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I have to be extremely careful when I'm at the drugstore because while some of the products bear seemingly familiar names and logos, one of Japan's charming little idiosyncrasies is the propensity to add a little oompf to regular products by either mentholating them or adding a whitening agent. I may joke about being the resident whitie at the Kaisha, but frankly, I don't want to get much whiter than this.
A girlfriend of Indian (dot not feather) descent once used a skin cream from Japan that had an almost bleaching effect on her skin. She relayed the story of how her and some school friends shared the product around and she ended up with strange, patchy markings on her neck. Not only the Japanese brands, but some well-known European cosmetics companies also offer "white" product lines for the Japanese market. I can't begin to understand the chemistry of it, but I would be hard-pressed to believe that whitening your skin is not damaging.
While there may be no cosmetic damage, mentholated products also intrigue me. When I was a student here with a minor rash, I soon discovered that the ointment I had bought for it contained menthol, not an ingredient high on my list when I am applying it to skin delicate and raw from being scratched. Luckily the drugstores here do carry "normal" versions of the product you seek, but for those masochists out there, there is always the methol version. I wouldn't call the beau a masochist by any means (he would definitely answer "s" when posed with the common-in-Japan question of "s or m"?), but he has become attached to a mentholated body wash that apparently leaves you feeling fresh and rejuvenated. I tried it once and the pain I felt in certain areas I can only liken to that felt when bathing in the dead sea as a teenager. It really gives a new meaning to the phrase "fire in the hole."
Once while "holidaying" up North at the beau's family home, I had to buy some contact solution at the local 7-Eleven having forgotten mine in Tokyo. The following morning when I went to put my contacts in my eyes, sur-fucking-prise! mentholated contact solution! If that doesn't wake you up while simultaneously giving you a stoned, blood-shot look, I don't know what will.
For the menthol-inclined smoker, Japan is a veritable paradise. Not only does Marlboro sell "Black Menthol" brand cigarettes (best described as the king of all menthol cigarettes), but Kool has a line of cigarettes where you have to physically pop a menthol capsule embedded in the filter with your fingers for the menthol goodness to seep out. High tech, I know.
This is my version of a gaijin public service announcement: please take care so that you don't end up bleached or stung by some unexpected menthol dear readers - it's a bit like navigating a jungle out there.