As any Japanese native will tell you, Japan is quite a safe country. And I’m here to tell you the exact same thing. The crime rate is so low, you’ll hardly believe it – though it’s worth mentioning that it might be so low due to a lot of smaller crimes going unreported. However, in the number of times that I’ve visited Japan, the only dangerous situations that I’ve found myself in were completely my fault (like tripping over at the train station because I didn’t tie my shoe laces properly…)
Just like back home, I recommend not putting yourself in situations that could potentially be dangerous; walking alone at night in bad neighbourhoods, taking dark roads/streets, not locking the door, or going inside the house of someone you barely know. If you give private English lessons or someone is giving you private Japanese lessons, never go to their house, only meet in a crowded cafe. That kind of advice is a given though. You wouldn’t do that kind of stuff normally; I don’t expect you to suddenly start doing it on holiday. Exercise caution!
There are some other things that you, the female traveler, should be made aware of before trekking off to Japan. These aren’t all safety tips, because as I said, it’s quite a safe country. It’s just that these tips are more aimed towards visitors of the female persuasion.
The first tip you see on the list will explain why…
Most drug stores and convenience stores in Japan sell tampons, so don’t go over-stuffing your suit case with the little white fellas just yet. The real difference between Australian and Japanese tampons is that most of the Japanese brands come with an ‘applicator’ just like American brands (I’m sure you’ve seen that episode of Sex and the City where Carrie hands the restaurant waitress a giant sized tampon in the bathroom). This can make inserting a little uncomfortable if you’re not used to it or haven’t done it this way before. However, the applicator is easy enough to take off and throw out, leaving you free to insert your tampon in a way most comfortable to you.
The most prevalent form of feminine hygiene product in Japan is referred to as the ‘sanitary napkin’ and there is no difference to the Australian pad. They aren’t any smaller or thinner, which is a weird myth someone started. There are plenty of sizes to choose; super, maxi and even ‘junior’. You can purchase cloth pads or a certain kind of ‘underwear’ with built-in pads. There is also something called ‘shorts’ which resemble a nappy. A funny (yet lovable) quirk about Japan is that they will often have sample pads on display for you to see and check out before buying the brand you need.
Here are a list of words you’ll want to know in order to choose your product:
- タンポン | tampon
- レギュラー | regular
- スーパー | super
- スーパープラス | super plus
- ライト | light
- ソフト | soft
- コンパクト | compact
|ふつう用||ふつうよう||futsuyou||regular day (use)|
|多い日用||おおいひよう||ooihi you||heavy day (use)|
|軽い日用||かるいひよう||karuihi you||light day (use)|
|さらふわ||–||sarafuwa||“smooth/fluffy/airy (but not necessarily thick)”|
|羽 or 羽根||はね||hane||wing|
|なし||–||nashi||none, doesn’t have|
|安心||あんしん||anshin||relief, peace of mind|
Okay, I don’t expect you to remember all that – especially since choosing them is basically the same as back home, and they have little pictures on the packets the same as we do.
There are other options too, like the Diva Cup. The cup collects your flow during the day so that you can empty it out in the evening, wash it out, and use it again the following day. Though I recommend purchasing it and trying it out a few months prior to travel.
The prices of the sanitary products vary according to brand and quantity, as would any product. My only issue with the price is that I can actually buy a couple of meals for cheaper in Japan. Now, if the pads and tampons of Japan leave something to be desired and you’re a little daunted by the whole experience, simply bring your own brand from home with you.
Quite a number of years ago, it used to be a real issue in Japan that gropers would ride trains in peak hour and grab a woman on the behind or the chest. Due to the high density of people riding the train, it was then extremely hard to tell who actually groped you. If you do see them, you shame them by pointing and shouting at them, ‘Chikan!’ (translates to ‘pervert’ or ‘groper’), or create a scene by simply shouting in the language of your choice. Nowadays, groping is not as much of an issue (though it can still happen), due to more security at the stations and the Women Only carriages available for use during peak hour. If you are travelling alone or with a group of women, take these carriages as often as possible.
Most gropers on the train are bored, young men in for a cheap thrill. By pointing them out, you embarrass them immensely. Another reason for doing this is that many people will ignore scenes made in public. It’s not my problem, I will not get involved. By shouting and pointing, you’re making them get involved. It seems to be a real problem in Japan that passersby will not step in to help you if you are in trouble. My advice here is to always, always stick with others. Don’t go off exploring by yourself.
Some serious issues surrounding that kind of problem is that many people don’t believe a Japanese person would have done it, either. I remember some anti-groping cartoon posters depicting a man with dark skin touching a white woman. It may reflect a still-prevalent view in Japan: Crime and criminals are non-Japanese.
When a crime happens, people almost always ask, “Was (s)he Japanese?” Of course, Japanese people too commit crimes, and “othering” the victims and perpetrators only makes it easier for crimes to go unaddressed, which is another issue altogether.
If you do notice somebody following you or you are receiving some severely unwanted attention, I cannot suggest going somewhere crowded (because this unfortunately doesn’t help in Japan), but to either run away very fast until you’re sure they are no longer near you, or go directly to the nearest shop, where you can’t be picked up and taken away somewhere.
If you are actually attacked (as opposed to being groped), report it to the police immediately. There are many online forums stating that you will not be taken seriously if you report to the police in Japan, so the next step here is to contact your embassy. Here are the details for the Australia Embassy in Japan:
+81 3 5232 4111
+81 3 5232 4149
I mention these details not because I want you to be paranoid on your trip. You have a right to feel safe, but I also don’t want surprise to be used against you as a weapon.
Foreigners attract attention | Blondes in Japan
If you’re blonde, then get used to it, you just became a celebrity. Bet you’ve always wanted to be famous! Sometimes it’s fun… sometimes not so much. I was the only blonde person on most of my trips. One time at the crazy-big 100 yen store, I swear all the patrons were staring at me. It felt like everyone wanted to know what I bought and everyone watched me leave.
It appears to depend on the age of Japanese people you hang around too; sometimes I got dirty looks from really elderly women, and I do mean, really old women. What is wrong with her hair? It’s a demonic colour! A few of my friends have spoken about how when they’re out and about, older Japanese folk will sometimes click their tongues when they see foreigners, as if they are tsk-tsk-ing them for being in public. This seems to happen more to American visitors, perhaps due to American stereotypes that are prevalent that depict them to be ‘gun-loving, arrogant slobs’. The younger crowd are much more tolerant of foreigners, and if anything, are highly intrigued. The younger crowd I met simply thought I was really cool.
Do not be alarmed if people come up to you and ask for your picture, or if they ask to touch your hair. Only be concerned if they’re carrying scissors!
If you are riding the trains late at night, drunken businessmen might try and practice their English on you, but don’t be worried, they are generally harmless. If you feel threatened, simply move on to the women only carriage.
On the whole, I would say these things are nothing you need to worry about. To a degree, how you are treated depends on how you present yourself (what you look like, how you dress, and if you’re with Japanese friends when you’re out). I’m not saying you should be business-like at all times, wear a button up shirt wherever you go and always be accompanied by a native tour guide. But you’ll (of course) see a clear difference in how you are treated if you start dressing in dirty clothes and are rude to people.
Have you got any other travel tips for women, or want to share experiences of your own? Comment below!