Tag Archives: Japan

Typhoon in Japan

 

In the 3+ years I have lived in Japan, this is not the worst storm I’ve seen.  It does, however, suck to be stuck at work today.

 

Glad I had a spare pair of trousers and sox, but I wish I could find some affordable size 12 (30 cm) rain boots.

 

Taiphoon

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Olympic illumination in Japan

So for the 2016 Rio Olympics, the Skytree continues its trend of special illuminations.

The standard illumination during the games rotates between white and red for the Japanese flag (日の丸):

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And yellow and green for the Brazilian flag:
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But on days when Japan has won a Gold Medal, they illuminate the Skytree in gold:
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Gold Medal Skytree

No silver or bronze.  Guess Japan is win or go home.
Its neat to think that I might see they games in 4 years from now.  That is, after all, why the JET Program has expanded to Tokyo.

Surviving the Heat in Japan

Another hot day in Tokyo.  Currently, it is 95 degF or 35 degC.  Thankfully the humidity is rather low today.

 

Coming from Seattle, where the weather is usually in the mid-70’s, it is difficult to bear the heat even after being here for a year.  I try to spend as much as my time in-doors during the day, but it isn’t a panacea for avoiding heat in Japan.  Japanese schools aren’t designed to be climate friendly to the occupants.  Moreover, use of the AC is selective on a staff-by-staff basis.  In the teacher’s staff room, for instance, the AC runs at an extremely low setting.  There is a large fan, not far from where I’m sitting, but it remains unused.

In the English staff room, however, things are different.  The AC is running continuously throughout the day, sometimes even when staff members are absent.  The English room is much smaller though, and uses fewer resources to cool.

Much of the heat disparity is motivated by two separate but related issues.  First, Japan’s “COOL BIZ” policy. The current governor-elect of Tokyo, Koike, spearheaded Cool Biz as a policy from back in 2005.  It aims to reduce the usage of power that AC units consume.  Currently, from May to October, most government organizations and many businesses discard dress code of wearing a full suit to a button-down shirt with an open collar.  Sleeves can be worn rolled-up or short.  Not only does it reduce the environmental impact with reduced energy consumption, but it also saves money.

The second reason is more abstract, and has more to do with Japanese culture.  Japan is a famously austere culture, which abhors waste or over-consumption.  Followed by the fact that the leadership structure in Japan is incredibly verticalized, when a frugal boss doesn’t use the AC for whatever reason, the rest of the staff toe the line and forgo AC use too.  Japan has the saying of “gaman,” which loosely translates as “to endure with dignity and without complaint,” it’s generally out of place for a subordinate to complain at conditions which the leader has already accepted to endure.  From my experience, information is always disseminated by leaders here, and rarely is feedback elicited.  It doesn’t mean that feedback is always buffed, but it can be seen as a poor team dynamic for a team member to express their needs to the group.  Thus, since my vice-principal forgoes the AC, the rest of us with use “gaman” and make due.

Outside of work, my ongoing interest in recreational cycling and my more recent hobby of PokemonGO as started to falter.  My cycling route lacks sufficient light source to bike safely at night.  And since sundown is usualy prior to 7pm, I wait until the weekends. However with the heat, I have opted to remain in-doors as much as possible during the day.  As far as PokemonGO is concerned, I still regularly take walks after sundown.  Unfortunately, my motivation suffers once I have returned home and settled-in for the evening.

Japanese news often reports on heat-stroke casualties in Japan. The numbers seem really high, until you realize that Japan does not differentiate from heat-stroke and the less severe heat-exhaustion.  Even in extreme heat, heat-stroke is rare.  It typically requires that a person not only be exposed to heat, but fail to hydrate as well as physically exert themselves.  Heat-exhaustion is much more common.  Thankfully preventative measures can reduce the risk.

First**Stay Hydrated!  Make sure you also balance electrolytes periodically with a sports drink.  But water should be first and foremost.
-Dress appropriately.  I have done away with my button down shirt and am mostly wearing an untucked polo shirt on my average work day.  Additionally, I wear a spandex or Under Armor type shirt below.  It helps wick away sweat and dries faster than the cotton of my shirt.
-Stay out of direct sunlight.  On top of the obvious heat of the sun, Japan has a much higher humidity than my hometown.  Humidity is a multiplier of the heat and can drain the body, causing it to sweat even while not in direct sunlight or with exertion.
-Don’t overdo it.  Its always a good idea to take frequent breaks in the shade or in an air-conditioned room.

Japan wants your poop.

Specifically, the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education wants you to collect a stool sample.

It’s that time of year for my school that we are doing our annual health exams. I will get to ‘look forward’ to the inevitable poking and prodding and being told that I am overweight (grossly obese by Japanese standards). These things I was expecting, having read reviews by previous JET Programme participants. What I was un prepared for was the bonus activity of having to handle my excrement.

I was issued a small, blue ziplock pouch with some items in it. The teacher who gave it to me, looked at it, looked at me, then back at it; he proclaimed with a vexed expression that he would have to write me a note with the instructions. To save time I volunteered to have my wife give me instructions. He seemed pleased with that option.

When I presented the pouch to my wife we opened it and she promptly determined it was to collect a stool sample. It contained a folded instruction sheet (in Japanese), to sample collection vials and two folded sheets of paper. The sheets of paper are to prevent your excrement from sliding down the pipe where the toilet flushes out of (pardon for my lack of plumbing terminology). Each of the vials has a small ridged plastic probe fixed to the cap. You are supposed to use the probe to penetrate the excrement to the degree that the ridges retain some of your waste. You then close the vial which contains a blue preservative liquid.

Woe to me, the barrier sheet I placed in the toilet was not strong enough to contain my sample and it tore thru. In a distressed state I called to my wife. She suggested I use disposable chopsticks to grab my sample and pierce it with the probe. After much frustration I proceeded to fish out my sample enough that I could collect material on the probe… while fighting back my intense desire to vomit.
I firmly closed the caps; triple bagged the chopsticks in a garbage bag and wiped down all surfaces with Lysol Disinfecting Wipes. The collection was successful and I was able to follow my wife’s recommendation without contaminating myself, but the psychological damage was done.

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I had just used chopsticks to grab my poo so I could poke it with a plastic stick.
I think I’ll be using a fork for a while.

When traveling by JET…

So I left the US on 07/25/15 (got to Japan on the 26th) and had a reasonably comfortable flight on Delta Airlines. My local JET Alumni Association was kind enough to see us off and give us some going away gifts.  The fan and sweat towel are lifesavers if you don’t already have them for your trip.  I typically go through two sweat towels a day, now that its the peak of summer.
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Helpful tip for the flight, food quality is better if your request a kosher meal and the seat is more comfortable if you can arrange to get a bulkhead seat (44J for me).  I’m talking about a First Class amount of legroom almost.

When you get to NRT-Narita Airport, you hit the ground running.  Immediately you check in with Immigration (where you are issued an Alien Registration Card), collect your bags, go through customs and make your way to the buses.  Those who are wise have their important items pre-packed into their one allotted carry-on and check-in bag they are allowed to take to the Shinjuku Plaza Hotel.  From personal experience, it is a pain to have to repack in the airport.  Excess baggage is sent ahead (Shinagawa Prince Hotel for TJETs) and you may not see it again for a while.
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Arriving on Sunday, we got the rest of the day off, but I was too tired and sweaty (adjusting to TKY heat) to do much other than get some basic provisions at a drug store and a simple meal at Coco Curry.  Yay~~~curry!!!!
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The following day we began our Post-Arrival Orientation.  Seattle Consulate and PNW JETAA prepared us really well and much of the content of the lectures/presentations were old hat by then.  There was some interesting information, but as it was the most basic kind of information, other parts of the content completely did not apply to the TJETs who would be placed almost exclusively at a single high school as part of our assignments.  Be prepared for a lot of sitting, clapping, trying not to fall asleep while fighting JETlag (<-that’s a pun btw), waiting for lunch, shuffling through paperwork and general amounts of boredom.  Also, bring a notebook.  The paper provided is not good for much more than writing in the margins.
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Japan Today

Japan today is very hot.  Very humid.  The Japanese term is 蒸し暑い-Mushiatsui.  Meaning muggy, but I prefer the Japanese because with as much as I sweat in this heat I feel “mushy”.  Its been 90+ degrees with high humidity.  I suffered heat exhaustion recently so make sure you drink lots of water and mind the electrolytes.  Be aware that it hits you, sometimes before you realize it.
The in-processing experience that is JET post-arrival orientation is everything and more that previous JETs said it would be.  That’s not exactly a compliment.  The JET program has a lot of moving parts to it and a lot of ALTs to administer to.  Being caught in the hustle and bustle can make you wonder what the hell you’re doing on a daily basis and how much planning was given to what you need to do when you hit the ground running.  You know that there is a theoretical plan, but just where you are in it is more of the issue.
Furthermore, Tokyo Jets as myself have compounded issues.  My situation is extraordinarily lucky as I have family in Japan helping me get set up.  But if you get selected as a TJET, you are both blessed and cursed in some ways.
I will update later with a more detailed description of it, but lets just say than katsudon for breakfast makes everything better.

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#Katsuya