5 Helpful Japanese Products You Might Not Know About

Thanks for helping, buddy

Sometimes when I bring up a problem to my husband he’ll casually mention a Japanese product I never knew existed that immediately solves everything. These are five products I now use religiously, though I’ve often found that, like me, my foreign friends living in Japan hadn’t heard of them either! You might find these useful as well!

1. アースノーマット (Āsu No Matto)

Āsu No Matto  means “Earth” Chemical Co. (the name of the company), “no mat.” Earth Chem produces a lot of home products, and in this case mosquito killers. One type of mosquito killer they make uses small pads called mats. This version has no mat, hence the name “No Matto.” …Well, no one said they had to be creative.
Invented over 30 years ago, Āsu No Matto is a liquid mosquito killer that plugs into the wall. It’s a Japanese home staple (popular enough that this one product has its own Japanese Wikipedia page). It comes with 30, 60, 90, or 120 day filler bottles, although that’s assuming you use it for 12 hours a day. You may use it more, you may use it less. The container comes in many colors, and even pig shape.
They say one container has an effective range of 4.5-12 jō (4.5-12 tatami mats—that’s just how they measure room space here—the equivalent of 6.9 - 18.4 square meters). These things are SUPER EFFECTIVE.
Whether you have one mosquito in your room or 30 (I’ve experienced both), this will kill them all. You would think it’d also kill other small bugs, but it doesn’t really seem to (I’ve wished for that many times in vain). The insecticide it uses is called a pyrethroid, which is also a common insecticide in the USA and is generally harmless in humans and mammals. The amount of the insecticide used in Āsu No Matto is so small that it shouldn’t affect anything larger than mosquitoes, but it does warn that it has the potential to harm fish, amphibians, and insects you may keep as pets.
Many studies on pyrethroids have been done in English as well if you’d like to look up more information. For record, the Āsu No Matto products release 0.33 mg of pyrethroid insecticide into the air every 12 hours of use (we calculated it), which breaks down within 2 days. The legal limit of exposure in the USA is 5 mg per m3, and the lowest lethal dose for a child is 750mg PER KG OF WEIGHT. This product has been around for decades and used religiously in households such as Jun's parents' house, where their cat lived to be 18 years old. It shouldn't cause any health concerns. Except to mosquitoes. Which is good.

2. “Health tonics” like Yunker

One day when I was really beaten down with a cold but had a lot of work to do, Jun brought me a little bottle and told me “it was full of Chinese herbs and stuff” and would make me feel better. And I was like, “dafuq this Chinese herbal nonsense, get this outta here.”
And then I drank it anyway, and boy was I humbled. It burned, oh it burned. But my aches suddenly lifted away (after about 20 minutes). I no longer felt a deep unease within my body, and I had energy. So much energy.
To be fair, I’ve never had a Red Bull or any other energy drink in America. How Yunker differs from other energy drinks I couldn’t tell you. But I do like these little energy shot bottles oh so much.
There are many brands of herbal tonics/energy shots that you’ll find in every conbini and drug store in Japan. The low end ones are marketed toward salarymen working long days and people who feel ill, while the high end ones (4000 yen per shot) are marketed toward pro athletes.
I would probably suggest starting at the bottom so you don’t give yourself a heart attack. Take it from personal experience, an overdose of caffeine is no joke. (I once accepted a 200mg caffeine pill from a friend, despite the fact that I never had caffeine like, ever, back then. I thought my heart was going to pound out of my chest and I didn’t sleep for two and a half days.)

3. Remineralizing toothpaste

You know how they say that once your enamel is gone, it’s gone for good? Well, that may be true but there is a toothpaste in Japan that can help fill in the gaps. No, I’m not joking. I’ve used it and it really works.
Apagard by Sangi is the world’s first “enamel-restorative, nanoparticle, hydroxyapatite toothpaste” according to their website. By their account their toothpastes do three things: remove plaque, fill in scratches and fissures, and plug open dentinal tubules that cause hypersensitivity. It does these last two by leaving behind a fine layer of hydroxyapatite, the same thing our teeth are made of. Sangi explains in detail how that happens on their website (English is available), and here are some of their scientific-looking pictures.
One thing that isn’t stressed often with brushing your teeth is that your typical hard toothbrushes can actually scratch the surface of your teeth. Soft toothbrushes exist, and I recommend using them. Whether that was the source of the very visible, large scratch on my front tooth I don’t know, but the fact is I used to have a very visible, large scratch on one of my front teeth. After using Apagard (Premio) for a period of time, it actually vanished. And I mean completely disappeared. That was years ago, and even after stopping Apagard it’s never returned. I don’t know that Apagard helped whiten my teeth at all, but it did make them very smooth. I also have incredibly sensitive teeth and this works just as well as the Sensodyne desensitizing toothpastes for preventing the excruciating pain of icy cold drinks for those of us with thin enamel.
Fortunately this toothpaste seems to have gained a bit of international fame since I last checked years ago and is now available on Amazon. It’s not cheap. Apagard Premio is around 1100 yen for 100g in Japan, or $17 on Amazon US. But if it means I'll get to keep my natural teeth a bit longer then it's worth it to me.

4. Mattress pads

Do you ever feel uncomfortable in the winter when you climb into your cold sheets? Just lying there slightly chilled, waiting for your blanket igloo to warm up? Well now you don’t have to. A common Japanese bed addition is the shikipad, or furry mattress pad. Stretch this over your sheets and when you climb into bed you’ll be lying down on a soft, warm, furry cloud. Get a furry blanket and a furry pillow case cover and you won’t have to spend a single second cold in bed! And you'll finally get to pretend live out your fantasy of falling asleep naked on a faux-fur rug in front of a fireplace in winter.
Everyone's dreamed of this, right? ...Right??
They have summer versions as well that absorb moisture and even feel cool to the touch. If you haven’t felt a Japanese summer night without the comfort of air conditioning... you’ll want one of these.
Mattress pads (shikipads) are of course different from bed pads (beddo...pads...), although most websites I looked at don’t seem to understand this yet (it was very difficult to figure out the name of this product in the first place). Nitori’s HAD ENOUGH of this nonsense though and decided to standardize the naming of all the different parts of your bed setup, so if you’re curious here you go.

5. Cat litter box setups

The litter box we use in Japan is the easiest litter box I’ve ever had to maintain, ever. Just like in America there are many types of litter boxes you can choose from, but we use a box with a tray underneath where you place pee pads. The litter box has slits in it so that the pee falls through, and you can just replace the pee pads every week or so when necessary.
Of course, this type of litter box exists in America as well. What doesn’t is the large silica ball litter we use. These silica balls are completely odorless, too large to fall through the litter box slits, and too big to stick to cat paws. While cats will still kick a bit of this outside the box, they’re so large that you can easily pick up the stragglers and toss them back in. They absorb a bit of pee and stick to cat poop, and with our three cats it still lasts at least a week before we have to replace it. It’s pretty cheap, too. Although it's not super fun to step on them in the morning when your cats spent all night batting them around the apartment. (They crush under your heel, and not in a satisfying way.)
When the cats do their business we immediately scoop it out and toss it (otherwise it smells up the whole room). But with this set up the litter box itself very rarely gets messy. There are no poop clumps sticking to the bottom of the box. There’s no smell (as long as you change the pee pads frequently enough). And the cats are totally fine with it. If you switch over, you do need to check up on your cat in the beginning and make sure they don’t try eating any of it. Some cats are a little dumb sometimes. (Ours eat hair off the floor so I’m not making any judgments.)
These silica balls are biodegradable and not harmful to the environment, although of course in Japan the “burnable” trash like this gets incinerated. All in all this the cleanest and least smelly litter box I’ve ever had to maintain. A+ recommend. The cats love it, too.

Rachel & Jun