What’s in the average Japanese’s bag?


I found this entertaining survey performed by the rather strangely named “Almost Daily ITOI Newspaper” (HOBO NIKKAN ITOI SHINBUN) on what people usually carry in their bags. The demographics are not very well defined, but over a period of five days perhaps sometime last month, around 40,000 people answered a questionnaire (web based?) with around 25,000 valid replies received. Within that sample there is significant number who don’t carry bags. Neither the sex nor age breakdown is noted.

The survey results listed the top 60 answers (including sketches of each item, for those who can’t read Japanese but want to see the full list) with a short paragraph about each result written in an extremely casual chatty style, almost like blank verse. For the sake of brevity, I’ll skip many of the lower ranked items.

60Lap blanket125A problem in many offices is strong air conditioners, so when combined with short skirts many women resort to a blanket to keep their legs warm.
56Manga (magazine format)257Both the report and I register surprise at such a low vote! Perhaps this reflects most people’s consumption style: buying the typical telephone book-size brick before boarding a train then throwing it away at the destination?
51Manga (book format)581Twice as many as magazine format!
48Newspaper635Another surprising low! The survey mentions that most of the respondents were in their thirties, which does have quite a high newspaper readership rate, and a morning newspaper may be kept for the return journey or reading at lunchtime.
46Portable ashtray1,104Oh dear.
44Supplements1,557Quite a high figure, I think, although perhaps what exactly qualifies as a supplement rather than a medicine or even just a sweet may be open to interpretation by the respondent, especially as recently a lot of snack products have added health-supporting ingredients.
43MD, CD or cassette player1,560The iPod and other digital friends are still to come.
40Games machine1,687Quite a high figure, I think. I see them quite a bit in the trains now, especially the DS with adults of many ages.
38Toothbrush1,869Wow! Quite a high showing.
35Foodstuff2,207This excludes chewing gum and sweets, which rate higher up.
33Tobacco, lighter2,511This represents about 10% of the total sample, although a lot of men seem to carry their smokes in their breast pocket.
32USB memory2,711Wow! A surprising figure! I wonder if SD cards were included, but even so, perhaps a lot of business people have an emergency back-up device secreted away somewhere? I wonder if this also reflects slack information security in companies?
30Digital camera2,913That’s rather a lot, considering that many mobile phones now have good quality cameras.
25Drinks4,159Almost double the food figure!
22Books (hardbacks in particular)4,309That’s a reassuring figure for me.
18Eraser5,594That’s much more than those who carry pencils!
15iPod or other digital audio players7,050Nearly five times greater than all other music devices put together. That’s pretty impressive market penetration.
13Propelling (mechanical) pencil7,715 
12Medicines8,696Over five times the number who carry supplements. I presume this includes over-the-counter products as well as prescription drugs.
11Paperbacks8,778This particularly refers to the A5-sized (I think that’s the size anyway!) softbacks small enough to hold in one hand whilst hanging onto a train strap with the other. There is also some artifical limit on the thickness of these books, so the Da Vinci Code (terrible film!), for instance, which is just under 500 pages of English according to Amazon, ends up as a three volume set in Japanese.
10Gum or sweets8,797Not a surprising entry at all.
9Mirror9,400For some reason old people in Japan get really upset by people putting on makeup in the train. The thing that annoys me is the continual preening of hair that lots of women and girls (and more than a few men) under about 35 years of age get up to on the train. Many of them seem to carry a decent-sized one, maybe A5 or more, around with them.
8Handkerchief10,748It’s not for blowing one’s nose with!
5Tissues16,077See handkerchief above, but if there’s so many people with paper tissues, why don’t they try blowing their noses instead of sniffing all the time?
4Ball-point pen16,503No surprise here.
2Mobile phone18,670 
1Wallet20,348I’ll try to literally translate what the survey said about this:

Wallet. Yes. Wallet.
Run of the mill, sorry. Wallet.
The victor. Wallet. Complete. Wallet.

Read more on: ,


  1. August 8, 2009 @ 16:14

    I am kind of surprised at the number of diaries. I wonder if it was schedule books?

  2. tapioca said,
    August 24, 2009 @ 14:22

    @japanese words: hobo nikkan itoi shinbun is the manufacturer of hobonichi techo notebooks, probably that’s what most of their readers were referring to as diaries. or that entire thing was an elaborate ad. xD

Leave a Comment


1 Trackback \ Ping »

  1. January 23, 2009 @ 12:15

    […] apa saja sih…isi tas mereka itu? Tags: Jepang, tas You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can […]