For most of us non-Japanese women, moving to Japan and transitioning to life here can be a huge weight. So what to do when you find your body suddenly changing without warning? How do you cope in a foreign country when you become foreign to yourself? And where the heck can a gal find brown bread in this country?
Know that change is gonna come
So you’ve acquired an unwelcome muffin top. Or your skin has exploded. Or your hair has taken on an electrocuted frizz and… you. Loathe. It.
Guess what? It’s completely okay to feel that way but just remember that it is expected. It’s what our bodies do. They change. Especially when our lives have taken a 360-degree turn. I came to Japan on JET (the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program) where I was randomly placed in the most inaka (countryside) location ever.
I mean, this place didn’t even have a 7-Eleven.
Which meant the health foods I was used to back home—whole wheat crackers, brown bread, quinoa, nuts and seeds to name a beautiful few—were as alien to my environment as I was myself. Plus, the nearest sports facility was an hour’s drive away and I felt uncomfortable exercising outside because everyone stared.
Spot the 7-Eleven.
Accept that living in an unaccustomed place, breathing in different air, eating exotic foods, working an unfamiliar job and engaging in new daily habits instinctively have a big impact on our health.
See your body for what it is: a miracle in motion
Turns out Japanese food isn’t as healthy as I had expected. During my first months here, eating the school lunch (white rice and white bread) every day, dining out and eating over at my …continue reading
After Japan’s rainy season ends, you may want to keep an eye out for some unwanted house guests. Just like how there are lots of unique things to love about living in Japan, there’s a whole assortment of insects too—possibly even making a home behind your walls.
If you’re the kind of person that would rather shoo a creepy-crawly out rather than immediately running to the poison spray, it can be hard to tell which insects are safe to pick up and remove and which ones are dangerous to handle. So today, we present some of the worst summer bugs to keep an eye out for and, more importantly, how to avoid them.
Japan’s infamous suzumebachi, or “killer hornet,” is one of the more dangerous creatures on this list, as it does kill a dozen or so people every year.
The suzumebachi is larger and has a far more venomous sting than conventional hornets. However, a single attack is unlikely to be fatal to an adult unless you have a wasp/bee sting allergy or you are stung several times in quick succession. The danger posed by suzumebachi comes from the fact that they often live in swarms. Therefore, you might be more likely to be stung in more rural areas, making it far tougher to seek medical attention if someone does go into anaphylactic shock.
Suzumebachi are rare in urban areas, so you are unlikely to have them show up in your house unless you live in the countryside near mountains or forests. You are most likely to encounter one of these while hiking, but some simple steps can …continue reading
Japanese homes are typically equipped with fancy Japanese bath units, but public baths, or sento,are still common facilities. Although usually frequented by the elderly, they’re starting to become cool again with young people.
One traditional aspect of sento is enjoying a cold glass of milk. No one is really sure why, but one theory is that in the 1950s, sento offered common folk luxuries rarely seen in an average home: television, washing machines and refrigerators.
As a result, milk vendors saw a strategic advantage in stocking a sento with cold milk. Thus, drinking cold milk after a hot bath became a thing. Today, milk, coffee (with milk), fruity milk and other drinks are a sento staple, but the coffee variation is the most popular flavor.
“Drinking bottled milk at a sento seems obvious, but you actually need permission from the public health center to sell it.
As of last month, it has been changed to only require notification, but if you want to start selling new products, you will need to appoint a food hygiene supervisor. Surprisingly, there are many hurdles to selling bottled milk. If you see milk at a public bath, please give it a try!”
How to state the obvious
Based on the word 当然（とうぜん） (natural), 当たり前 is a common expression used to speak about things that are obvious, or in other words, “the way it is” and “the way it should be.”
当たり前だろう: “Of course!”
当たり前だ: “It goes without saying!”
当たり前じゃない: “Of course, not.”
日本（にほん）では当たり前（）のことが海外（かいがい）では当たり前（）ではない: “What is commonplace in Japan is not commonplace in other countries.”
挨拶（あいさつ）をすることは当たり前（）の礼儀（れいぎ）です: “It’s common courtesy to say hello.”
それは誰（だれ）もが当たり前と考（かんが）える: “It’s something we all take for granted.”
Finding the right medication, or 薬（くすり） (kusuri) in Japanese, can be tricky at the best of times. Entering a bright florescent lit drug store with a pounding headache makes the job even more of a pain. Add to your woes a foreign language, and you have a recipe for a bad time. Today we are going to look at common vocabulary found in a Japanese drug store, which will help you get in and out with confidence, so that you can get back to enjoying your time in Japan.
Where to buy medication in Japan
There are two types of stores that sell medication in Japan. First are the commonly found “drug stores”, or ドラッグストア in Japanese. Most drug stores will have a unique name, but include the word drug in their signage. The store in the photo above is called “Mine drug”. Drug stores are very common and plentiful in Japan. If you can remember the characters “ドラッグ” you will have no problem finding a drug store near you. Another way is to search through google maps with the keyword ドラッグ, as this will give you hits for all the different chain brands.
Drug stores sometimes have a registered pharmacist in store, but are generally more along the lines of a supermarket, specializing in medication. This means they primarily deal in over the counter medications, beauty care, toiletries and health foods. Somewhat ironically they are also a great place to buy snacks and sweets. If you believe you need more serious medication, you may need to visit a clinic and see a doctor or nurse. They can prescribe you better medication, which you can purchase at a pharmacy, or 薬局（やっきょく） (yakyoku) in Japanese.
When I think of “girl power,” I think of independent badass women, who have control over their lives and finances, are physically strong and healthy, and have their own unique style and way of thinking. The nuance of the Japanese term “joshiryoku” (literally, girl power) is, however, far different and describes the “power” to be the all-encompassing “feminine woman.” If you’re referred to as someone that’s “joshiryoku takai” (high-level of “girl power”) you likely have a spotless home, cook elaborate meals, always have your nails and makeup done perfectly and are a great socializer. You’d be a good wifey and you embody old-school femininity.
When it comes to health, maybe your “joshiryoku” level is high if you order juice cleanses or frequent an oshare hot yoga studio. Deadlifting twice your bodyweight is most often considered scary and having calluses and chalk on your hands from lifting is certainly not feminine. Diet, drink juice, and hold the pink dumbbells. Many women are led to believe that’s enough “girl power.”
When I think of “girl power,” I think of independent badass women, who have control over their lives and finances, are physically strong and healthy, and have their own unique style and way of thinking.
As in the west, it’s all-too-common for women in Japan to avoid picking up the weights as to avoid the societally ingrained fear of “getting too big.” It’s becoming rare to find strength trainees in Japan who train for anything other than aesthetics, given the popularity of weight loss services such as Rizap. If a man can bench press three plates, he’s seen as an advanced strength trainee and not to be messed with. See a woman benching more than her body weight? She’s a weirdo. Societal expectations and misunderstandings …continue reading
A helpful guide to the reservation process, precautions, and possible side effects you can expect when getting the jab in Japan.
While a lot of countries overseas have been vaccinating their residents for a while now, Japan has been relatively slow to follow suit, with a large number of under-65s still waiting to receive vouchers from the local government, which are required to receive the free vaccine.
It hasn’t been an easy road for those who’ve received their vouchers either, as many have run into problems when trying to secure an appointment, and our reporter Ikuna Kamezawa found herself in that exact situation when she tried to make a booking at a clinic in Nakano, the ward of Tokyo where she resides.
Bookings were full until 15 August, after which time she’d have to battle it out with other residents to get her jab, so she decided to try her luck at the mass vaccination site set up by the Self Defense Forces in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward.
The mass vaccination site has been set up as an option for those wanting to receive their shot as soon as possible, but it too requires a reservation, so Ikuna had her laptop at the ready at 11:45 p.m. on 25 June, 15 minutes before reservations for the week began.
As soon as reservations opened, a notice appeared, which read:
“Due to extreme congestion, you will be connected to the reservation site in turn. However, please be aware there is a possibility that the reservation screen may not show by the time you are connected.”
This had Ikuna on edge, but she was thankfully able to proceed to the reservation page and …continue reading
Japan Ninja Council wants to give visitors their first steps down the path of the shinobi.
Asakusa is considered the most historical neighborhood in Tokyo, largely due to its temples and the remaining connections to shops, inns, and restaurants that sprang up to meet the needs of visiting worshippers. As of this month, though, Asakusa has another connection to Japan’s past with the opening of the Ninja Information Center Tokyo & Dojo.
Established and administered by the Japan Ninja Council, the highest authority for all things shinobi-related, the facility is located just a block away from Kaminarimon, the gate that marks the approach path to the district’s famous Sensoji Temple. As the name implies, the Ninja Information Center Tokyo & Dojo is a hands-on place to learn about the culture of feudal Japan’s shadow warriors, offering introductory lessons in a variety of ninja skills.
Led by certified ninja Tsuyoshi Igarashi (pictured above), disciples for the day can train in one of three courses. The 40-minute Ninja Experience includes instruction on shuriken throwing, kujikuri ninja hand signals, and an explanation of the ninja’s most vital espionage and infiltration equipment.
Those looking to further hone their skills can opt for the 60-minute Short Nindo Experience, which introduces techniques for moving silently and additional meditation practice, all while dressed in appropriate ninja garb. Finally, the 90-minute Long Nindo Experience covers everything from the Short Nindo course, and also features kodachi (short sword) training, methods to enhance your sensory perception, and more comprehensive guidance in the art of stealth.
If you’ve ever visited a Japanese train station in Japan, it’s likely stayed with you as a very Japanese experience. Rubbing shoulders with people from all walks of life is a great way to feel like a local, while the trains and stations themselves are filled with all sorts of foreign sights and sounds that make for a memorable journey.
If you’re lucky, one of the sights you might see at the station is a young woman with the power to control a train, if this recent viral video is anything to go by. Shared with the message, “Moving trains is my side hustle“, the video shows Japanese idol Tenka no Chan Yuki, who goes by the handle @yuki_banamon online, wielding her magnificent powers over an oncoming train.
Alright, maybe opponents don’t argue that, but they’ll probably start now, after a group of kids in Oguni Town, Yamagata Prefecture had a harrowing encounter on the morning of 21 June.
At about 7:45 a.m. five elementary students were on their way to school, being led by the eldest girl in the group. They were about 180 meters (590 feet) from the school when they spotted a human-like figure on the road. Adhering to proper manners, the eldest girl gave a hearty “Ohaiyougozaimasu! (Good morning!)” greeting.
▼ Greeting people with a certain level of enthusiasm and formality in school and the workplace is a custom instilled in Japanese people at a young age
However, upon closer inspection the person turned out to be a bear, but thanks to its species’ notorious lack of social graces the beast was unable to summon a proper response to the greeting and instead fled into the forest.
Not wanting to tempt fate, the kids immediately turned back home and got a parental escort to school that day.
▼ The approximate location of the incident was easy to find as there’s only one school and about three streets in the area
Police were also notified and have begun monitoring the area for bears every day. According to the local board of education, the area around the school has been experiencing a significant bear problem and …continue reading
Organizers don’t want people getting randy or rowdy in the Olympic Village.
Although the Olympics are, in many ways, a beacon for international friendship and cooperation, they’re still, at their core, a competition. So when the Games finally begin next month in Tokyo, for each event, only the top three competitors will go home with medals.
Everyone, though, will be going home with condoms.
During the Olympics some 18,000 people are expected to stay in the Olympic Village in Tokyo’s Harumi neighborhood. Among the amenities they were supposed to receive was a supply of 150,000 condoms. Prophylactic provision has been a part of the Olympics for the last few decades, but with continuing concern about the health safety of holding the Games during the ongoing pandemic, earlier this month the Tokyo Olympics Organizing Committee put out a statement requesting that athletes not use their Olympic condoms until they’re back in their home countries.
▼ Just to be clear, the intended message was “Please abstain from the close contact of sexual intercourse while staying in the Olympic Village,” not “Please enjoy unprotected sex while in Japan.”
Apparently the committee has since decided that giving athletes condoms upon arrival but telling them to save them for when they’re back in their home countries is a bit of a mixed message. On Sunday Takashi Kitajima, general manager of the Olympic Village, announced that the condoms will now be given to the Olympic teams as they are leaving Japan, not during the competition itself. “The condoms are not meant to be used while in the Village, but to increase awareness of the dangers of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases,” said Kitajima. “Not only medalists, but all Olympic athletes have the power to …continue reading