Familar Products with Unfamiliar Names

The blog post “Familiar Products at Japanese Supermarkets” has a lot of great tips for kinds of food from home you can buy in Japan.  I’d like to point out some household and health items that are subject to the language barrier; that is, not only are their English and Japanese names are different, but the packaging also doesn’t give coherent visual clues in the same way a bottle of Coke does.

Although I’ve studied Japanese for several years, my vocabulary of household items is still rather low.  Whe I first arrived, I went to the store to buy some hydrogen peroxide, which I use as a stain remover and general household/wound disinfectant.  I had been told it was hard to find in Japan, and  since I live in a rural area, I didn’t have high hopes. I decided to give it a shot anyway and headed to my local drug store.  The first hit on my denshi jisho for hydrogen peroxide was 過酸化水素 (kasankasuiso), but that’s actually the chemical name for the substance (H2O2).  The commercial/household name for hydrogen peroxide in Japan is oxydol or  オキシドール (okishidouru), and you can find it in the drug store by the bandages and medical disinfectants.

Image courtesy of amazon.co.jp

Image courtesy of amazon.co.jp

It’s about 498 yen for a 500 ml bottle, whereas in the States, you can buy the same amount of a generic brand for about $1.

Acidophilus bifidus is another household staple for me.  It’s a probiotic that promotes healthy bacteria for digestive- and women’s health.  Acidophilus bifidus is in yogurt and is available in pill form in the US.  In Japan, there is a similar product referred to as ビヒズス (bihizusu) or ビヒダス(bifidasu), which both refer to Lactobacillus bifidus, a bifidobacterium from milk that has the same beneficial qualities. You can buy Morinaga ビヒダスヨーグト(bifidasu yo-guruto).  It’s a plain yogurt and is delicious when sweetened with fruit.

Morinaga Bifidus Yogurt

Morinaga Bifidus Yogurt

You can also buy Glico yogurt with  プロバイオティックス (probiotics).  The flavor is a little sweeter, but the consistency is runnier.

Glico Probiotic Yogurt Glico Probiotic Yogurt

There’s also Yakult BL, a box of concentrated ビヒズス (bifizusu) powder packets.  You mix one packet with a glass of water and drink it; the mixture has no flavor. You can find this in the drug store with other vitamins and supplements.

Yakult BL (Lactobacillus bifidus powder)

Yakult BL (Lactobacillus bifidus powder)

A person over the age of 15 can have three whole “sticks” a day.  Be careful, though–too much healthy bacteria can cause an imbalance.  Also, if you are allergic to milk products, do not use Yakult BL since it’s derived from bifidus in milk.

Are you looking for food or health products from home?  Have you found any products with vastly different Japanese names? Let us know!

Leah Zoller is a first-year CIR in Anamizu and wants to make sure you, the reader, are full of healthy bacteria.


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