zulily is also a great place to watch for deals as they often have cloth diaper events when the diapers are about US$10.

And if you do try cloth diapering, we found using hemp inserts for nighttime helps immensely. We layer it up, so our baby has a fat nighttime diaper, but we haven't had problems with leaking in months, unless it's a bad diaper (broken seam, waterproof laminate gone, etc.)

Wipes  おしりふき

You'll see wipes alongside disposable diapers at the store. They're pretty standard in terms of wipes you'll find in western countries, although if you're concerned about alcohol and chemicals you can find non-alcohol wipes and paraben-, fragrance-, etc.- free wipes. (Although they aren't as durable as their counterparts.)

No alcohol ノンアルコール
Paraben-free パラベンフリー

We bought a few packs of flannel wipes from Amazon, which I love, because they're not only soft but they're durable and I throw them in the wash with our diapers. We just fill a jar with water and gentle baby soap, dip the wipes in and clean baby off. Really easy. Although you could really choose almost whatever type of cloth or fabric you want to use. And then we buy the chemical- and alcohol-free wipes to use when we're out and about.

wipes, Japan, Japanese, alcohol-free, paraben-free, fragrance-free
Alcohol-, paraben-, and fragrance-free wipes

Changing Table

This one is pretty straightforward for anyone, as you can pretty much change your baby on any flat surface -- floor, bed, dresser, etc. So go for whatever will work best for you.

Something we did to save money if you don't want to get a dresser, is to use the middle shelf (for futons) of those large closets you often find in tatami rooms. I turned part of that into a baby changing area, with waterproof mats, baskets for our diapers and flannel wipes, and plenty of space for other baby stuff. It was the perfect height for changing, and as our daughter got bigger she loved rolling around in the closet babbling away.


All of the stores I've listed in the "stores" section below are worth a look, plus H&M stores with baby sections (they have some organic clothes), which can be found in Kobe, Yokohama, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Fujisawa, and multiple locations in Tokyo; Baby Gap stores around Japan; Uniqlo with baby sections (tend to be the bigger stores), the baby/kids section floor of any department store, and specialty baby/kids clothes stores at shopping malls. Even if you aren't a fan of a lot of the Japanese clothes (I'm not, really), there are plenty of cute options around, including more western styles. Nishimatsuya also just started carrying the Cherokee (American) brand.

And recycle shops (secondhand stores)! You can find nearly new, great-condition, brand name items for cheap at recycle shops anywhere in Japan (assuming they have a baby clothes section), so definitely check that out if it's an option for you.

Zulily, which I mentioned above, is a fantastic place to get good deals on baby clothes, although beware, it's so cheap sometimes it's addictive.

I've also seem some listings on the Tokyo Craigslist, for those of you in or near Tokyo. And if you join any mommy groups or anything like that, it's quite likely someone will have some secondhand clothes to hand off to you as well.

And for newborns, the kimono-type onesies that tie in front are the easiest to get on and off while they're tiny.

Crib / Cot  ベビーベッド

These have become more popular in Japan and you can find them at baby stores and online, although they're pretty expensive (then again, I think they often are in western countries too). (And expensive for me regarding cribs is anything over $120, and even that was more than we could afford when getting baby stuff and we needed to figure out car seats and all that.)

Ikea Japan has some cheaper options and you might find some good deals on Amazon Japan as well. One thing I found difficult was finding a crib that didn't have fiberboard or was solid wood, as solid wood is safer, but of course those were out of price range.

Recycle shops also might have cribs/cots, so I'd suggest looking there also to save some money as long as they're still in good condition.

Whether you decide to get a crib / cot or not, you might consider getting a bedding and baby futon set, which we found was a good way to save some money, and is also good if you have a limited amount of space in your home. They're usually called "布団セット" (futon set) and might include as little as six items or as many as 16 (priced accordingly, anywhere from 5000 to 20,000 yen or so), which are indicated with a number and 点, so 布団9点セット is a 9-piece futon set.

We got our organic futon bedding set on clearance at a Combi store on sale for around 10,000 yen (most of the organic sets we had seen were more expensive). David (husband) built a wood base to put under the bottom pad part to make the bed even with our bed, which is a mattress that sits on wood slats on the floor and we put it between our bed and the wall.

Of course, the little one decided that sleeping between David and I was far better than sleeping on her baby bed, so she sprawls out in the middle, turning horizontal and upside down and just generally pushing us both off the edges on a regular basis. I think it's definitely been a positive thing for her (and me not having to get up several times a night), but at the same time we hope to get her used to her own bed again eventually...

The bedding sets, depending on how many items they have, may include bottom mat (固綿マット), top futon (掛けヌード布団), futon cover (掛けカバー), quilted pad (キルトパッド), (waterproof sheet (防水シーツ), fitted sheet (フィットシーツ), pillow (マクラ, 枕, ヌード枕), pillow cover (枕カバー), among other items. The names might vary a bit depending on the set.

futon set, bedding, Japan, baby

And yes, I know you're not supposed to use pillow with infants. A pillow came with our set but we don't use it. Japan seems to like using baby pillows, but of course you don't have to (and I wouldn't recommend using one, either).

Another way to potentially save some money on a crib or cot is to rent one instead of purchase, depending on how long you might use it or if you'll only be in Japan a short time (less than a year up to one or two years).

You can also get a crib that opens to one side to connect to your bed, 添い寝ベッド or ベッドサイドベッド (although I thought I read something about these being banned in the US?) or a bassinet (クーファン).

If the weather is warm and you live near a bunch of rice fields, a mosquito net (蚊帳) might also come in handy (to put over the baby's crib/futon).

Average New Prices: 5000 to 40,000 yen

Car Seat  チャイルドシート, ベビーシート

Though Combi pretty much takes over in terms of brands that you'll see in stores, there are other brands as well, and some do meet current ECE standards, so you don't necessarily need to get a car seat from abroad (unless you want to).

Japan's standards are lax compared with western countries, so keep this in mind as well. Choosing a car seat and figuring out all the safety standards was a bit of a pain for us, so hopefully our difficulties will make finding a car seat easier for you.

First of all, regarding finding car seats that meet European standards, I'll go ahead and quote my Metropolis article:
"Some seats meet current European safety standards, which means they’ll have an orange ECE R44/04 certification label on the side. If the orange label only has the 自 kanji, it doesn’t meet the ECE standard. If it says “universal,” it can be used in all cars, although stores have booklets to look up your car’s make and model to ensure it will fit."

The examples above show car seats with orange labels on the side with their safety certifications. These two examples comply with the current ECE R44/04 standard (Europe). If they don't, they will have the 自 kanji in the circle instead of an E+number.

As mentioned, baby stores have pamphlets for the car seats with car make and models (usually in Japanese) so you can see if the seat will fit your car or not.

Types of child safety seats you can get in Japan are newborn seats (新生児対応チャイルドシート), infant seats (乳児用ベビーシート), convertible infant to child seats (幼児用チャイルドシート) and child car seats (toddler up to elementary age) (ジュニアシート). But note that some of these overlap and can be used from the newborn stage on up through early elementary school age, depending on the model. These will usually say somewhere in the description "this age" to "this age". So if the seat is intended for newborn up to age four, it would say something like 新生児~4歳. 歳 (さい) means age in years.

Average New Price (and you should buy a car seat new): 5000 yen (child seats) to 80,000 and up.

Slings / Carriers

You'll probably see Ergo and Baby Bjorn carriers everywhere, as they're becoming more popular here. There are other brands available, though. Slings (スリング) are also used. You can search online for a back carrier おんぶ紐 or front carrier 抱っこひも, and sometimes they're called ベビーキャリー. If you do go with an Ergo, make sure to get the infant insert for babies under five months, as I've seen parents use Ergo carriers here without an insert for their tiny newborns and this doesn't give them the right support they need.

carriers, baby, Japan
Other baby carriers in Japan

I definitely recommend having some type of carrier or sling if you live in Japan, because it makes traveling around and doings things much easier than lugging around a stroller a lot of the time. It also helps at home if you want to get some things done, or have a baby who refuses to fall asleep unless rocked/walked around... *cough* my kid...  And for summer, get a lighter, more breathable sling or carrier, otherwise it can get pretty hot for you and your baby walking around outside.

Everyone has their personal preferences for these and what works for them and their baby, so definitely try different things if you need/want to. If what you want can only be found overseas, then go for it.

We went with a regular organic Ergo carrier and an Ergo Performance and really like both. I did get a nice sling from a recycle shop for less than 3000 yen (new over 10000 yen), but my daughter hated being in the sling. Good thing I got it cheap.

But I know other parents who love their slings, mei tais, Baby Bjorns, etc. So it really does depend.

Average New Price: 5000-15,000 yen new

Stroller / Pram ベビーカー

If you use public transport in Japan, you'll want to make sure you have something light enough to haul around, but also narrow enough to fit through turnstiles, onto elevators, through store aisles, etc. Baby stores in Japan typically carry Combi strollers of all types, (and most of these are quite small/narrow) but they usually have a few other brands as well. And you can, of course, get them online as well. Other brands include Quinny, Graco, Aprica, Maclaren, Air Buggy, Peg Perego, Silver Cross, and Jeep, among others.

There are different types, of course, as strollers are popular here, including umbrella strollers (バギー) and A and B types (A型, B型). A types lay flat for newborns, while B types usually don’t and are lighter and more compact. It’s possible to get rear-facing strollers (背面), ones that face either direction (両対面); these are sometimes called AB types.

Imported strollers can be found in some stores or online through Amazon Japan and independent sites. Recycle shops usually have good deals on secondhand strollers (including strollers for multiples). I also discovered that shopping for secondhand strollers online (from Japanese sites) is a good way to find a deal on either a Japanese brand or western brand.

Western brand strollers tend to be prohibitively expensive here in Japan, so if you really want a new one and can't find one for a good price here in Japan, you'd probably pay the same or less ordering one from your home country and paying to have it shipped here. Not in all cases

However, I found a Baby Jogger City Mini stroller in nearly new condition (it seemed like it hadn't been used at all when it arrived) from a baby rental and used goods online shop in Japan. The "new" price for this stroller on the site (and other sites in Japan) is about 34,000 to 60,000 yen, but we got ours for around 18,000 yen.

Average New Price: Depends on brand and type, but anywhere from 3000 to 70,000 yen (or more).

High Chair (or Low Chair) ベビーチェア

You have plenty ,of options, just like in western countries: high chair (ハイチェア),  low chair (ローチェア), the chairs that hook on/connect to the table (テーブルチェア). We got a nice solid wood high chair at Ikea for a decent deal, but I've seen nice wood ones on Amazon.jp and in recycle shops. And you can also get Bumbo chairs here.

Baby Bath ベビーバス

These are pretty straight forward. A small tub, plastic or inflatable, to wash baby in. To save money, check recycle shops - they're cheap there if available. We used our wide bathroom sink with a towel laid down on the bottom when our daughter was small. Once she outgrew that we used a baby bath for a little while that we had borrowed from someone, but she preferred taking a bath with dad until she was old enough to sit in the regular tub with a little bit of water (while mom or dad washes off as well).

I'll be honest, I don't think a baby bath is a necessity if you want to save (a little) money and have a sink large enough to wash baby in, but it really depends on your needs.

And, though I don't really think these are necessary, especially considering many of us can control the bath/shower water temperature anyway, you can get bath thermometers as well (湯温計).

Average New Price: 900 to 3000 yen

Laundry Detergent

I've written a guide to laundry detergent in Japan before, so you can get a better idea what's in detergents here in Japan. Baby stores will have a section for baby laundry detergent, but you can also get some at daily good stores, depending on the kind. Most use synthetic surfactants, so if you want to just use regular soap you could try the arau brand or Miyoshi (says 無添加 on it), although from personal experience sometimes the regular soap leaves a bit of residue, so it helps to have a vinegar rinse or something like that, but if you're washing cloth diapers with waterproof outers or diaper covers, you won't want to use vinegar in the wash as it breaks down the waterproof laminate.

If you have a Tokyu Hands or Loft nearby, they have some great natural options for laundry detergents (including Nellie's All Natural Soda at Tokyu Hands, or online). Kenko.com sells Seventh Generation (including baby laundry detergent) and Ecover products.

Another thing that works well is an "alkaline wash", or アルカリウォッシュ, otherwise known as sodium sesquicarbonate. Or you could try soap nuts, which I've heard really good things about and am thinking of trying myself.

Baby Skin Care

baby care products, Japan, baby, products
Japanese Baby Skin Care Products (examples)

This could take up an entirely different post, but briefly, you can get Johnson & Johnson products in Japan, along with other Japanese brand items, although many of these products contain ingredients that some people might not want to use on their little ones (such as parabens - パラベン, or sodium lauryl sulfate - 硫酸ラウリルナトリウム; ラウリル硫酸ナトリウム; ラウリル硫酸Na). If you want to go natural, Pax Baby is a good Japanese brand.

Words you need to know are:

Baby lotion    ベビーローション
Baby cream    ベビークリーム
Baby powder  ベビーパウダー
Baby oil          ベビーオイル
Baby soap       ベビーソープ or ベビーせっけん
Baby soap and shampoo  ベビー全身シャンプー or 全身ソープ

My favorite baby products, though, are ones I got through iHerb called Earth Mama Angel Baby. They're natural, safe and cruelty-free. Since we can't use regular diaper creams with our cloth diapers, and I was a bit hesitant to use creams anyway, we've been using the Angel Baby Bottom Balm since our daughter was born whenever she gets a little red and it clears right up. And one jar has lasted us since she was born. Can also be used for burns and other first aid needs.

We also love the Angel Baby Lotion and Shampoo & Body Wash. And if you're breastfeeding, I recommend the Earth Mama Natural Nipple Butter. And I used the New Mama Bottom Spray religiously after giving birth and having an episiotomy. It was fantastic. Highly recommend that. Seriously, it was amazingamazing to spritz on that ridiculously painful, sore area.

I realize after writing all that it sounds like a paid ad, but it's not (I wish!). I just tried and loved their stuff. And I don't really rave about products much, unless they're something really, really good. So if you feel so inclined to try them out, feel free. That's just my personal experience. Feel free to share your favorite products, Japanese or otherwise, in the comments below!

Other baby care products include nail clippers or scissors (つめきり for clippers or つめきりはさみ for the scissors -- きり also shows up as 切り sometimes).

And a note on aspirators: You can get the kind that you stick in their nose and squeeze the round rubber part at the bottom, but you might notice while shopping that there are aspirators that work by sticking a tube in baby's nose and then putting the other tube in your mouth and sucking air gently (like the one in the picture below). This is actually better and more gentle on the baby's nose. And no, you're not sucking their snot into your mouth, as that goes into a different part of the aspirator. You just provide the air sucking motion. So don't be afraid to try that one!

This one is doctor-recommended.

Aspirators are usually under this category: 鼻吸い or はな吸い, and sometimes called 鼻水トッテ or お鼻すっきり or 鼻水キュートル. If you do want the squeeze type and can't find it anywhere nearby, there are a few options on Kenko.com.

Places to Find Baby Goods in Japan

Babies R Us - They have an English store locator on their website.
Akachan Honpo
Nishimatsuya - They also have an online store on Rakuten.
United Arrows Green Label Relaxing has some toys, clothes, shoes and other baby items from other countries, including BPA free and organic stuff. Varies by store. Some options online.
Loopist for cloth diapers
Ikea Japan for furniture - Note that if you become an Ikea "Family" member you get discounts on some products and free drinks at their store restaurant.

Baby/kids floor in department stores like Isetan, Marui, or independent baby stores at malls.
Secondhand Stores / Recycle Shops (リサイクルショップ)

http://www.o-baby.net/ - Carries imported goods from around the world, though fairly expensive.
Paranino - Imported baby goods (on the expensive side)
You might be able to find some less expensive items to buy on baby rental sites.

Rental Baby Goods

I learned about nearly six months after our daughter was born, but thought it was such a great idea. Perhaps for folks who are in Japan short term, or maybe just traveling, or who want to try out certain items before they buy.

Mama's Store - Rentals and goods for sale
Nice Baby
Kashite Netto Duskin - Rent baby, travel, some electronics and home goods
Aiiku - Rentals and goods for sale


Lastly, if you're a new parent in Japan and you need help finding any type of item, whether to buy, rent, or whatever, please let me know. Either I, or many of the other helpful parents living in Japan, can help you. And if you need help ordering something from a Japanese site, I can help with that as well.

Parents, do you have any recommendations regarding the items above? What you love, don't love, what works best for your kid? Of course we all know it can vary, a lot, but feel free to share in the comments!

I've attempted to cover some of the basics in this post, and hope to cover more in the future, but let me know if there's something you're wondering about right now.

Note: Amazon Japan, iHerb and Zulily links in this post are affiliate links. However, I won't be getting rich or anything like that if you click them, and if you spend money in those places I won't be getting a portion of your money either, as they use their advertising budget for that. If you do order from iHerb for the first time, using my affiliate link will give you a $10 discount if you order more than $40 worth of stuff, or $5 if less than $40.

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