Musings of a Gaijin MD

Life in Japan as a Foreign Doctor

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!


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!


Attack of the Crows March 26, 2012

Filed under: Daily Life — GaijinMD @ 7:13 PM

On a recent trip to one of the city’s parks, I encountered a truly fearsome creature: the crow- believe it or not.  On initial arrival to the park, my friend got fascinated by the immense size of the crows in the park; they looked to have had excellent sources of nutrition to have grown to their 1 foot size with their prominent beaks.  This fascination in turn led to multiple camera shots.  Before long, the crow also reciprocated our fascination by starting to hop towards us.

At this time, I made the unfortunate decision to take out my bag of cookies from my purse because I was hungry.  It was this movement along with the wrinkling sound of the plastic wrap that further attracted yet another crow.  I, therefore, had 2 giant crows start to hop and fly menacingly towards me and trying to usurp my cookies.  By that time, I was already backing away with my friend’s yelling at me to throw them a cookie.  After 1 thrown cookie toward a crow, the other “neglected” crow continued to hunt me down until I threw another one (which he caught in mid air).

With the crows occupied by their new-found loot, I made a quick escape.  Needless to say, I didn’t bring out that bag of cookies again in the park.


Gobble Gobble November 25, 2011

Filed under: Daily Life — GaijinMD @ 11:35 AM

Welps, it had to start sometime: spending a major American holiday while overseas.  The Japanese actually do have a Labor Day/Thanksgiving holiday on the Wednesday right before the American Thanksgiving day, but it is in no way the equivalent in celebrations.  I managed to “trade” my Japanese holiday for my American one so that I could nicely not have to work on Thursday.  Regardless, and unsurprisingly, Japan doesn’t usually have any turkey, ham, stuffing, or apple pie (outside of McDonald’s) that I would have liked at this time of year; I settled for a bit of pumpkin cake, home-made braised Japanese pumpkin (yes, quite proud of myself for cooking), and chicken instead.

Things I’m thankful for: all my family and friends, their support throughout the years, having completed residency (what a relief), moving to Japan, a job I enjoy, opportunities to travel, J.K. Rowling, and Jane Austen.  While not surrounded physically by family and friends, I am also very thankful for Skype, Google, and Facetime–gotta love technology!  (Really gonna miss Black Friday this year though).



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….


Costco September 27, 2011

Filed under: Daily Life,Shopping — GaijinMD @ 10:47 PM
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Several weeks ago, some friends and I decided to make a trek out to Costco (and surprisingly yes, there are several branches in Japan).  Unfortunately, the 21 mile journey that would normally take half an hour, per GoogleMaps, took us 2 hours (each way) because of construction on the highway.

Speaking of highways, it also brings up the fact that in Japan, it seems like most of the highways are toll roads, and the toll was quite expensive.  The 10-15 miles that I was on the highway (each way) cost about $10 USD!

Anyways, after finally arriving, I happily stocked up on my Tide laundry detergent (oh, how I have missed thee); I just don’t think the Japanese brands that I’ve used are getting my clothes clean enough.  I’ve also been on the hunt for a Downy ball since arrival to Japan, but alas, no ball at Costco.

Faux Swiffer

Then, I was able to snag a faux Swiffer WetJet with a huge container of PineSol.  I’ve also not been able to find a similar product at typical Japanese stores.

I was also made very happy by my Nutella find, in addition to some caramel popcorn.

All in all, the Japanese Costco seemed to have the same type of items sold in the US.  They may not carry all of the same brands, but for each type of product (i.e. laundry detergent, cleaning solution, foods, etc), they usually had 1-2 US brands (and of course their Costco Kirkland brand) and several Japanese brands also.  They did have an optical and photo development departments.  I’m still not sure if they had an official pharmacy.

What I did find lacking was their Health and Beauty section.  It did not contain as many products or variety compared to the US (although one may argue that there are too many in the US to begin with).  They just had some shampoos and soaps and lotions.

Overall, it was a good trip, and I’m very happy to have gotten the above items.  Given the time to get there, however, it might be awhile until I make another trek.


Toilet Tales September 24, 2011

Filed under: Daily Life — GaijinMD @ 11:05 AM
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Being technologically advanced, Japan has also extended these innovations to its toilets.  About 20 years ago, the company Toto decided to combine the toilet and bidet into an all-in-one feature.  Nowadays, most toilets are of this variety.  The “bidet” feature is actually a detachable apparatus that you can place on top of the toilet bowl to form the toilet seat and cover.

Panic green button on the left back wall. Real flushing button on the back plumbing area. Bidet panel next to toilet seat

On first encountering, you will notice a panel of buttons that are usually located next to the toilet seat.  The usual set of buttons include bidet, spray, stop, and flushing sound (to cover up any embarrassing sounds you may make); these buttons are listed in Japanese, pictograms, and sometimes English.  Also included are buttons to adjust the water pressure of the bidet.  Optional features of the high-tech toilet include seat warmers, water warmer, and deodorizer.  As I said before, these panels of buttons are usually located next to the toilet seat.  Sometimes, however, they are located on the wall of the bathroom (which requires some hunting if you are not familiar).

The button actually to flush the toilet is located many times in a different spot from the panel; the shape and color of the real flushing button also vary.  Sometimes, it is located in a similar place to the US’s toilets.  Other times, though, require a very thorough search of the bathroom.  It can be located near the panel of buttons on the side wall or on the back wall or hidden away near the plumbing.  Sometimes, you have to wave your hand in front of a sensor in the wall.

One of my first experiences in Japan occurred when I kept on pushing the “flushing sound” button instead of the “real” flushing one; it was quite frustrating with my thoughts running along the lines of, “No, I want the ‘real’ one, not this fake sound one.  Ugh….”

Then, yesterday even after having lived here for several months, I encountered yet another format.  Again, I could not find the real flushing button.  The only one I could guess to be it was this green button on the wall.  Yes, it did have a sign describing what it was, but again, it was only in Japanese.  Given its green color and how green usually equals “go,” I decided to push it—— only to have the overhead alarms go off.  😦  Apparently, I pressed the “panic/help” button.  Anyways, after realizing my error, I frantically searched for the real button so that I could hopefully exit the stall with no one realizing my American error.  I did finally find it “hidden” away in the plumbing area with a sign (again written only in Japanese) and green arrow.  Next, I tried to walk calmly out of the stall to wash my hands.  By that time, a security guard had burst into the bathroom to see if anyone was in danger (which there wasn’t).  All the while, I was trying to keep my cool and pretend it wasn’t me.

Phew!  Mass embarrassment averted… until next time.