Musings of a Gaijin MD

Life in Japan as a Foreign Doctor

Tokyo Christmas December 27, 2011

Filed under: Sightseeing — GaijinMD @ 7:16 PM
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For this past Christmas weekend, I went to Tokyo to celebrate.  While I had visited the city before, this weekend was the first one for me to explore the city on foot and its amazingly complex, yet efficient, train/subway system.

On arrival, I went to a little neighborhood restaurant near my hotel for lunch.  In the middle of my meal, two English-speaking customers came in and ended up sitting to the right of me.  After getting over my innate shyness, I struck up a conversation with them and found out they were from Australia.  In the midst of this conversation, yet another English speaker jumped in from my left; it turned out that he was from California.  What were the chances that 4 English-speaking foreigners happened to meet in a random tiny neighborhood restaurant in Tokyo?  It was the beginning of my surprisingly happy trip to Tokyo.

Sony Building

Ginza

Ginza-Seiko Building

Afterwards, we parted ways as I visited a Meiji University torture museum with a small, but interesting, exhibit on the criminal system in old Japan.  Then, I was off to window shop in the Ginza area lined with designer shops and the iconic pedestrian intersection of Tokyo.  Later that evening, I met back up with the two Australians in Roppongi.  While we were not able to locate the international party, we got a nice “scenic route” out of the experience.

Shinkyo Bridge

Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil

Toshogu Shrine

Toshogu Shrine

Toshogu Shrine

Toshogu Shrine

The following day, I took a day trip to Nikko, which was about a 2-hour train ride north of Tokyo.  This city contained the UNESCO World Heritage designated Toshogu Shrine which was located in a complex of other shrines which were beautifully ensconced among the mountains within a forest of huge trees.  Unlike other typical Shinto Japanese shrines, this shrine was unique in Japan given its highly decorative, ostentatious, and colorful style that was more reminiscent of traditional Buddhist Chinese temples to my untrained eyes.

Another landmark in this city was the Kegon Waterfall.  I rode the elevator down to the base of the waterfall for a wonderful, but very cold, experience.

Harujuku

On the last day of my trip, I visited the famous Harujuku area (where Gwen Stefani was supposedly to have handpicked some of her back-up dancers) for some people-watching.  This area catered mainly to youngsters with a street jam-packed with people wearing quite diverse and, at times extreme, outfits.

Hermes Models

Hermes Model

Finished with Modeling

I even happened upon the Hermes store where live models were used to exhibit their clothing in the front store window.  I must say that while it was nice surprising eye candy, being up close to male models of couture  European designers really highlighted their slenderness, youthfulness, and distinct features with their decidedly high cheekbones.

Overall, I had a great time in Tokyo and am glad that while I have been to almost all the major cities of the world, Tokyo can still amaze and awe me with its mixture of history and modern vibrancy.  I was even able to relieve my “English withdrawal” that I had been experiencing up until Tokyo.  😉  I look forward to visiting again soon!

 

Bounenkai

Filed under: Hospital — GaijinMD @ 3:40 PM

With the end of the year approaching, the hospital held its annual bounenkai, or “forget-the-year gathering,” this month in the city’s hotel with the largest conference room.  The entire ~11,000 hospital employees and their families were invited with an actual attendance of about 700 people.

The attire for this event was a mixture of business and cocktail-wear.  Men usually wore their business suits while the women wore dresses.  In comparison to the States’ Christmas parties, the ladies’ apparel seemed to be more conservative and less “festive” although still elegant.

Instead of just having a group of people mingling at a typical holiday office party, this affair was more akin to a dinner show.  Attendees were seated in tables of 10 in the hotel ballroom while being served a 10-course Japanese meal with plenty of alcohol to go around.

During this time, the different hospital departments, i.e. residency program (usually interns), nursing department, surgeons, physical therapy, etc, performed on stage.  These performances ranged anywhere from the physical therapists’ rock band to lip-synching/dancing Japanese pop songs to traditional Japanese dances to the surgeons’ wearing only a loin cloth while performing a drum routine to pre-filmed videos of unusual antics (i.e. residents rolling around in the snow wearing only their boxers).  A common theme throughout these performances is having the male contingency cross-dressing and pushing the limits on vulgarity.

All in all, it was a very good time to be had by all.  Everyone got dressed up and “let their hair down” to celebrate the ending of the year.  It was definitely a unique experience as far as what a Japanese holiday “office party” consists of as I am pretty sure that this type of event could not be replicated in the States.  Indeed, how does one attempt to try to interpret the oxymoron of a “classy,” but “dirty,” party?

 

Taro Hakase December 19, 2011

Filed under: Sightseeing — GaijinMD @ 11:12 AM
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Last week, I was lucky enough to attend a concert by violinist Taro Hakase, who had toured with Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli in the past.  I was happy to find that my friend was able to obtain quite good seats as I usually only end up with nosebleed seats.

My band-director cousin would be proud of me when I say that I didn’t even fall asleep (unlike my previous attendance of Joshua Bell, unfortunately).  His music at this concert was of a more contemporary bent with a wonderful display of lighting; indeed, I think it’s really sparked my interest in lighting and all it entails.  Bright colors always attract my attention.  😉

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One of the differences in attending this concert was that at the end, one of the songs encouraged audience participation with bright pink feathery fans mixed with dancing.  It was quite a sight to see Taro Hakase and his entire band also dancing with these said fans to lead the audience.

 

Pizza Heaven December 18, 2011

Filed under: Food — GaijinMD @ 12:34 AM

I just had the most amazing pizza outside of Italy today.  I’m not kidding; the first and last time I had such a wonderful pizza was when I was in Rome.  Today, I ordered the “Romana” pizza which consisted of cherry tomatoes, garlic, anchovies, and basil.  Besides the wonderful taste of it with the perfect amounts of toppings with cheese and tomato sauce, the crust was to die for.  It was a thin crust a la traditional Italian style that was cooked in a stone fire oven.  I can’t believe it took me half a year before discovering this restaurant.

As a bonus, the couple sitting next to my table (about half a foot away) spoke English so I even felt like I was part of a “group” where I understood the conversation around me.   😉