Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Japanese Health Tips

I was wondering out loud why Britain is having a Swine Flu pandemic but Japan is largely unaffected and my Japanese friends replied that at the moment Japan is too humid for a virus to spread. Viruses thrive in dry climates, they say, which is why Japanese people use humidifiers in the winter. Now however the climate is so humid they are using de-humidifiers - see above. The above machine collected a litre and a half of moisture from the air in only 48 hours.

Also every day when they return home Japanese people gargle with iodine to disinfect their throats. They say that since colds and flu tend to start with a sore throat, gargling with iodine can kill the virus before it spreads to the rest of the body.

I don't know how true this all is. They also wrap leaks round their necks when they have a fever ...

Japanese Pub Food

With the university semester all over bar the exams, I have time to catch up with friends. We meet at izakaya which are Japanese pubs. Beer is cheap (180 yen - about one pound - a pint at one place we went to last week) and there are great selections of tasty and healthy food. My favourites are:

1. Tebasaki Chicken (a Nagoya speciality - hot and spicy)
2. Agedashidofu (deep-fried tofu topped with strips of seaweed, grated ginger and green onion)
3. Butter-fried shellfish topped with spring onion

Beats a burger any day of the week.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Rainy Season Returns

The morning after I wrote my last post about how hot and sunny it was now that rainy season was officially over, I awoke to the sound of rain drumming on my roof. It has continued on and off since then and this morning it is raining so hard that the workers queuing at the bus stop across the road are standing ankle deep in water. With the return of the rain, the temperature has dropped to a frosty 27 although the humidity has become worse. You can feel the moisture floating in the air. Paper loses its crispness and goes floppy. Dry clothes still feel damp. And I have to use a hairdrier to dry my hair because otherwise is just stays wet.

With the lower temperatures I have regained my appetite and my energy. The first thing I did was to summer-proof my wardrobe to protect my clothes and linens from the kabi or mold that grows in humid weather. I have put three moisture collection boxes in the back of the wardrobe, covered all my clothes in anti-mold covers and placed small anti-mold tablets (the orange and white tablets in the orange packets) on all linens and surfaces. They should also keep away bugs. I bought odourless products. The smell of a Japanese summer is drains, mosquito coils and mothballs.

Next, I must spray the bathroom with kabi-killer.

Thursday, 16 July 2009


Noooooooooooooo! The meteorological agency has announced that rainy season is officially over. No more rain is forecast and the temperature has soared to 33 degrees in the daytime, 25 at night. And little Japanese apartments have poor ventilation so when I got home last night at 7pm it was 35 degrees in my lounge. In the windowless capsule bathroom I could almost see the shampoo boiling. The humidity is far worse. I am so swollen up that I have to run my hands under the cold tap in the evenings just to get my rings off. On the plus side, I don't have a wrinkle on my face ...

In my galley kitchen I keep thinking I've left the hob on because the heat is intense. But apart from making cups of tea I'm not having any more hot foods at home. The best thing to do is to eat at a local 'family restaurant' (a diner). You can sit there for hours and the aircon is so icy that after 30 minutes your teeth start chattering. Of course, as older Japanese people keep reminding me, such cold aircon is not good for health. Yesterday I went to my local supermarket to stand by the freezers only to discover a man already there, lying on the floor. He was telling the ambulance crew that the change in temperature had been too much for him.

The UV rays are so fierce that women who wish to keep their pale complexions (and avoid skin cancer) must plan ahead as above. So I've got my: UV visor, full length gloves, parasol, and scarf. If I can keep my cool I will avoid natsubate (pronounced 'natsu bat tay') - heat exhuastion or summer lethargy.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Sunday, 12 July 2009


This cartoon figure is Kenketsu-chan, Little Blood Donation, hence the blood drops for ears. Our university just had a blood drive. Some of the students donated. The amount is 400ml (0.845 pint). I wanted to but Brits aren't allowed to donate in Japan due to the risk that we might be carrying Mad Cow Disease. A pity because I am B+ and that is quite rare here.

More Smap

Last night, being the first Saturday night I have been home and not working, I watched this season's popular trendy drama, Mr Brain featuring Smap's Takuya Kimura (known as 'Kimutaku'). Unfortunately it turned out to be the last in the series and the second of a two-parter to boot but I watched it anyway. Mr Brain is a bar host who is injured in an accident and wakes up to discover he's a genius. Last night he was helping police solve a fiendish crime and stop a bombing campaign. In the final scene he gets to do what all successful Japanese do, he leaves Japan and goes to America. On the plane is a masked hijacker. Mr Brain pulls off the hijacker's mask to reveal his Smap colleague, Shingo Katori. Then at 11pm Shingo Katori was hosting a programme about hot new products to buy. I fell asleep before it came on but not before I had seen a camera advert featuring Kimutaku. So you see you just can't escape Smap. I'm not saying I don't like them. They first appeared in 1988 and I first visited Japan in 1987 so in a rapidly changing society, Smap have been a rather comforting constant, to me and to the Japanese people. Their message is, if you work hard enough for long enough you can succeed. Regardless of talent or lack thereof. Check them out on Youtube. The first is Smap singing the Hikaru Utada hit 'Wait and See - Risk'(that's her in the car). They are singing live - don't say I didn't warn you. The second is the video for their 1997 hit and my personal karaoke favourite, 'Dynamite' with English subtitles and no consideration for health and safety. Enjoy!