Why it’s not a good idea to buy tissues in Japan

I don’t get sick often so I didn’t think to buy tissues for when I went to Japan. Once there though, the cold December weather eventually started making my nose run. Luckily Yohei’s mom had a small pack for me. His family lives in Sendai. Sendai is a big city, however, many people don’t drive cars around. We instead walked everywhere. It was nice and the people were friendly- but it was cold!

The second day Yohei and I walked somewhere, a person passed out tissues for free. I was super excited. Apparently many people will pass out tissues as a way of advertisement. They usually stand at a busy intersection and pass them out to any person that walks by them. They will place a page in the pack that explains the services they are advertising. I guess the idea behind this is that we will have to see their ad every time we get the pack out for a new tissue.

Now, as I mentioned above, the first time this happened I was very excited. After awhile though this was overwhelming. I had this small backpack I carried around and that was it. It already had stuff in it and I was slowly cramming more and more tissues in it. We walked around everyday and I could easily collect anywhere from 2-4 packs of tissues a day. That’s a lot of tissues!

I went to Tokyo, Sendai, and Matsushima. Matsushima was smaller so they didn’t pass out tissues. I was only in Tokyo for three days and we didn’t walk around as much. I never saw people passing out tissues but Yohei says they do. I walked around a lot in Sendai though so I know for a fact they pass them out a lot. If you are planning on visiting Japan, especially a bigger city, then here are a few tips for you:

Tip #1: Don’t worry about buying tissues for the trip. You will end up with them for free. Worst case scenario- buy only one small pack to start with.

Tip #2: Try to walk through busier intersections because you will more than likely find people passing them out there.

Tip #3: If you happen to go through an intersection with multiple people all around passing tissues out, then use caution. Once you accept a pack of tissues, DO NOT put them in your pocket or bag. I made this mistake and ended up with three packs from one intersection alone. If you put them away then the very next person you see will try to give you more tissues. Instead, keep it visible in your hand until you have walked away from the intersection. (Unless you want a lot.)

Tip #4: If you do end up with too many; then they make great gifts. I bought a lot of gifts while there and decided to throw in a pack of tissues with each gift. I guess it depends on your friends but mine loved it. They loved seeing the Japanese writing. Or if you are taking a Japanese class or something like that, you could always bring back some to pass out in class.

(The picture attached: the last pack of tissues I have from my trip to Sendai 5 months ago. Advertising a Men’s Hair Salon.)