Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Very Hard to Find Items

One of the most frustrating things about living in Japan is that, when you really need an item which is basic and easy to find in the U.S., it can be nearly impossible to find in Japan.

My husband returned to a local fitness club after a long absence so he could start swimming again. Unfortunately, he forgot to put in ear plugs before he swam and got water in both of his ears. He further made a mistake when he used a Q-Tip to try and get it out causing it to block up more. Now he knows that was a bad idea but he wasn't aware of that until it was too late. His hearing has been fairly diminished as a result of this problem and there is some concern that, if it can't be cleared up, he'll develop swimmer's ear.

Since he teaches and needs to be able to hear well, it's rather imperative that he clear this up. After we researched the problem, we discovered that it's common in the U.S. to buy ear drops that will dry your ears up. After enquiring at 3 local pharmacies, he discovered that such drops aren't available in Japan and the only way to deal with this common, minor and easy to fix problem is to run off to a doctor. Hurray for the side effects of socialized medicine. :-p

Rather than waste time and money going to a doctor, he investigated other options. Apparently, common treatment includes putting some drops of rubbing alcohol in your ear to dry up the moisture or a mixture of both alcohol and vinegar to kill bacteria and dry the ear.

In the U.S., both rubbing alcohol and distilled vinegar can be bought at nearly any supermarket or, at worst, a supermarket and drug store. In Japan, finding either of these items requires you to go to stores that specialize in selling items for foreigners. There may be some places that sell them but none appear to be in my area.

There is a wide variety of vinegar in most supermarkets but pure, distilled white vinegar doesn't appear to be in much demand and this is what you need for medicinal purposes. My husband had to go to National Azabu Supermarket in Hiroo to locate some. Rubbing alcohol also was tough to find but he located it at Koyasu Pharmacy in Hiroo. It was quite expensive as well. The bottle shown above was about $11 (1200 yen).

My husband decided to avail himself of the rare chance to indulge in some western sweets while he was there and picked up a couple of bags of Halloween candy. I haven't seen an Almond Joy in a decade or more and it's one of my favorite candies because I love coconut. Since I try not to eat sugar, this bag should last quite awhile. The marshmallow pumpkins are chocolate covered orange-flavored marshmallows and, while not bad, are not exactly a normal combination of flavors.


Luis said...

Yeah, I was going to suggest the homemade solution, I remember we used that when we were kids and taking swimming lessons at Burgess. Or was that just me and not both of us?

Shari said...

I wish that getting the ingredients was easier. Your brother had to run all over the place yesterday and he wasn't really in the best state to do it. I'll ask him if he used to swim at Burgess when he gets home from work. If he used the solution before, you'd think he'd remember it but he can be pretty forgetful. ;-)

Also, we looked into a solution for clearing ear wax blockage (which he may have caused with the Q-Tip) and I took a translated note asking the local drug store if they carried either hydrogen peroxide or mineral oil. They looked at the note for 10 seconds and said "no" then I went and found mineral oil myself. It was clear they didn't even try to help.

Roy said...


I'm off to National Azabu Super to get some bags!!!

Shari said...

I'm happy to contribute to the delinquincy of your pancreas, Roy. :-)

Almond Joys usually aren't carried at National Azabu so I was very surprised. I guess Halloween serves a purpose after all. ;-)