Japan's Aging Population Deals with Old Man Smell

"Do you smell all right?""Do you smell all right?"
Japan's average population is aging at a rate faster than most other industrialized nations and with age, comes wisdom... and a few other things too. As if hard-working "salarymen" don't already have enough worries, now they have to deal with "old man smell". The phenomena has even been given a name: kareishu.



Kareishu is caused by a certain type of fatty acid created in the bodies of older people. This substance, called "nonenal", has a distinct scent that is difficult to hide or mask since it is emitted from the skin when humans sweat.

Mind you, a common trend in Japanese advertising is to state some pseudo-scientific information in your spiel so buyers feel justified in buying the product. It should be noted that kareishu itself was named by the Shiseido Research Centre, an affiliate of Japanese cosmetics giant Shiseido.


Curiously, women can be equally affected though men seem to be the focus of the current kareishu campaign, as they're the ones who pack the subways on the way to the office - Japanese working women over the age of 40 are a MUCH rarer occurrence.


In any case, now that the seed has been planted, the products are beginning to roll out. I discussed Aoki's deodorant suits in a recent article, and also mentioned "Otoko Kaoru" (Man Smell) gum that causes fragrance to emanate from skin pores when chewed.

There are also a range of odor-eliminating soaps specially formulated to fight kareishu - at a special price, of course.

Figure on spending up to $20 per bar, and if you bathe or shower regularly (as the Japanese are famous for), you know how fast that bar will vanish. 

If soap won't cut it, spray it. This dedicated kareishu-fighting body spray from Platstore costs about $30 for a 150 ml (about 5-ounce) bottle. Given Japan's fiendishly hot & humid summers, that little bottle won't last long either.

All in all, Japan's gray-haired guys in gray flannel suits had best put off retirement for a few more years. How else are they going to pay for their age-related deodorants?

Aug 10, 2008
by Anonymous

Perhaps kareishu could be fought...

By discouraging smoking in Japan. A lot of the old men on the trains smelled like smokers to me.

Last time I was there cigarettes were like $3 us or less a pack... compared to $7 or more in the US.