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With a record number of tourists visiting Japan from abroad, items they take back home are diversifying from home appliances, watches and other “conventional” Japanese souvenirs.

Leben Co., an ear pick-maker in Yokohama, has seen a steep increase in sales over the past five years or so due to brisk purchases by tourists from Asian countries such as China, South Korea and Malaysia, company officials said.

While Leben produces various kinds of ear picks, products priced at more than ¥2,000, such as those with soft wires at the tip, are popular among tourists.

Their ear picks are all made in Japan and tests are conducted on them 10,000 times before shipment. Sales are increasing partly because of “trust in our quality,” said Toshimi Watanabe, head of Leben’s marketing department.

In the year ended last November, Leben sold some 210,000 ear picks, up about twofold from the previous year.

Foreign visitors to the Shinjuku store of Tokyu Hands Inc., which is known for home improvement and lifestyle products, are often surprised at the extensive lineup of ear picks.

Sophisticated ear picks, such as a product that gathers ambient light to light up the tip, and those carrying Made-in-Japan logos, attract foreign visitors, said Yosei Ninomiya, a public relations official at the store’s Shibuya Ward branch.

Foreign tourists are diversifying their interests in Japanese souvenirs because the widespread use of the Internet has helped them recognize the high quality and convenience of merchandise made here.

Some products have become popular with foreign visitors as they are now exempt from consumption tax.

One such item is Nichiban Co.’s Roihi-Tsuboko, small thermal patches that provide a warm sensation and help alleviate shoulder stiffness and lower back pain. In the April-September period last year, sales grew some 30 percent over a year earlier due to strong demand from Asian tourists.

The growth in sales has sped up since the government expanded the list of duty-free goods last year, said Nichiban official Satoshi Ogata.

In addition to the widespread use of the Internet, an increase in middle-income visitors from Asian nations following people in the high-income bracket has apparently contributed to diversified interest in unique Japanese items as souvenirs.

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