Friday Five Life in Japan

5 Rare Things in Japan

6 February 2015

Kickstarting the first post of the new Friday Five segment is this post with 5 things that don’t exist in Japan. Okay, that might be a bit of a stretch. But they are so obscure they might as well not exist!

Most of these are pretty common elsewhere, and it’s been both interesting (for the first 3 seconds) and frustrating when I discovered how rare they are here.

1. Cheques

Mr Roy Ang is one rich guy.

I have never seen anyone use a cheque, never seen any bank offer it, nor any establishment accepting it.

Wikipedia tells me that cheques exist in Japan, but its usage is so non-existent it may as well be an urban legend.

How do people pay here? Cash is king! Credit cards are gaining more traction as well. For online purchases, bank transfer and COD are also common options.

2. Bolsters

I grew up sleeping with a bolster, and I really need one to sleep properly.

When I came to Japan, I realized that bolsters are impossible to find in Japan! Japanese used to (in fact, many still do) sleep on futons, so that’s a possible reason why there are no bolsters in Japan.

They do have this though:

Banana body pillows (my naming)

I had no choice and bought these, but good god, they’re annoying as heck!

If I hug the pillow (I’m not calling this a bolster) with the concave outwards – i.e. the pillow curves away from my body – then my arms get to hold something but there’s nothing for my face to lean into. The empty space is rather perturbing and makes me feel like I’m hugging a headless pillow.

If I hug the pillow with the concave inwards, I spear the sharp end of the pillow into my face.

Not. fun.

After hunting everywhere, I finally found a shop that sold normal cylindrical bolsters that were long enough. It came in a fantabulously ugly purple and black check pattern. I had to get my mom to buy me bolster cases from Singapore to conceal the ugliness.

3. Shokubutsu

Shokubutsu means plant in Japanese

I’m extremely picky about products and won’t buy anything that contains Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLS).

Shokubutsu is what I’ve been using since years ago since it is one of the few ones around that doesn’t contain SLS. Go on, check out the labels of the body soap in the supermarket the next time you’re there. Many brands contain SLS!

What I never imagined was that I would have trouble getting this after coming to Japan.

Lion, the manufacturer of Shokubutsu, is a Japanese company.

Pray tell, why then did 99% of the supermarkets and drug stores I checked out not carry a single Shokubutsu product?

After much searching, I finally found it in exactly ONE SHOP. Every time I run low, I will travel to this one drugstore and stock up multiple packets of it.

Lion, where are these products being sold?!

4. Cereal beverages

3-in-1 cereal satchets

These do not exist in Japan.

The first time I brought it to work (back when I was a teacher), other teachers (all Japanese) peered into my cup and asked me what it was. When I explained it to them, they were filled with so much amazement it was as if I just transformed raw corn into a tasty hot beverage before their eyes.

The next time I returned to Singapore, I got some of them these cereal satchets as souvenirs haha.

5. Non-plain chocolates

Japanese stores sell a wide selection of chocolates.


Do we really need 34 different types of plain milk chocolate? DO WE???

Confectionery makers in Japan, have you not heard of caramel? Honeycomb? Rice crisps? Nougat? Dried fruit? No?

A girl can’t even get her chocolate fix and has to rely upon the generosity and love of friends and family overseas to send non-plain chocolate over :G For a period of time, I even resorted to swapping chocolates on the internet. True story. I did get to try many different types of chocolate from around the world though!

Did you already know about any of the above-mentioned? If you didn’t, which one are you most surprised/amused by?

This marks the end of the first Friday Five post! Let’s see how long I can keep this segment up :D


  • Reply Jessmin 8 February 2015 at 4:57 pm

    how about 5 of your favorite anime or 5 of your favorite places in Japan?

    • Reply Rin 8 February 2015 at 7:17 pm

      Hi Jessmin,

      Thanks for the suggestions; Those are some good ideas there as both are close to my heart! Keep an eye out for the upcoming posts! ;D

  • Reply Ling 26 September 2016 at 8:51 am

    Hi, were u in Tokyo when u were finding the bolster? Need to find one now and I couldn’t even find the banana pillow :( where did u find the cylindrical one? Cheers!

    • Reply Rin 26 September 2016 at 10:32 pm

      Yup, I was. I bought the cylindrical ones from Aeon, and the banana ones in the picture are from Nitori! (I just saw them in the store last week too :)

      • Reply Ling 27 September 2016 at 1:42 am

        Omg! You are a lifesaver! I’m so going to get it tmr! Thanks!

        • Reply Rin 27 September 2016 at 12:30 pm

          Heh, you’re welcome! Happy to help out a fellow bolster-hugger ;D

  • Reply Ben 27 March 2017 at 7:39 pm

    a friend of mine is going to travel to Japan at the end of the week. I asked him wether he could get me some Shokubutsu Shower Cream, as it was my favorite in Thailand.
    Where do you find your fix of Shokubutsu so I can tell him?

    • Reply Rin 27 March 2017 at 9:50 pm

      Hi, I got them from a drugstore called Sun Drug in Ikebukuro. The drugstore is located on Sunshine 60 Dori, which is the road leading to Sunshine City from the station. It’s been a while since I’ve been there so hopefully they still stock it! (and also that your friend will be able to find the store!)

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