Shopping experience in big supermarkets in Japan can be described as follows.
- You buy what you want and put it in a basket.
- The cashier scans all price tags and puts the products in a differently coloured basket.
- You pay, the cashier gives you some plastic bags, you head to a nearby empty table and package everything yourself.
- You are good to go.
But what happens if you buy female products like sanitary napkins? As soon as the cashier notices it, they put it in a non-transparent dark coloured bag, and even close the top part with a sticker, so that the contents are in no way visible. The cashier’s hand movements are so spectacularly quick, as if avoiding a single glance from other customers is of utmost importance.
One day after shopping, I expressed my surprise to my Asian roommate and her answer was: “But it is obvious that it should be hidden, I want no one to know! Why would anyone?”. I tried to explain my thoughts to her, but she was persistent on her opinion, so we failed to reach a conclusion.
OK, I get that female private parts are a sensitive topic that most women are not comfortable talking about. I get that all of us don’t want to vaunt about it, either. But is it that big a shame that even at the supermarket we should completely hide it? Every woman has it, a cog in the scheme of childbirth. When you have to deal with your menstruation cycle, sometimes it will be hard, uncomfortable or even gross. But every grandma had it and every girl will have it. The fear of buying tampons etc is an emotion that could be compared to the fear of buying condoms. However, if we don’t accept it and don’t learn to talk or ask questions about the functionality of our private parts, we are doomed to come across much more serious health-related issues, far exceeding in importance some trivial social shame.
Buying tampons or condoms, wearing no-sleeved blouses, wearing no makeup: everyday things like that are not a norm for females in Japan and such a behaviour will probably give you some weird looks. I am OK with that, because as a foreigner I usually attract the attention either way, a perk of existing. But what is a rebellious Japanese girl supposed to do, when she gets bored with all those unwritten rules and norms?