I've recently been reading the blog of a girl I went to high school with. She writes about the trials and joys of being the wonderful mother of two adorable little girls, and about memories from her past. Her reminiscing of the two years she and her husband spent teaching English in Niigata prefecture have been particularly fun for me to read. While some of the things she says really resonate with me (the heat and mugginess of summer, the shyness of the kids, the wonders of the hot springs...), some of them are very different.
One of the things that Laura mentions about Japan is the fact that deodorant is not widely sold in this country. (click here and then scroll down to the Feb 7 post entitled "where the sun rises 2") Five years ago I spent a couple of days fruitlessly searching with a certain guy when he ran out. We never did find anything at all for men. For women there were an array of spray ons and a few liquid roll-ons. (I've tried both and have not been impressed, but luckily have not had to rely on either for any length of time) A few years later we discovered the one location in all of Japan that sells solid men's deodorant - Costco. Yup, in packs of 5! Japan appears to be changing, however, and new products are appearing everywhere. Nowadays many stores in Tokyo carry deodorant sprays for men too, and the younger set seems to use them. I've even noticed guys reach into their bags while sitting in a classroom waiting for the start of class, pull out a spray can and shake it before spraying a couple of shots at each armpit. (The whole personal care in public issue, however, is one that deserves a post all of its own!)
Right, so where was I?
Ah yes, a largely deodorant-less male population in a country that gets famously hot and muggy during the summer. Such a pleasant mixture. Laura remarks that in Niigata she never noticed a funny odor coming from her or the locals. Maybe it was the fresh clean air, or maybe the the diet is different, or maybe they just breed 'em differently in Niigata, because I can assure you that the men (and women) of Tokyo DEFINITELY smell in the summertime. Cram enough salarymen into a train on their way home in the evening and the trains take on a certain funk too. A certain olfactory reminder that summer has arrived in the metropolis. Pleasant stuff.
This is why deodorant (along with pants that are actually long enough for me) is the one thing that I always stock up on when I head to Canada. On my recent trip to the US I picked up a new extra strong deodorant, from the Baking Powder people, Arm & Hammer, and am very happy with the results. Now if could just convince the Japanese government to hand them out free to all citizens I'd be set!