TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese men are worrying about more than mere sweat as summer temperatures rise: talk of body odour caused by ageing is adding to anxiety in a land that prizes being squeaky clean.
Being Japan, it has also sparked a range of new products, from odour-eating suits to special chewing gum.
“My wife tells me that I stink,” said company manager Atsushi Asami, 47, interviewed on a typically hot and humid Tokyo street. “I am concerned about ageing odour and know there are anti-ageing odour products, but have not bought them myself.”
An on-line survey by CBIC, a Tokyo-based company that sells deodorant products, found that 89 percent of 700 Japanese women in their 20s and 30s found men smelly in commuter trains.
Shiseido Research Centre, a laboratory affiliated with Japanese cosmetics maker Shiseido, sparked the trend to anti-odour products for older men when it discovered eight years ago a substance that it named “kareishu”, or ageing odour.
The lab identified nonenal, a type of fatty acid, as the cause, saying unsaturated fatty acids and oxidative decomposition increase from around 40 years of age.
“Increasingly, people are becoming concerned about their body odour,” said Tsuneaki Gomi, a plastic surgeon who runs a clinic on body odour in Tokyo.
“Japan is becoming more of a cleanliness and odourless society. And the name, kareishu, fits right in with that trend of the times,” Gomi said.
Aoki Holdings Inc, a discount menswear chain, last year started selling ‘deodorant suits’ as well as anti-odour shirts and socks.
“More Japanese men are becoming concerned about their smell and so the need for anti-body odour products is growing,” said company spokesman Yuriko Moriya.
The 61,950 yen (292 pound) suits, are laced with disinfectants that absorb and break down substances that produce ageing odour and the smell of sweat. Sales this year have doubled from the same time last year.
Gomi says lifestyle changes are probably a better way to fight the smell, since avoiding stress and excessive eating and drinking help ease the problem.
But he added: “Being called ‘smelly’ can be damaging to our personality. In that sense, deodorant products can be used as a confidence booster.”