Photo/IllutrationAntiperspirant items are lined up in a drug store before the start of the hot summer weather in Osaka’s Kita Ward on July 4. (Hirokazu Suzuki)

Like many office workers in Japan's miserable heat and humidity in summer, Hisaaki Yoshii relies on disposable body-wipe sheets for peace of mind.

As there are women working in his office and as he grows older, he doesn’t want his co-workers to think that he smells.

Yoshii, 45, doesn’t notice his own body odor, which prompts him to further worry about it.

When returning to the office after sweating outside, Yoshii goes to a vacant place and wipes himself with the pre-moistened sheets before heading to his desk.

“(After wiping my upper body) I feel relieved to know that I will not bother other people with my body odor,” said Yoshii, a public servant in Habikino, Osaka Prefecture, who has carried the wet sheets for six years.

According to Intage Inc., a market research company, the market size for antiperspirant items in fiscal 2018 in Japan was 41.7 billion yen ($396 million), excluding Okinawa Prefecture.

In fiscal 2014, it totaled 37.1 billion yen, an increase of 12 percent in only four years.

By types of antiperspirant goods, powder sprays had long been the top sellers, but were passed by body-wipe sheets in fiscal 2018.

“Portable type items sell well. The trend will continue for a while,” an official of the research company said.

The backdrop against the rise is the heightened awareness of “smell harassment” in offices, where co-workers are offended by colleagues' body odor.

According to a 2017 survey by Mandom Corp., an Osaka-based cosmetics manufacturer, about 46 percent of respondents said they knew of smell harassment, which has more than doubled compared to about 20 percent in a survey in 2014.

Asked what concerns them the most during Japan's “Cool Biz” summer campaign season, about 63 percent, the highest, said “body odor,” exceeding the 59 percent who cited “sweating."

“Women who are said to be sensitive to body odors are moving increasingly into the workplace," said a Mandom spokesperson. "Promoting smoking bans in offices might be making body odors stand out more instead of smelling cigarette smoke.”

There are two kinds of sweat glands that produce sweat. Of the two, sweat coming from the apocrine glands, which exist mostly in the armpits, groin and area around the nipples, is problematic. The sweat from these glands includes elements of fat, proteins and ammonia, which are dissolved by bacteria on the skin and generate a distinctive odor.

“By keeping such spots clean, we can reduce the odor,” said Kozo Hirata, Kobe Women’s University professor, specializing in home economics.