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How to take care of Bug biting in Japan?

During the summer, a lot of "mushi' disturbs the people of Japan. But here are some tips how to deal with the bugs of summer:1. Avoid the place where un attended trees grows.2. Wear full sleeve dress to avoid the insect bite3. Clean the surroundings. Cut the unwanted weeds.4. Carry antihistamine cream with you. Buy one for your kids. Do not apply it on face!5. If bite then Squeeze the stinger and venom out as quickly as you can if you’re stung. Do not try to suck it out! 6. Apply cream afterward and do not rub too much.7. Go to the hifuka (Skin Hospital) as soon as you can!

When You Gotta Squat: Squat Toilets and You

    You're on a trip to some beautiful little town in the countryside that you've never seen before. It's magical and majestic and great...until nature calls. Then with trepidation, you head to the nearest bathroom and find...a hole in the floor glorified by porcelain and running plumbing. One of the hardest things to get used to in Japan, and one I faced daily in my first years here, still remains a source of frustration for me-- the squat toilet.     The squat toilet, or 和式 (washiki), is common in older homes and smaller cities, though I have seen them in Tokyo and Kyoto. When first confronted with these, I was shocked. I had been told that Japanese toilet seats were feats of design and almost impractical assistance-- washlets that sing to cover your sounds and spray you clean. I had not heard of these flat and shallow porcelain features, but I took it upon myself to use them as often as any other toilet. I would prove that I was not some unadaptable foreign oaf. Of course I could use these toilets. I had to use these toilets. Also, the ladies bathroom at my workplace had only these toilets, so I had every opportunity to give it a try.    Problem? I was never great at positioning and aiming, so even urination in a squat toilet involved disrobing from the waist down to avoid ruining my pants or shoes. I would then take the best position I could while holding onto whatever pipe or pole that might be coming out of the wall and did my best to maintain a velocity that would eliminate things quickly without causing unnecessary splashing. Back in 2008, instructional videos on how to use this kind of toilet were not available to me, though you can now view some if you need help. My method worked well enough when it had to, but my enthusiasm for embracing this toilet style ended one day in Tokyo, when a long line in the ladies' bathroom stalled, waiting out the Western style toilets despite a few of the squatties being available. If not even the natives were willing to cut waiting time by making use of these options, maybe it wasn't such a crime for me to avoid them as well.     Proponents of the squat toilet rave about hygiene, specifically the fact that your body parts needn't touch the same surface as anyone else's have, providing you don't fall over. Science also backs up the benefits of the squat toilet, indicating increased ease in defecation when making use of a squatting position instead of a seated one. If you're looking to take advantage of these benefits without throwing out your washlet, you can buy a stool-like contraption that forces your knees into a squat while your rest on your own western-style commode.    Despite these benefits, many Japanese schools are considering changing to Western style toilets after surveys found that children often avoided using the toilet at school because of the squat toilets, according to a Japan Times article from late last year. This call for change was partially brought about by the aftermath of the Kumamoto earthquake which saw many citizens being temporarily housed in public schools and subjected to the facilities there.     In some areas, you can even find printed instructions on how to use these, illustrated, translated and laminated near the toilet paper or hanging on the wall of the stall. The closest public squatties to my current home unfortunately hold no such amusement.Just the reminder that "This is everyone's toilet. Please keep it clean."    While I no longer strive to make use of these toilets, they did come in handy once. Having eaten something amiss in Kyoto, I ran to the bathroom at a temple and was all too happy to make use of these facilities then. Perhaps they are really useful-- like emergency toilets reserved for those in desperate need.     What are your thoughts on the squat toilet? How often do you use one?

The dreaded summer cold...

My whole family has been battling on and off for the last two weeks with the dreaded summer cold. I don't know what it is about Japan, but summer colds seem to be relatively common - and they definitely seem to hit our household harder than colds at any other time of the year. I don't really know why that is.We've tried to prevent the spread of germs as much as possible, with the good old facemasks, and wiping every surface in the house down with anti-bacterial wipes, sprays and the like - but nope - we're still all struggling with it. Do you have any favorite Japanese products for dealing with colds? Bonus points if you can recommend adult favorites and also something good for the little ones. This is probably the worst cold that my two and a half year old has ever had, and we just seem to be passing these germs back and forth, no matter what we do to avoid it!

Policy and procedure

 The absolute most frustrating thing in Japan that I have had to learn to just deal with is procedure and policy. Now mind, I realize that this is in every country, but Japan has a special degree of just how finicky bureaucracy and policy can be played into daily life. Like with the anecdote about my doctors visit here, assumed policy played a big role in deciding wether my children got to go to school or not. One went to the doctor, so could go to school, the other had not therefore had to stay home. A doctor's note permitting either of them wasn't required, I'm guessing because the rule saying that the doctor was needed wasn't really something that the school or the government had set, it was just what the school nurse had assumed. The key word here is assumed. Policy is held higher than actual safety comfort and efficiency, even if that policy is only just an assumed rule or guideline. There are many other occasions in Japan that I've encountered frustration and dismay because things are just done a certain way because that's how they have been done.  At work.There is some unwritten rule that no one uses their paid leave at school unless it's outside of the class time .The only exception is if they are sick, then they will use their paid leave. This is strange because teachers are given sick leave, however they will automatically assume you want to deduct from your paid leave to take a day off to go to the doctor unless specifically told otherwise. Why? Because that's what everyone does. This one is strange because technically it's against policy. You should be using vacation time for vacation and sick leave for sickness.   Giving birthMy hospital didn't let me physically touch my son for the first 24 hours of life. Why? It's policy. When I argued with the first nurse , she told me the policy was there so that mother's could rest and let their bodies prepare for the baby. The second nurse told me it's because they have to make sure the baby doesn't become too cold. The doctor told me that it's just the way it is and to go back to bed.  This would be me not physically touching my child because he is wrapped in a disposable blanket. He was promptly whisked away after the photo.(Just for everyone who has never had a baby, the first few hours of a baby's life are critical and numerous studies show that a mother's touch can improve an infant's body temperature. Also stimulation is required for breastfeeding and if the body doesn't get that stimulation, it will assume there is no need to produce milk.) Why is there really a policy? Probably n because the staff are already over-worked and overbooked at this small clinic to have time to cater to new mother s and care for the children.  At schoolSickness prevention The Japanese ministry of health recently published new guidelines that recommend against gargling to prevent the spread of disease. It's been shown that gargling with only water will instead make viruses more likely to spread because they become aerosol in an area most often used as a public space; sinks and water fountains. The notice was passed around my teachers office, but over the p.a. system before lunch everyone still got the daily reminder to gargle after coming inside from recess. Why? I was told the daily announcement always says to gargle. Did it ever change even with the information about how gargling was a hazard? No.  I have an entire rant about the post office but just to add to the list of things that are frustrating when dealing with the postal service and having a foreign name, offering a credit card. On the card, there is only space for two names, your first and last. However the postal department refused to deliver three card to me because I have a middle name. There seemed to be no way around it and I ended up just canceling the card. Later I tried again but through a different post office and there were no bumps. No problem.  Most of the things on this list really are just annoyances or things that are just the way they are, including other countries.I mean who likes going to the post office? And I could certainly add a billion more things on here.  Any time I encounter something like these though, I just have to shrug and not let it bother me. Doesn't stop me from speaking my mind, especially if a doctor tells me to gargle however. There are good things that come from all the procedure. Children learn proper hygiene(and some improper) , the post office is very thorough and prompt and the hospital I gave birth has a very low mortality rate.  

Birth story P.1 : Birth Control

 When I met my husband, I wasn’t on birth control. There had been no need so why even try to figure out how to go about getting it while living in a foreign country. But, suddenly there was a need and I wanted on it fast. Originally I would have prefered an IUD but I honestly didn’t know how to ask anyone about it and the few Japanese who I did ask had no clue what I was even talking about. So I settled for just finding a ladies clinic and everything would be fine. Or so I thought. My school I was working was no help because the nurse didn’t ever seem to like me and told me I didn’t need birth control, so I went out and googled it myself. I found two ladies clinics nearby but after sitting in the waiting room and meeting with the doctor, I was told they didn’t offer the pill at all. So, hoping the third time was a charm, I biked over to another clinic in the area only to fat the Gynecologist(婦人科) part of the clinic had closed down. What luck right? But what luck! This clinic was very helpful and directed me to the nearest place that they knew for certain to get me what I wanted and they didn’t charge me for my doctor’s visit.  The pill in Japan is expensive. It is not covered by insurance and you are required to do full blood work before you can start. I think I spent 20,000yen on my first visit. And I was required to go back fairly often during the beginning so they could make sure my body was adjusting well to the hormones. Each visit cost the typical 2000 yen and then there is out the cost of the pills themselves which were about 3500 yen per month. It was nice to be checked up on, but not the best to have to be constantly checked up on down there. The doctor’s visits were also very ….revealing. And there was of course the required pap smear eek! Which was from behind a curtain, so the doctor wasn’t visible. I think this is for modesty reasons, however I felt super awkward talking through a curtain at a person in a super sensitive area. My doctor was super friendly and funny and knew how to joke though. The nurses and staff were great as well. All said and done, the experience wasn’t the worst that I’ve had going to a doctor in Japan. I still recommend getting on the pill before you come to Japan and have your doctor in your home country fill your prescription instead of bothering with doing it here. But if you are like me and just have to get it while here, hopefully you will have better luck with finding a doctor.  I found out later a better way to search online called Byouinnavi . It is unfortunately only in Japanese but you can search for all the clinics in any prefecture. There is also a feature to look for English speaking doctors.

Sent home

On monday my youngest daughter woke up in the morning covered in red itchy bumps. They were all over her legs and arms and back and even her poor little tush. My first thought was that she had some allergic reaction. She had no fever and no other symptoms aside from the desire to scratch, so I sent her off to school with the plan to take her to the doctor the next day, which I did. However, while at the doctor with my younger daughter, unbeknownst to me, my older also broke out and was sent to the nurse’s office to wait until the school got in touch with me. This means she sat for about 3 hours in the nurse’s office, not in class, because of some itchy bumps on her legs. Finally finished with the doctor, nothing to worry about, I went to drop off my youngest only to be exchanged with my oldest. It’s at this point I’m completely perplexed by the school’s reasoning for sending my oldest home. “She hasn’t seen the doctor therefore she might have something dangerous and contagious. So she can’t stay at school.”“Well what about my youngest? Shouldn’t she stay home too?”“Oh no, she’s seen the doctor, she can stay”“But the doctor didn’t actually say she could come to school.”“Well if the doctor didn’t say she couldn’t, then she can come to school”“So, then can my oldest because she has the same exact symptoms?(less severe in fact)”“Oh no, she hasn’t had the doctor say she can come to school.” And so I’m off to the doctor yet again and my oldest is now missing her second day of school for what I see as no reason at all. Or my youngest is running around possibly spreading a contagious rash if there really is reason.

Mount Tsukuba Ibaraki ken

It's not one ordinary trail hike 2hours for those who have mastered the trail but for first timers like myself, It took me more than 3hours to get to the top of the mountain. Mount Tsukuba is divided into Two parts the Female (女体山) and Male (男体山) mountain which will surely capture your heart.The trail starts at the foot of the mountain actually from a big shrine, from there you could go up by either "rope way" which will lead you to the female part of the mountain or a "cable car" which will bring you closer to the male part of the mountain but either way it will not bring out that "mountaineer" in you. The best way to enjoy is to walk your way up and experience heart pounding, non stop sweating, and muscle cramping part of the hike so you could really feel that emotional moment when you arrive at the top. There are food stalls and souvenir shops at the top and you could dine in a 360 degree rotating restaurant which will give you a magnificent view of the Cities. After a power snack we then explored the male part of the mountain,it's a bit high and steep but the view was great after which we moved towards the female part of the mountain and there I was magnified and I was in awe with the view and every inch of pain in my body faded away. I will be back sometime soon.


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