Musings of a Gaijin MD

Life in Japan as a Foreign Doctor

Choo Choo October 26, 2011

Filed under: Sightseeing — GaijinMD @ 7:40 PM

Choo choo as in the train, not Jimmy Choo‘s unfortunately.

Anyways, the next day trip with the fam‘ consisted of taking an old steam locomotive train to a city that was normally known for its skiing in the wintertime.  During the autumn, the special train provided visitors with an original experience on travel several decades ago.  It also provided for nice views of the mountains and the season’s changing leaves.

Ceiling Fans in Train

Unfortunately, the steam locomotive encountered some problems after about 20 minutes, and we had to take a regular train in its place.  The day’s experience continued to decline from that point with multiple delays, rainy weather, swarms of snow bugs, lack of any other tourists at the park, and the time-of-transportation to time-of-actually-exploring-the-destination-city ratio (about 8:1).  😦

On the upside, we got to ride on the good ol’ fashioned choo choo trains, see some slight scenery, and spend family time.



Filed under: Sightseeing — GaijinMD @ 7:20 PM

Goblin of the Mountain

With the arrival of family members from the US, we visited a seaside city previously known as “Japan’s Wall Street,” or so I’m told.  Thankful for a beautiful day, we went up one of the surrounding mountains by cable car; the view of the underlying city and harbor with surrounding mountains in the midst of fall’s orange foliage was spectacular.  Did I mention the beautiful weather?

Afterwards, we went down to the seaside and visited an old fishermen’s dormitory next to a lighthouse.  We even got to play dress up in old fishermen/women’s costumes.  The view from the lighthouse, while different to the mountains earlier, was equally beautiful, especially in the setting of watching the sun set.

This day trip certainly was all about the earth and mountains and “the views.”


Volcanic Caldera Lake

Filed under: Sightseeing — GaijinMD @ 7:02 PM
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Several weeks ago, I visited a volcanic caldera lake next to one of Japan’s active volcanoes; the last eruption was in 2000.  This particular lake was the host for the international G8 summit and has an interesting shape.  The lake was circular, but in the middle lay an island similar in shape to a bull’s eye.

Unfortunately, the particular day that I went did not have very good weather as it had rained and drizzled with much fog so the visibility of the central island was subpar.  After a 2 hour train ride, we visited a ranch and rode on some horses.  I must say that my horse, Sakura, was the greediest horse I’ve ever seen in terms of food.  She literally would walk 5 steps and stop to munch on the grass on the hillside.  It took quite a bit of frustration and reining her in just to go up the mountain; on the upside, I guess it prolonged an otherwise short journey as I usually like horse riding.

We then had a lovely lunch at a restaurant with a wall of windows’ allowing for a beautiful view of the lake and island.  Afterwards, we began the long trek on foot to get to a ropeway cable car.  Unfortunately, we encountered swarms of what-I-now-know-are-called snow bugs.  While they do not bite, the sheer quantity of them was disturbing as they covered my coat and was on everyone’s hair and face and, if you’re unlucky, mouth.

By the time we finally arrived, it was quite late, but we did attempt to see the view from the ropeway cable car.  Maybe next time, I’ll get a nice clear view of the volcano crater.


Thermometer Faux Pas October 17, 2011

Filed under: Daily Life,Hospital — GaijinMD @ 3:48 PM
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Medical thermometer

Image via Wikipedia

As today was the first day available in our hospital for the annual flu shot, I eagerly participated.  One of the differences I noticed for this employee vaccination was the requirement of the body temperature to be taken.  In America, it is not the usual standard to check beforehand; in fact, you can get the vaccine even if you run a “low-grade” fever.  Also, while a fever is defined as temperature >38.3 degrees Celsius in America, in Japan it is >37.5 degrees.

Anyways, when I was told I would need to have my temperature recorded, they nicely pointed me towards the thermometers.  Now, these thermometers are the handheld versions that you can purchase at any typical drugstore instead of the ones that are attached to the blood pressure machines.

As I picked up one of these thermometers and took it out of the case, I stared at it for a while as I was wondering where the plastic sheath cover for it was located.  I did see the alcohol wipes so I proceeded to wipe it down.  All through this time, however, I still thought it was odd that there was no plastic cover, especially given how hygienic the Japanese normally are.

Well, I decided to stop wondering and stuck the thermometer into my mouth…….  And then the coordinator extraordinaire immediately stopped me to tell me it’s actually an under-the-armpit method, not the oral method.   😦  Of course, I promptly took it out after the thermometer had touched my tongue.

While not many other people witnessed this episode and I’m not really embarrassed, per se, I just want to scrub my tongue now.  I really don’t want to think about this any more, or else I am going to start gagging….


Affordable Japan

Filed under: Shopping — GaijinMD @ 9:17 AM
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清瀬 Kiyose-3: The Daiso (100 Yen Shop)

Image by abuckingham via Flickr

Japan is consistently ranked as having the most expensive cities in the world, and “affordable Japan” may seem like an oxymoron.  With the strong Japanese Yen currency, it can be quite costly.  One of the strategies to save money is to live like a Japanese instead of living like an American in Japan.

Another way is to shop at the 100 Yen (~$1.00) stores; the different companies include the 100 Yen Store, Daiso, and Seria.  These stores are as different from the American dollar stores as can be.  The variety and quality of the products are amazing (for the price)!  They carry everything from food, home improvement, arts & crafts, cleaning supplies, beauty supplies, pet supplies, office supplies, etc.  Whereas in America, the quality of the products can be questionable, the ones in Japan sometimes make one wonder how they “can” only sell for 100 Yen.

While many of the products are made in China, you can be lucky and find some made in Japan.  Even if the products are made in China though, quality control does a great job in making sure all the products are not shoddy/flimsy.

These stores are great fun, and you can easily browse for quite some time.  Don’t miss out!


Lavender October 10, 2011

Filed under: Sightseeing — GaijinMD @ 10:10 AM

Given the long 3-day weekend from Japan’s Health and Sports Day (I love these monthly holidays), I decided to make a trip to see the remains of the lavender farms and autumn’s leaves.  It was the last weekend available that the train had a direct route to that city, and the weather was great.  Off to the countryside I go!

On arrival, I joined a bus tour that took us to various places, including a winery (that I did not see wines being sold, oddly enough) and a lake that was nestled beautifully between mountains.  Of course, because it was a pre-planned tour, they also took us to the requisite shopping places hoping that we would spend some money.  I did get to try some lavender ice cream, which was much better than the lavender tea I had in the past.  Sugar and milk do wonders for the taste buds.

While I only saw 1 field of flowers, it was still an overall great trip to see the golds and oranges of the trees’ covering the mountains.  Next time, though, I will try visiting during the height of the flower season.


Row, Row, Row Your Boat October 8, 2011

Filed under: Sightseeing — GaijinMD @ 10:23 PM

With the arrival of autumn, I headed to another city park today to observe the changing colors of the leaves.  While I was probably just a tad early, I could still see several trees’ leaves beginning to turn red and orange.

This particular park had a lovely lake in its center with none other than boats for rent.  Of course, I snatched one up for myself and rowed around the lake.  It was quite a “peaceful” (although see below) experience, and I got to be up close and personal with the numerous duckies.

I did get some looks, though, as I was rowing my way around.  I’m not sure if it was because a.) I had my own boat to myself whereas all the other boats had more than 1 person, b.) I was being rebellious and decided to row in the way opposite to everyone else,  or c.) I was causing a ruckus because it’s my first time rowing a boat and I’m not too coordinated (even the duckies were flying away from me).