If America is famous for “baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet” (as one TV commercial back in the day proclaimed), Japan is equally known for iconic images such as Mt. Fuji, Japanese torii arches, ninjas, the Great Wave Off Kanagawa and Godzilla. Another famous image of the country are the shinkansen, Japan’s speedy bullet trains, which entered service 50 years ago today just in time for the first Tokyo Olympics. When I first came to Japan I didn’t know that much about trains, other than that they were convenient and comfortable to ride in. When my son entered his “train phase” at around the age of 4, however, I was compelled to learn to learn the names of every bullet train in the country, and take my son to ride on more than a few with me. If you ever plan a trip to Japan, be sure and take advantage of those convenient JR rail passes, which let you go anywhere in the country you want on the fastest trains for less than $300 a week…though sadly, gaijin like me who live here permanently aren’t eligible to use these discounted tickets.
I unfortunately managed to catch the head cold that my wife brought back from Alaska, so I thought I’d write about what it’s like to be sick in Japan. Japanese people famously wear what appear to us to be surgical masks when they get sick, which is done both to protect the sick person from getting more germs but also to create a polite “buffer zone” that lets others know not to approach too closely. (Seeing how health conscious Japanese people were compelled an AFLAC executive who visited the country to enter the Japanese insurance market, one of the best decisions in the history of business.) When Japanese get sick they eat a watery rice porridge called okayu, and most refuse to eat Western-style oatmeal since it looks to them like something sick people should be eating. Other popular local cold remedies include wrapping a steamed negi onion around your neck, drinking hot water with shoga (ginger) and honey in it, or dropping a raw egg into hot sake and drinking it all down in one gulp. My preferred way of curing a cold is to put one of those Japanese fever-reducing sheets on my head then curl up in front of the TV to watch a few hours of anime. I also make sure to keep my Japanese house well stocked with American medicines, which seem to work better on my big gaijin body than locally available products.
Remember, we’ve rates for all products coming from Japan, including SAL, first class airmail and (our favorite), EMS, which provides cheap, speedy shipping with delivery times of only a few days while including full tracking and shipping insurance. Everyone loves getting more anime artbooks, crazy Japanese snacks and other good stuff for their money, and now you can!