A trip to the chemist

Japanese shops have, by and large, lost the “OMGWTF?!” factor they had upon my arrival in these strange lands. A shame, I think, although there is always one place I can rely on to buck this trend – the chemist. Having brought with me large quantities of most of the drugs I could ever (not) hope to need, I rarely have cause to go in, which is lucky because they are thoroughly overwhelming on the senses. Firstly, everything’s so retina-smashingly bright. Fluorescent labels adorn shelves crammed full of products in an extreme array of colours, trying to jostle the others out of the way and shout “buy meeee!” as loudly as they can. Then there’s the manufacturer-supplied promotional materials, which can range from POS displays, to things with flashing lights that hover in front of the shelf, to flat-screen TV’s either showing product demonstrations (in the case of the acid foot peels, these can be throat-clenchingly disgusting) or, even worse, playing jingles. Which brings me to the other sense which is abused in just as ceaseless a manner – your hearing. Every chain store, be it a supermarket, hardware shop or lowly (hah!) chemist, has its own jingle. This is played again. And again. And again. And again. And won’t you please just turn that fu*king thing off now? And that racket hasn’t yet had added to it the highly irritating calls of “irashaimase” from the shop assistant to everyone who walks in (and a fair few who don’t). A whole blog post could be devoted to this sales cry, and indeed might be, so I won’t cover it in any more depth except to say that it’s annoying. The picture below is from the cold/sore throat/allergy aisle, one you would expect to be a bit more, well, serious:


As well as the above, there are the products to keep one entertained, and Japanese chemists have a number of sections beyond those found at home to amaze, delight and disturb, in not so equal measures. (They also lack some things you might take for granted, for example it’s nigh on impossible to buy tampons here). Over several upcoming posts I will explore some of these, and give you an idea of what you could purchase with your hard-earned yen, had you any desire to take that risk.

Here’s one to get you started:


It’s a selection of diet pills to curb your enthusiasm for cramming vast quantities of pasta, pizza and pastries into your burgeoning gut. The kanji/kana featured, in case you’re curious, are:
– おなか – stomach
– 肪 – obese
– 胃 – paunch
– 脂 – fat (the noun, as also shown on food nutritional info)
– 方 – way of
– 落 – drop, fall down, lower

There is a HUGE market for diet products – pills, meal replacements, supplements, you name it – here. They are everywhere, and to be honest, among the younger population there is a growing need for them. Many Japanese now eat a very Westernized diet, but they are not yet at a point where they realise that eating vast quantities of high-fat, high-sugar wheat-based items is, like, totally gonna make you fat, man. But here they don’t call it “being fat”, oh no, there is a medical term for it – the largely derided (by foreigners, at least) “Metabolic Syndrome”. Apparently this consists of “symptoms associated with being overweight that, if left unchecked, increase the risk of strokes, heart disease and diabetes”. Oh noes! Someone better call the Department of the Obvious with this groundbreaking development. The Ministry of Health thinks 13 million Japanese have this condition, and another 14 million are at risk of getting it. Quelle horreur.

That’s all for the time being, but I can assure you I have some stonking finds to put in future posts. For now though, it’s into the shower with me and then to hopefully see the eclipse if these bloody clouds would only clear up…

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1 Response

  1. Becky says:

    Priceless! Thanks Fi, hugely educational and entertaining. Working in one of these places is surely bad for the health – is there a pill for ‘I’ve gone jingle mental’? Stay well. X

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