Three-quarters of all Japanese smell


Are you concerned about the smell of your own sweat? graph of japanese opinionJust in time for the start of the real summer season (two months or more of 30°C and more days and nights), at the start of July MyVoice looked at the use of deodorants. They got 12,473 valid responses from their private internet-based questionnaire to their monitor group. 54% of the responses were from women, 3% were in their teens, 21% in their twenties, 39% in their thirties, 25% in their forties, and 12% in their fifties.

If anyone asks me what to buy before they come to Japan, my first recommendation is always anti-perspirant; it is, in fact, the only product I get shipped from abroad. Other foreigners suggest that Japanese brands are not so strong, but I suspect it might just be a combination of unfamiliarity with brands ,and that stick or gel type deodorants are almost non-existant here. I have personally only seen tiny almost lipstick-sized tubes that I presume would be pretty useless for any serious application; most of the sales here are, as you can see, of sprays.

There is a belief (or is it a meme? Or nihonjinron) that the Japanese don’t sweat much; whilst I can’t point you to any international surveys or literature to confirm or dismiss that idea, my personal experience is that they do sweat, and often profusely, as on the rush hour train I will often see people with huge beads of sweat even though they have done nothing more than a light stroll to the station. I suspect one contributor to this is the stupidly over-cooled trains (and buildings, etc), as the constant changing from cold to hot to cold mustn’t be kind to the body’s internal temperature regulators. The headline figure indicates that regardless of quantity of sweat produced, the smell of it is a concern to most. Of course, all Japanese could smell but a quarter just don’t care…

Q1: Are you concerned about the smell of your own sweat? (Sample size=12,473)

Yes, concerned 34.8%
A little concerned 40.3%
Cannot say either way 9.3%
Not really concerned 9.3%
Not at all concerned 4.3%

Q2: In order to mask the smell of sweat, which of the following types of deodorant have you used? (Sample size=12,473, multiple answer)

Powder spray 65.2%
Sheet 17.8%
Mist 14.4%
Roll-on 13.3%
Stick 8.4%
Cream 5.2%
Water type 4.4%
Gel 2.1%
Other 2.1%
Not used any of them 26.0%

Note that the questions asks if they have ever used the types rather than what they currently use. I don’t know what a “water-type” deodorant is – perhaps it is a cologne-like liquid? Sheet deodorant is a disposable cloth impregnated with deodorant, apparently.

Q3: In which seasons of the year do you use deodorant? (Sample size=deodorant users, multiple answer)

Summer (mid-July to mid-September) 81.2%
Early summer (June to mid-July) 48.4%
Use regardless of the season 14.3%
Autumn (mid-September to November) 13.3%
Spring (mid-March to May) 4.9%
Winter (December to mid-March) 1.2%
Don’t know or can’t remember 1.3%
No answer 0.7%

I believe the all-year round users are not included in the figures for each season, so that would mean in total 95.5% of all deodorant users use them in the summer. The more astute amongst you will also notice that all five of Japan’s four seasons appear in this question.

Q4: When choosing a deodorant, what things are important? (Sample size=deodorant users, up to three answers)

Reasonable price 58.7%
Highly effective at killing smells 42.2%
Nice perfume 41.1%
No perfume 32.1%
Effects are long-lasting 31.9%
Gentle on skin 25.1%
Cool sensation 23.5%
Brand or maker 19.0%
Highly effective as anti-bacterial 18.9%
Easy to carry around 16.3%
Size 11.9%
Good word of mouth reputation 4.0%
People around me use it 1.7%
Good reputation from specialists 0.8%
Other 1.1%
Nothing in particular 1.2%
No answer 0.5%

Q5: Where do you often buy your deodorant? (Sample size=deodorant users, multiple answer)

Drug store 82.1%
Supermarket 25.4%
Discount shop 15.4%
Dispensing pharmacy 15.1%
Convenience store 11.1%
Internet mail order 3.0%
Department store 1.6%
Specialist cosmetics store 1.3%
Other mail order 0.7%
Other 0.9%
Don’t know or don’t buy myself 1.3%
No answer 0.9%

Finally, there was a bunch of comments from the respondents about when they use deodorant, although how representative the fifteen commenters are is unknown. Two things I did notice, however, was that first they were often used after baths, which are usually taken last thing at night, and second they were also employed as a cleansing measure rather than a preventative one, such as after sports or on returning home from work.

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1 Comment »

  1. Apple Eyes said,
    April 20, 2011 @ 21:33

    Thanks for this; I found it interesting as I’ve always found the whole “Japanese don’t sweat/stink as much as other people” myth completely baffling.

    I think I can clear up the “water” type thing. Recently I was in the drugstore, and they’ve just started pulling out the deodorants. Virtually none of it, of course, is a stick, and what is looks not-so-effective and expensive. I notice, though, that there’s a colorful row of Sea Breeze brand items. One row is a new “UV Cut and Jelly”, so I’m guessing it’s a less lotiony sort of sunblock. The other is a “Deo & Water”. It’s a bottle of clear liquid with white powder at the bottom. The instructions say to shake well, put a small amount in your hand, and apply it to the places you sweat a lot from.

    It hasn’t gotten very hot yet, so I can’t speak to it’s overall efficacy, but I do have a word of caution: I’m not sensitive-skinned by any means, but this stuff must be meant to have a “cooling sensation”. I wasn’t careful about how much I applied, and it had that cold-burn feeling to a painful degree. You might not have the same results. I had just gotten out of the shower, so I’m sure the pores were all open up.

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