Musings of a Gaijin MD

Life in Japan as a Foreign Doctor

Purikura January 23, 2012

Filed under: Sightseeing — GaijinMD @ 8:47 PM
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A fun activity for anyone visiting Japan is to go to a purikura, shortened Janglish for “print club,” or a photo booth machine.  Usually, many of these machines actually occupy an entire floor of a department store.  One may wonder if it’s actually necessary to have so many, and I can now attest that it is quite addicting.

On arrival to the purikura area, you can select from which machine you want to take your pictures as each machine has a different theme from “Glamour Shot-esque” to cute to holiday themed.  You then go inside the booth where you stand in front of a green screen (allowing for manipulation of backgrounds) and pick from the multitudes of backgrounds and configurations.  After trying to understand the rapid firing of Japanese coming from the machine, you will then get your pictures taken in whatever poses you want (all the while trying to focus on the actual camera and not the monitor screen).

Afterwards, you will then proceed to the other side of the machine to personalize the pictures, such as adding icons, letters, drawings, and more backgrounds and borders.  Special features include adding false eyelashes and blush and eye enlargement along with changing hair color; apparently, the Sailor Moon look is quite popular.  A time limit is set so don’t dawdle.  The machine will then spit out several (usually 2) sheets of photo (stickers).

Overall, it’s a fun and cute experience that won’t break the bank!


Yokohama January 20, 2012

Filed under: Sightseeing — GaijinMD @ 9:30 PM
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As a day trip from Tokyo, Yokohama is very convenient to visit; indeed, many people living in Yokohama commute to work in Tokyo.  During my recent visit, I was able to visit Sankeien Garden, and I must sing its praises.  While a little out of the way in requiring a bus trip from the train station, it was very well worth it as I thought it larger and more beautiful than any other Japanese garden I have visited, even in Kyoto.

Another highlight of Yokohama was its Chinatown, the largest in Japan; I would even venture to say that it’s larger than many other Chinatowns around the world, including NYC, SF, LA, London, and Paris.  It was, however, very clean, as is typical of Japan.  I even tried some “pan-fried dumplings” that I thought was a fusion Chinese/Japanese dish; it was certainly unique (and expensive) albeit good.


Ringing in the New Year’s with Seoul January 18, 2012

Filed under: Sightseeing — GaijinMD @ 11:30 PM
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Preparing for the New Year's Celebration

Jongmyo Shrine

As one of the largest holidays in Japan, New Year’s offers many days off from work.  Taking advantage of this mini-vacation, I hopped (more like a 3 hour plane ride) across the Sea of Japan to the land of K-dramas.  As the second time visiting Seoul, I tried to visit many of the palaces and shrines that I was not able to see the first time around.  During the entire time, I kept wondering why it felt so much colder in Seoul than it did in Hokkaido where it was actually snowing; perhaps it was a different type of wind or perhaps I was just out walking all day.

Given that I’ve now resided in Japan for half a year and my second jaunt to Seoul, I’ve made some observations:

  • Because of its location in between China and Japan, there’s unsurprisingly much influence (and history) of these cultures in Korea.  For example, some Korean words sound very similar to Cantonese (Chinese dialect older than Mandarin) while some words are the same as Japanese words (i.e. “onion” and “bag”).  Many moons ago, the Koreans actually used Chinese characters in writing until the current “alphabet” pronunciation system was developed.  Japanese also uses Chinese characters (kanji) in addition to a pronunciation “alphabet,” or syllabary.
  • Korea has multitudes of delicious foods stalls and outdoor shopping stalls like China and unlike the dearth of them in Japan.
  • While generally cleaner than China and very convenient, Seoul still can’t compare to Japan in terms of the “orderliness” in public areas.  For example, people do not line up for the subways or stand on one side of the escalators (to allow people who want to walk on the other side) in Seoul.
  • Korea has a surprisingly large Christian population of about 25%.  Apparently, Chinese missionaries brought over this religion.
  • Taxis are so much cheaper in Seoul than Japan.
  • Korea has an awesome radiant floor heating system, ondol, which I wish were more prevalent in Japan.

Anyways, after now discovering a low-cost budget Korean airline (Jin Air), I look forward to many future repeat visits!