Musings of a Gaijin MD

Life in Japan as a Foreign Doctor

Onsen-Virgin No More November 25, 2012

Filed under: Sightseeing — GaijinMD @ 10:07 PM
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After having lived in Japan for a year, I finally screwed up the courage to visit an onsen, Japanese hot spring, when my friend came to visit me.  While people may perceive Americans as being really open and liberal in sexuality as depicted by Hollywood, an oxymoron in “skin-ship” does occur, as evidenced by most Americans’ squeamishness by Speedos and nude beaches, as opposed to the Europeans.

What caused my hesitance to visit an onsen is the fact that typical Japanese onsen etiquette requires everyone to strip down to their birthday suits prior to entering the water (onsens separated by gender).  I was told that you’d be given a small face towel so that you can chose to “strategically” cover whatever body part you want; the towel is supposedly only big enough where you do have to make a decision.

Anyways, with my friend’s visit, we both decide to shed our “onsen virginity” and see what all the hype is about.  We went to the largest onsen resort in Hokkaido, Noboribetsu, which is also the home to sulfur springs.  The particular onsen we visited has baths with various different types of minerals, i.e. sodium, calcium, sulfur, etc; it even has several outdoor pools.

On arrival to the onsen, we are first given lockers to place our valuables.  Then, we are led to the ladies’ changing room/restroom where we then proceed to divest ourselves of our clothing and are then given a towel which is pleasantly larger than expected, about the size of a hand, not face, towel so that it does cover much of the front side of the body so that we do not have to make a decision on which area to cover “strategically.”

On entering the pool/onsen area, we first encounter rows of tiny cubicles where we wash ourselves with the provided handheld shower nozzle, shampoo, conditioner, soap, and face wash so that we will be clean when we enter the onsens‘ waters.  Then, it’s off to the different baths; we changed about every 5 minutes or so, but after about 4-5 different baths, we were ready to call it a day as too much of the hot water makes one get dizzy.  During this whole time, we are able to tote around our little towels and cover ourselves while moving from bath to bath or put it on top of our heads while we are actually in the bath (since towel in onsen water is a no-no).

Overall, a pleasant, relaxing time that is really not as bad as it had initially seemed.  Consider ourselves now initiated.


Lavender-Take 2 September 21, 2012

Filed under: Food,Sightseeing — GaijinMD @ 2:18 PM
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Since I missed the high season of lavender last year, I barely managed to return again this year in August.  Since it was the end of the season, I was only able to visit 1 farm that had about 2 plots of flowers of which lavender was one of the various types grown.  While the colors were beautiful, I had a grand time with the lavender ice cream (again) and trying lavender lemonade.  The lemonade was surprisingly good; it tasted more like a “fragrant” lemonade.  While I was initially afraid that the lavender may overpower all other tastes, I am happy to say that it did not.

Lavender ice cream: thumbs up

Lavender lemonade: thumbs up  🙂


Kamakura September 19, 2012

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu

I’m very sorry about the lack of updates recently, but I’m still alive and truckin’ along.  This past weekend, I went to Tokyo for a day trip to Kamakura, the former de facto capital of Japan.  At just an hour away from Tokyo, this little town boasts of numerous temples and shrines of which the most popular are the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine (the spiritual heart of the city), the Great Buddha (2nd largest in Japan), and the Hase Kannon Temple (the tallest wooden image in Japan of the goddess of mercy).

Despite the heat and humidity, an archery competition was also held that day at the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine.  Unfortunately, due to the amount of people, I could not get a good view, or any at all, of the event.

While the Great Buddha was “great” and big, I couldn’t help feeling slightly underwhelmed, especially in comparison to the Big Buddha in Hong Kong (although that Buddha may have appeared bigger in my memory, especially to a younger/smaller me).  Granted, the bronze Japanese Great Buddha was cast in 1252 (while the one in Hong Kong was erected in 1993) so taking the age of it into consideration, one should see it.  You could even walk inside the hollow Buddha, but given the weather, I did not want to brave the possible air stagnation in the oppressive heat.

All in all, while Kamakura is nice and convenient for a day trip from Tokyo, I still prefer Nikko.


Japanese Children July 21, 2012

Filed under: Daily Life — GaijinMD @ 5:41 PM

As a casual observer of Japanese life and culture, one will inevitably encounter the future generations of Japan, a.k.a. the children.  Now, let it be known that I am not disparaging other children, but in my opinion, Japanese children are just soooooo cute, or kawaii, especially when you see them going on field trips in little matching uniforms with matching hats (2 different colors to denote girls from boys) and holding hands, a la the buddy system.  As you see in this picture, these little kids are placed in mobile “cribs” so they can be carted to their field trip destination, the train station, in this case, to see the real live action of trains.  Choo-choo!


Beach Clean-Up July 20, 2012

Filed under: Hospital,Sightseeing — GaijinMD @ 2:38 PM
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My Loot


My Treasure

Litter Clean-Up

Last month, the hospital organized its annual beach clean-up.  The weather turned out to be great with a bit of cloud cover so that we all wouldn’t be roasted.  As my first experience with litter clean-up at a beach, it was surprisingly fun.  It was like beach-combing for treasures, and indeed, I found quite a few seashells.  All in all, a fun experience that also does some good for the community; can’t wait to do it again!


Shrine Festival June 16, 2012

Filed under: Daily Life,Sightseeing — GaijinMD @ 9:30 PM
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Today, I went to one of the two locations in the city for the annual Shrine Festival.  Like last week’s Yosakoi Soran Festival, the city’s inhabitants all migrated to enjoy the rituals, games, and food stands in the midst of the gorgeous weather.  While most people dressed in their daily western-styled clothing, some women and children were outfitted in their yukata, or casual summer kimono.  One of these days, I hope also to have/wear a yukata or kimono; it should be fun.

Anyways, below is another of my amateur attempts to capture a little bit of the festival.  Hope you like it!


Yosakoi Soran Festival June 10, 2012

Filed under: Sightseeing — GaijinMD @ 8:21 PM
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With the advent of the summer season brings forth the annual Yosakoi Soran Festival, which lasts several days in the city’s largest park and features multiple groups of dancers, a la marching band’s color guard (oh, the memories).  It seems like the entire city’s inhabitants are out and ready to enjoy the upcoming season and great weather!