Akihabara News (Tokyo) — In June, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) selected twenty “femtech” companies for a combined subsidy of US$1.4 million to support endeavors at the intersection of technology and female health.
Femtech, a portmanteau of female and technology, addresses women’s health issues via revolutionary products and services, consequently confronting the taboo surrounding things like menstruation, pregnancy, infertility treatment, and menopause.
Some emerging femtech startups in Japan are Hi to Bito, fermata, Nagi, Comfits, Neith Incorporated, Ashlyn, Herbio, FamiOne, Laundry Box, and bonyu.
Hi to Bito, founded in August 2017 by Ai Kobayashi, is a production and distribution company for products made from local agriculture. Its organic feminine skin care brand, “Tomorrow I Will Climb a Persimmon Tree,” is one of the endeavors selected by METI for the subsidy. Hi to Bito aims to create options for feminine hygiene that allow busy women to take time out of their day to properly take care of themselves.
fermata, established in 2019 by Amina Sugimoto and Hiroko Nakamura, is an ecommerce platform that facilitates access to technologies designed for female health. Working under the vision of “transforming taboos into triumphs,” fermata pushes for international femtech products to reach a Japanese audience. fermata also facilitates brick-and-mortar shops and services in Japan. Such locations include New Stand Tokyo, a store that sells products listed on the fermata website, as well as Shirokane Takanawa Ebine Women’s Clinic, a clinic that offers obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics, and more. fermata also operates in Singapore, on a track towards improving the femtech market across Asia.
Nagi, founded by Rina Ishii, is a period underwear brand built on the opinions of 150 Japanese women and hand-sewn Japanese materials. With the mission statement “to be yourself everyday,” Nagi provides women with a comfortable, eco-friendly alternative to single-use pads and tampons. Nagi has three styles to address different fits and flows such as the full style, which sits at the waist. Nagi also runs Nagi Room, a blog that spotlights the women of the company along with features on menstrual health. Ishii was originally known for her media outlet Blast, which featured topics such as female reproductive diseases, sexuality, and LGBT issues, until she established Nagi to narrow her focus on menstrual health.
Comfits is another period underwear product under the lingerie brand Lace Fran de Lingerie. Priced at an accessible US$18-$26 with inclusive sizing that goes from XS to 3XL, Comfits provides women with more options for comfortable reusable menstrual wear. Although only available in black, there are six different styles to choose from depending on an individual’s fit preference and flow. The special + style boasts a high-waisted style. Furthermore, part of the profits from comfit sales are donated to Colabo, a nonprofit organization that shelters teenage girls in Shibuya and Shinjuku.
Neith Incorporated, founded by Eri Nobuchika, launched Rine, another contributor to the market of period underwear. Rine has the highest absorption capacity of the products of the firms listed. They also offer a regular option for lighter flow days with a selection of three different sizes and colors. The fabric utilizes an eco-friendly wood fiber based material dubbed Tencel, making the product biodegradable. Rine has also recently launched a collection of bralettes for nursing with absorbent padding and a v-shaped front for simple and comfortable nursing.
Ashlyn, founded by Miku Kojima in 2016, launched Belle Macron, Japan’s first no-wire bra. Belle Macron was crowdfunded in 2017 to launch a new color and has since also launched a new “24h bra” designed as a bra comfortable enough to wear even while sleeping. The product comes in six colors and covers cup sizes A to G.
Herbio, established by Sayuri Tanaka, developed a wearable device called Picot that measures basal body temperature. The small coin-sized Picot takes deep body temperature every ten minutes while its wearers sleep, and will monitor pulse, body motion, and breathing, as well as detect abnormalities. These features allow women to predict ovulation patterns and menstruation for easy health monitoring and family planning.
FamiOne, founded by Yusuke Ishikawa in 2015, is an app that supports family planning via the messaging app Line. Nurses and counselors certified by the non-profit organization Fine offer tailored advice regarding fertility concerns. Basic functions such as hospital recommendations are free, and a US$36 a month subscription allows users to talk freely with experts via phone or text. FamiOne also stresses the importance of covering all issues for individuals of all walks of life, including menopause, nursing care, cancer, those with disabilities, and LGBT individuals.
Laundry Box, established by Misa Nishimoto in 2019, is a lifestyle platform concerned with the development and sale of sanitary products. Nishimoto also launched Laundry Girl, a blog focused around women’s bodies and sexuality, covering themes of sex education, LGBT issues, and sex culture. With the informational blog working in tandem with offering more sophisticated options for sanitary products, Nishimoto aims to give women more options and more authority over their health.
bonyu, founded in 2018 by Midori Ogino, is a breast milk analysis service for mothers wishing to monitor their lactation. By analyzing the contents of breast milk, bonyu advises mothers on their lifestyle and their child’s condition to identify any correlation or causation, and suggests what kinds of foods mothers should eat more or less of. bonyu will also be using the research to further study breast milk and its capabilities regarding what it does for a child’s natural immunity and development.
Some companies mentioned above as well as other femtech startups will be at Femtech Tokyo, a specialized exhibition for femtech companies taking place on October 20-22, 2022.
According to Emergen Research, the global market for technology geared towards women is projected to reach US$60 billion in 2027.
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