A Geek in Japan | Health
Adventures of a geek living in Japan
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Parasols in Japan

In Summer many Japanese women can be seen on the streets wearing a parasol, even in cloudy days. They are really careful protecting themselves against the sun. Not all of them, but most Japanese women consider that the whiter their skin the better. Having a white skin is considered a very important part of beauty around here.

Summer shadows

Summer shadows

Summer shadows

Summer shadows

Summer shadows

Japanese parasol

Japanese parasol

Japanese parasol

Summer random shots

Happy?

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Japan and Spain rank 1st and 2nd in life expectancy

According to the last study of the OCDE Japan is the country with the highest life expectancy in the world (86.4 years) while Spain (my home country) ranks second (84.9 years). I am not an expert and most likely nobody knows for sure but I dare to say that probably two key elements in common between Spain and Japan are a healthy diet and a relatively good healthcare system (even though very different).

Life Expectancy

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Electronic cigarettes in Japan

It seems like electronic cigarettes have been on the market all around the world for some time, however I didn’t know about them until recently. It turns out that lately I see them everywhere, even in newsstands and Japanese supermarkets. It’s healthy!!

Electronic cigarettes in Japan

Electronic cigarettes in Japan
Notice how well designed is the package to conveniently recharge it.

Japanese electronic cigarettes

9

H1N1 flu in my company

There was recently a H1N1 flu case in my company. Immediately it was announced and we had to stop working right away and go to the hospital to do tests to see if any employee was infected. When we went back to the office, we had to disinfect our hands with alcohol at the building entrance, we had to gargle a liquid that tasted like betadine that is supposed to help to kill any virus that could have gotten into our moth/throat and we had to wear a mask. When we entered our office space there was people disinfecting our furniture, computers, telephones, windows and even the walls. We also had some new gadgets in the rooms; the president urgently bought some huge ion generators with a special button that when pressed is supposed to clean the air and kill viruses.

Everybody wearing a mask, smelling like disinfectant and the noise of ion generators on the background; that was the work atmosphere for more than a week until the president lowered the emergency status and we could work again without covering half of our faces.

8 days later the flu virus victim came back to work. As soon as he arrived, before we could even ask him how he was, he bowed to everybody and he told us:

“I am very sorry for having caused you such big inconvenience, trouble, nuisance and for getting you worried.”

Notice that from his perspective, he is NOT a victim, he is the culprit of having caused so much trouble to the company: because he couldn’t work for one week and we had to wear a mask and worry about our health.

h1n1 flu
The head patch was optional, I don’t really know if it’s useful if you are not ill but Yamamoto-san and Yamazaki-san were wearing it during the whole week.

h1n1 flu

h1n1 flu
The gargle liquid

h1n1 flu

h1n1 flu

h1n1 flu
A secretary disinfecting my keyboard.

h1n1 flu
Try to look for somebody without a mask.

h1n1 flu
Washing hands with alcohol.

h1n1 flu
Picture of last year Japan swine flu panic.

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Swine flu fear in Tokyo

Last week the first cases of swine flu were confirmed in Kobe and days later in Tokyo. Japanese people are taking many precautions against it and have started buying tons of surgical masks. In the area of Kobe and Osaka more than 4.000 schools have closed and kids are supposed to be studying at home. During the last days I can see much more people than usual wearing surgical masks and it looks like it is very difficult to be able to buy new surgical masks since they are sold out everywhere. Some people have thought of it as an opportunity and during the last days there are tons of surgical masks at Yahoo Auctions being sold at high prices.

Swine

Swine

Swine

Swine

Some are trying to make money, and some others are trying to create new fashion trends :) But I thinkmexicans are better at this 😉

Swine

Swine

Swine

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Megaprotection against the Sun

Japanese are pretty extreme when it comes to protecting their skin against solar rays. Most people use 50 factor protection creams, parasols or gloves; but the most advanced technique consists on using the “megaprotector”!

proteccion
This pictures was taken a few days ago, at the end of November!

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Alcoholic spa

Yunessun is a well known spa located in Hakone. It’s an interesing spa because they add common drinks to the baths/ofuros. The most well know are the wine and the sake baths, but there are also ofuros with beer, green tea or even coffee. I would try the green tea one, but I don’t know if I would like the one with coffee.

Vino
Picture from Mdn)

Vino
Green tea bath.

Vino
Coffee bath.

Access information here.

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Karoshi 過労死

Karōshi (過労死 : excess – labor – death) is a Japanese word that means “sudden death caused by excess of work”. This specific word only exists in Japanese, but it’s starting to be exported to other countries like Korea where the same problem is arising.

After the Second World War, Japan was able to recover very fast and became the second economy in the world in less than three decades. There are many reasons that helped Japan to recover so fast, one of the reasons was the effort that Japanese did working as much as they could. At the end of the 60s working 12 or more hours a day was considered normal. In 1969 the first case of “karoshi” occurred, he was a young employee (less than 30 years old) who suddenly died after working more than 40 days in a row.

The problem became more common at the end of the 80s when executives working under lots of stress started dying at their work places. Nowadays the Ministry of Labor has “karoshi deaths” public statistics. During the last years the average is 1.000 “karoshi” deaths, this is not a lot but if you put it together with the 10.000 people who die because of “stress/excess of work”, and the 30.000 people who suicide (mainly because they are not happy with their jobs) it starts to be scary.

One friend explained me how one of his workmates died from “karoshi”. One day, when they arrived in the morning to the company they found him “sleeping” in his workplace but when they realized that he was not waking up after some hours… He died from hear attack and he was only 27 years old!

Reading “National Defense counsel for Victims of Karoshi” I found more terrifying examples:

Miss Yoshida, died when she was 22 years old after working during 34 hours as a hospital nurse.

Mister Miyazaki, died after working during 4320 hours during his last year.

Mister Yagi, he used to work 70 hours a week and spent almost four hours a day commuting. He died when he was 43 years old. In his personal diary he wrote “At least slaves had time to eat with their families”.

Many people do not die, but the number of people who is really stress and ends up suffering mental illnesses is very high. A recent example is well known by everyone, prime minister Abe suffered from stress and lots of pressure from bureaucrats and the “Japanese dark side”. The day he resigned he was hospitalized in order to be treated from “stress related problems”.

Read this article if you wanna know more about “karoshi”.

4

Sun protection

Japanese are very careful protecting themselves against the Sun. They are very aware of the dangers that the Sun light can cause on our health, moreover Japanese beauty standards prefer white skins rather than dark skins.

I lived 23 years in a society where getting sunbathed is good for you. In Spain when I go to the beach some days and my skin becomes darker all the girls around me start saying “Wow Hector!, you are much more appealing with dark skin”, “I like you better with suntanned skin” and blahblah. Here in Japan is the opposite, when I came back from Australia to Japan some time ago, everyone was looking at me with worried faces “Héctor, are you ok? you should be careful with Sun light, is not good for your health”. In Japan you see people walking with umbrellas, girls use protection 50 or higher everyday by default even in winter, there is people that use gloves in summer so their hands stay white, they even use creams to make their skin whiter. They are really very serious about it.

Here are some pictures where you can see many details on how Japanese protect their skin against Sun rays:

Parasol

Parasol

Parasol

Parasol
Gloves for sun protection.

I don’t know how many people die from skin cancer in Japan, but I pretty sure that the is causalities are very low compared with western countries. Think about it, and be careful this summer. The Sun is our friend but is can be also our enemy.

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