Bike ride: 比奈知ダム or Hinachi Dam

My journey to Hinachi Dam, Nabari

Hinachi lake at Hinachi Dam

Quite a while ago, I posted a bike ride on my journey to Shorenji-dam in Nabari and I called it “Nabari Dam” despite there being more than one…never mind. The argument for Shorenji-dam being called Nabari dam is a weak one for one simple reason- it doesn’t feed Nabari river- unlike Hinachi-dam (no more names now I swear)!

The journey to the second dam started bright and early on a cloudy day- which was great for lighting but no so great for capturing colours- but that doesn’t matter as much since it is winter.

The location is a brilliant one- at least on google Maps. If you are interested in going to the dam on foot, arrive at Kikyogaoka station and walk towards the Mega Don Quijote and continue walking- eventually you’ll find your way to the dam. Additionally, there is a bus- but busses in Nabari are a bit inconvenient.

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The journey to the dam

Do you love cycling? Do you love cycling on a bike that has seen better days? How about one that is not designed for life in Nabari going up a hill for several kilometres? Sound fun? No- but strangely it was.

The journey to the dam is entirely uphill – which makes perfect sense (it’s a dam) and most of the way there are dedicated footpaths (or cycle paths in my case) which were extremely helpful as Japanese drivers in rural areas love to speed.

As the ascent continued, houses became infrequent and forests started emerging- most signs of urban life faded away into vast open countryside- an escape that was completely needed.

Near Shimohinachi, Nabari

The journey at this point seemed a world away from Nabari- even with my slow ascent. The views were fantastic- but more importantly, it was brilliant exercise.

Upon arrival at the dam, you are greeted with the most fantastic views of the lake and of the surrounding countryside- with nay a person in sight.

The view from on top of the dam

The dam is slightly different from Shorenji-dam in construction but not use. The dam operates as a hydroelectric generation station in addition to providing water for household, industrial, and agricultural use. But the main selling point, similar to the other dam, is flood protection in times of heavy rainfall of typhoons. This is still a concern to many in Nabari which is one of the reasons for its constriction and for recent construction works happening along all rivers in Nabari- additionally a third dam is being built in the area set for completion by Reiwa.

The dam is 355 m long and 70.5 m high (or 14.2 Shinkansens long and 4.5 great Buddhas high according to the signs) and has a potential holding capacity for 20,800,000 m^3 of water but normally contains just 18,400,000 m^3 of water (or 1.84×10^7 m^3 of water- which looks so much better).

Similar to the other dam, the river it feeds goes through Iga, Nara, and eventually releases its’ load into Osaka bay- so it does help a lot of people by working.

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It has the most fantastic road surrounding the lake and bridges along the way, with a car park and a small park- AKA a brilliant track for running and cycling (there were quite a few of us). The roads are brilliant and it is a fantastic journey- with few cars (except when I went through a tunnel and 5 appeared behind me) and a flat riding surface (the start notwithstanding!).

The journey back was a lovely way to cool down- it was mostly downhill again through the countryside. The signs of urbanization slowly seeped back into my journey until Nabari was unveiled- even with going a more scenic way along the river.

Final stats were a total journey length of 22.42 km, and an elevation increase of 280 m.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

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Awareness: a changing climate

Awareness: a quick look into Japan’s changing climate

I have been thinking about the best way to go into detail about Japan’s changing climate. I do realize that this is a global issue, but sometimes an abstract idea like a global environment is a bit too hard to understand. So instead, please look at the picture below: it says more than I ever could.

The headline simply reads “there’s no snow”.
From the Asahi-Shinbun dated 22/01/2020

Japan is an extremely long country starting north of the equator and leading up to the Arctic- it has a vast and varied climate and each prefecture can almost be seen to be its own sub-climate. Hyogo Prefecture is known for snow sports- or should that read was known for snow sports? The long lonely strip of snow is not a ‘freak of nature’, it is an import.

Imported snow- in an effort to keep afloat an economy based on winter sports. Did you also see the ski lift? There’s not much use in that now is there. Imported snow not only moves resources from one place to another, but there are high economical and carbon costs associated with this as well.

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The lack of cold temperatures has also been felt in Hokkaido especially in the run up to the Snow festival or Yuki-matsuri. Snow has been imported as well due to the warmer than usual winter. According to the JMA (Japanese metrological agency), Hokkaido has only received 48% of the expected snow fall a fall of 52% from the previous year.

Climate change is indeed happening and it is happening extremely quickly. This change has been reflected in the forthcoming Olympics as well. Due to exceptionally high temperatures in summer 2019, the marathon has been moved to Sapporo City, Hokkaido. On a more anadoctial front, I recorded temperatures as high as 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (ca. 38 degree Celsius) in the shade this summer in Iga- and I was not alone with seeing such temperatures.

Across Japan and even the world, record numbers of people were hospitalized due to heat related problems. Currently, one just needs to look at Australia- where they have at times run out of colours to use on heat charts due to the heat. If you need a bit more, conditions have been perfect for the wildfires which have caused complete devastation in places and the true costs of these fires (socially, environmentally, economically, ecologically etc) will possibly never truly be known.

There is a lot one can do but if business do not reflect personal effort i.e. a person becomes incredibly green but the business they work for either doesn’t change or becomes more environmentally damaging, nothing much will change. According to the wolves of Wall Street “Greed is good”, but what will greed do once the planet is uninhabitable?

Last quick note on this, there is an increasing difference on the amount of rice needing to be produced and the amount of rice being eaten. We are already seeing signs of troubles to come. Please do you part- even if it just a small action, it can and it does add up.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

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Awareness: Chinese coronavirus outbreak

An awareness post on the new Chinese coronavirus nCov-2019

Worries are spreading across not just East-Asia but globally

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

There are increasing worries spreading across Japan regarding the new Chinese coronavirus (names nCoV-2019) and its ability to infect both animals and humans. Specifically, the worry is about the virus’s ability to become a pandemic.

To highlight the seriousness of this issue, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has stated that “please take every possible precaution,” which has lead to a public awareness campaign on this issue (it has appeared not just on Japanese news but day-time television as well) and a full traveller screening programme at each Japanese airport.

Current estimates suggest that around 400 people are known to have contracted nCov-2019 and the current death-toll is (at time of writing) at 4 deaths- but why is the global community (and indeed Japan) so concerned about this virus? The answer is simple- uncontrollability.

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Chinese new year is soon to be upon us, which is the time in which most Chinese people travel- both nationally and internationally- which has the potential to ignite a new global pandemic. Global pandemics are most often caused when: a disease can be easily spread across the world with high movement and when the disease has been shown to cross the species barrier.

These prerequisites have already been met in nCov-2019. Initial cases first appeared in Wuhan, China in a market with high frequency animal contact and since this time, the diseases have been spread from person-to-person.

Chinese authorities are already taking action against this outbreak by ordering the use of facial masks in Beijing hospital, and controlling the number of people entering and leaving Wuhan (where the disease was discovered). Currently, this virus doesn’t appear to have mutated and the CDC and WHO are working on the virus but it is still early days.

Symptoms

Current reports suggest that initial symptoms mimic a common cold with some pneumonia-like symptoms. Initial symptoms include fever, cough, tightness of the chest and shortness of breath- the most concerning of which is the tightness of chest- which initially can be easily misdiagnosed.

Current countries with nCov-2019 patients are China, Japan (the person had just returned from Wuhan), Korea, the USA (a traveller had visited Wuhan), Thailand, and more regionally in China from Beijing, to Taiwan.

The international community is highly aware of the potential for this and infection disease control procedures are underway both in China and around the world to deal with the threat of this virus.

Advise

The best advice is to be prepared- use masks in Asia (especially in China) but don’t worry- there is nothing major (currently). Life in Wuhan is ongoing without interruption- life before this virus was discovered. While this virus has the potential to become serious, measures are already underway.

If you have been travelling in China and are experiencing symptoms, please call your doctor- and get their advice. Don’t just turn up in person. While you could just have influenza, they may want to take precautions. There is no data to suggest if some people are more susceptible than others or if it is more damaging to people with compromised immune systems.

Current screening procedures at airports just involve walking in front of a thermal camera. If there is anything wrong- you may be taken to an isolation area until tests are performed. From there, a treatment plan may be started or general health advice given.

Thank you for reading and happy and safe exploring.

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Resolution: preparing to leave Japan

A guide to my preliminary stages of leaving Japan

Sorry for my long hiatus, when uprooting your life (after taking quite a while to establish it), it is quite a stressful time and writing and blogging (even though I do love doing it) did fall be the wayside. But I’m Back!

Anyway, when preparing to leave Japan, one does need a checklist or an escape list that one needs to go through and I thought that for people in a similar situation, it may be helpful to go through my provisional one.

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Money

Money means everything and nothing and this is the case when preparing to leave.

The main money worries that I am facing is an income in the UK (i.e. I need to find a job). But not being able to walk into a job upon my return does not mean that my money issues are just starting- I still have bills that I am paying (a credit card for example- hint for those leaving the UK, pay off your credit card before leaving) and I will be facing bills after I set up a new place to live.

After establishing myself, there are further bills to consider: rent, council tax, water rates, gas, electricity, food, and internet- these are the essentials. Following this, there is gym membership, insurance, buying a car etc- all of which I need to do seemingly yesterday but without the cash to do it.

Once I have set all of this up, even if it means getting a job that I need and do not necessarily want, I then will start to think of longer term ideas and plans- which again require money.

The leaving checklist

Photo by Content Pixie on Pexels.com

Once I have learnt just how much I have to do once I arrive- let’s consider leaving Japan. Now remember: just because you can jump on a plane and leave doesn’t mean things won’t follow you if unprepared. Starting from the top: apartment.

Apartment

Firstly is your apartment company leased or self leased? Did it come furnished or all self furnished and what about utilities? These are the first questions that you need to ask. If your answers were mostly company provided- rejoice your life is suddenly much easier. Here’s a quick OMG please help me guide:

Company provided
  • Inform the company (if not already) of your intention to resign (if not already done so)
  • ask the company if you will need to pay a termination fee for the apartment or utilities
  • be prepared to pay the final bills on move out day in cash
  • Ask the company about the provided furnishings: are they to say for the next person or are you to get rid of them?
  • Ask about leaving anything for the new person e.g. rice cooker, cleaning supplies etc
  • get rid of things early that are not wanted
Self-provided
  • Contact the housing company about your intention to move- there may be a contract cancellation fee (usually 30,000 JPY) and a closing fee and cleaning fee (an extra 20,000 JPY+)
  • Contact the utilities companies (there may be a cancellation fee in addition to the final bills)
  • Internet: there may be 2 companies to contact if you have fibre. You will need to contact the line holder (e.g. NTT) and the ISP (e.g. AU) to cancel. There may be termination fees for both contracts.
  • Find out how to get rid of everything that you do not want to keep- follow local garbage regulations- if you do this wrong, you will be fined!
  • Clean the apartment to perfection to reduce the change of getting charged an extra cleaning fee
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Apartment advice
  • Hold a “sayonara” sale either on Facebook or on other apps to help provide a little extra money for your journey back
  • Sell things to a second-hand store e.g. Hard-off (for electronics), book-off (for books, CDs, and DVDs), Off-House (for anything household) or another thrift store.
  • If all else fails, try giving things away to friends, colleagues, acquaintances etc.
  • If that fails, bin it!
  • Regarding apartment cleanliness: would you be happy to move back in if you walked in now? No, get back to cleaning! Yes, go for a walk and ask the question again? No, clean and yes move on.

Finally, ask your company the following questions:

  • When is my last work day?
  • What items do I need to return?
  • How much vacation time do I have and how/ when can I use it?
  • Is there anything that I should focus on during these last months?*

*The usual resignation period is 3 months notice. Contract termination must be at least 1 month prior- unless other arrangements have been made (severance package etc).

City hall

City halls or 市役所 are at the heart of every Japanese town and city that there is a lot you must do there. Firstly, you must give your moving notification at least 1 month before moving (I’ve not yet done this), additionally you must cancel your “my number”, your health insurance, your pension plan and find out how much tax you owe. Finally, you need to get the forms to appoint a tax representative. To put it another way:

  • Moving out notification
  • cancellation of health insurance
  • cancellation of pension plan (KEEP THE BLUE BOOK)
  • appoint a tax representative (a native who you trust or a tax lawyer)
  • cancel your “my-number”
  • find out how much tax you owe- if possible
  • get extra paperwork to apply for a police certificate (better to have it…)

Got it?

Note on tax, if you’re staying in Japan for 1 year or less, your tax rate is set at 20%, if you stay longer than 1 year, your tax rate is set at 8%. Please set up a way to pay- it will follow you no matter where you go.

A police certificate is proof that you were very good during your stay in Japan. If you are looking to go into a job which requires the handling of certain data, it is a very good thing to get before you leave.

Shipping

Now you have some idea of what you need to do- what about sending things back? Japan post have a few different options and to keep costs down, start ASAP!

The most cost effective way to ship thing back to your country is via surface mail i.e. ship. A typical box will set you back 5000 JPY and takes at least 2 months to get there- but during your move out process, it’s nice to have the extra space.

If you have the money, or need to have these things back with you, a typical box via airmail will set you back 13,000 JPY- this is for the cost effective solution. If you want it to send a lot back, it may be cheaper (depending on how much you want to send back) to get a company ship everything back to you. Typical prices are 4000 USD+ and while there are many options, please do some careful research and do it ASAP.

Airport

Fun fact: even though airplane is spelt aeroplane in British English, Airport is still airport not Aeroport (like in French).

Moving on, you need to book your trip back and I highly suggest you do it sooner rather than later. Even though there is little evidence to suggest that you get a better price, it does allow one to plan one’s life that bit more.

Please get the best flight you can! I say this because even though there are some extremely cheap flights to the UK- they have downsides e.g. 35 hours journey time or self transfers (think arriving at London City and the next flight leaving from Heathrow) or airline companies which offer no baggage etc.

Once checked in there is security and immigration. When leaving, Japanese immigration officials will ask are you sure you want to leave? This will be asked multiple times before the visa is cancelled- at thing point Japan has washed its hands of you.

Quick note, don’t forget that you may have to stay at a hotel for a few nights and that you still need to travel to the airport- budgeting is key!

Finally, healthy living

Just because I’m leaving does not mean that any current resolutions/ plans have stopped- it just means that I have to be more aware of everything I do and be aware how much time I have to do it in.

2020 is a leap year which has given me an extra day in Japan and I simply cannot waste it. Simply put, a usual New Year’s Resolution puts pressure on one to start on 1/1 and while may fail (doing too much too soon), you have to realize that it is a marathon (not the chocolate bar) not a race.

But there is still a lot I want to do before I leave, so perhaps time management has become even more important than before- including making time for blog posts (and I do have a lot to post). What I am trying to say here: life does continue even though are leaving. You still need to clean, to cook, to work, to live: it does not matter the eventual outcome- life continues regardless.

Thank you for being so patient with me. As always: thank you for reading and happy exploring.

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Lucky Maruda or Daruma

A lucky Maruda on a Kintetsu train

Daruma or Maruda are a classic symbol of luck and they are simply Japanese. But have you ever wondered how they came to be or even what they are?

These delightful charms are initially designed on Bodhidhama or the founder of Zen Buddhism, the Japanese sect of Buddhism. With regards to what the Maruda looks like, each artist can do as much or as little as they like.

The benefits of this are simple: if you can think of a character there is a Maruda for it. The example above is distinctly cat shaped, a purrfect example.

How do they work?

Maruda are usually bought without pupils and you need to paint them on yourself. You first paint one pupil while wishing for something and once it comes true, you paint the other.

This does mean that there are many accross Japan with only one eye as the wishes never came true.

Nevertheless the less, a lucky charm can certainly never hurt!

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Resolution: not a sprint…

Part of the resolution series looking at the entire journey- not just the start!

Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels.com

Japan, it seems, does lend its self to the concept of New Year’s resolutions due to the fact it is an obsession here. There are many products which promise to help with one’s health, or elixirs that “are a ground breaking innovation that well help with X and Y and you won’t believe that you have live without it before”- like every other country!

But no matter how much you are willing to change, it is important to note that “good things come to those who wait”- the irony of using a beer tag line to promote healthy living is not lost on me. However, that it is important to know that a New Year’s resolution is a promise to change your lifestyle- for the better and from now on.

The point is, no matter if you are constantly failing to keep your New’s years resolution, if you are determined to see through to the end, you must work on it each and every day. That is not to say that if your goal is to develop the body of your dreams, it means going to the gym each and every day- not is an impossibility when just starting out.

No matter where you are in your ‘New Year’s resolution journey’, it is important to know where you are up to and what you actually know. What I will always recommend is research (and research allowed me to fix my laptop- which means I can use more than 1 tab at once- woot!).

Researching allows you to know what is (in this case) good for you and what is not- is eating pizza forbidden if you want to lose weight and gain mass? No, but you need to eat everything in moderation and ensure that you are otherwise healthy. Is drinking soda bad and thus forbidden? Yes, but you can still enjoy the occasional glass of soda in moderation.

Having the opportunity to know or learn to know what is good and bad is invaluable and will help. It is not yet 2 weeks into the New Year- so don’t worry if everything has gone awry- it does not matter. As long as you are trying and intending to change- that is all that matters. If your resolution takes 6 months to really start- it takes 6 months- don’t worry about it.

If you move to Japan in that time, don’t worry they have (seemingly) an entire culture surrounding health living and a health life style- from gyms, to products, to well-being services etc.

It’s going to be interesting once I move back to the UK and I believe that it’ll take more effort in being healthy and maintaining my now healthy lifestyle- perhaps that should me my New Year’s resolution: preparing for my life post-repatriation (starting on April first).

Don’t worry- I will not stop posting about Japan- I have so many experiences and things to research and post that content will not be stopping anytime soon.

Thanks for reading and keep up the resolution. Happy exploring.

Review: cycle pro shop reco

A review of Cycle pro shop reco based in Nabari

When I say the bike I have is not designed for what strain I regularly put it under, I am unfortunately not joking. The bike I own is referred to as a ママチャリ or mothers chariot and it is extreamly common in Japan.

The bike has only 6 gears, front and rear brake pads, a basket on the front handle bars and a place to strap something down behind the rider. The bike is designed in such a way that you must sit up straight to ride it and the handle bars curve inwards in a loop shape- got all of that? Now ride for 30+ km in mountainous terrain and off-road- that is what I put this poor thing under.

Recently, I discovered I had a rear puncture and even though I could have bought everything I needed to repair the bike, it would have been a bit expensive. What is a person to do in this situation? Enter cycle pro shop reco based in Nabari.

This bike shop offers everything you could wish for from trikes for toddlers to the latest racing bikes- it covers every cycling need- including repairs. There are 2 prices on the website one for basic bikes and one for sports bikes and luckily basic bike repair prices are extremely cheap!

A further cherry on top as the shop’s location- it is just a 2-minute walk from Nabari train station- you can’t get much better than that!

My bike went in for puncture repair and not only was this done extremely quickly, but the repairman also re-oiled everything (something I had been too lazy to do), not only had he re-secured the bike stand (something I had completely missed), but he also realigned my brakes all for the cost of a puncture repair 800 JPY.

Don’t worry I tested his work by immediately going for a 25 km bike rider (post to come) and it all works brilliantly.

The repairman’s wife was extremely helpful as well. Imagine the inside of this shop covered in English terms and posters and the wife turns around and says: I cannot understand a single word of this, but she did have some good recommendations about where I should go to next.

She did say that an hour by bike is a bit far- which I don’t agree with. But then again, I am a bit mad at times.

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The important question: will I be getting a bike designed for what I put it under? Yes- but not in Japan. The costs for such a bike are about the same in Japan and the UK- and you get what you pay for! But, it is currently low on my priority list- no matter how much I would like one.

If you visit Nabari, they also offer rental bikes for day trips, and they do have some visitors’ information available and a fantastic range of bikes- but this is a Japanese only shop- but not by desire they just had no need to use English.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring!


Please check out their website for their full offerings and pricing at:

https://cycle-pro-shop.com/

Resolution and awareness: vaccination

An awareness and resolution post, looking into global vaccinations including proving Karens of the world wrong! Also, vaccinaion programs in Japan

While scrolling through social media, there have been several posts suggesting that a pandemic is to occur this decade. There have been major epidemics and thus pandemics in the 1720s, 1820s, 1920s with the 2020s to possibly follow. But what disease if any would be the probable cause?

Firstly: terminology. An epidemic is when a disease affects a great number of people in an area or country. A pandemic is a global epidemic- simple. Previous examples of pandemic diseases are SARS, avian influenza, Ebola, small pox, yellow fever, TB, leprosy, Spanish flu etc.- there are an awful lot of examples.

While many countries are doing a lot to combat this, there is certainly more that can be done. However, not every country is able to prepare to a similar level- which is part of the problem.

In some LMICs (lower to middle income countries), are more prone to starting a pandemic due to very high contact with animals along with poor access to medical facilities. In addition to this, these countries are usually unable to invest large amounts into epidemic preparedness.

There are many challenges facing the global community with regard to pandemics and one of the more worrying examples is increased antibiotic resistance which a disease can develop if, for example, a person does not complete a dose of antibiotics correctly, if antibiotics are over prescribed and if the disease mutates.

I do have to note that antibiotics will NOT work for viruses at all- if you have influenza antibiotics are as useful as tick tacks- but at least tic tacks will freshen your breath.

Immunization 101

One thing that increases the risk of an ID (infectious disease) mutating is lack of immunization. Immunization helps protect a population from a disease by introducing them to either a dead or ‘live’ disease via an injection. The body’s immune system then works to counter act the disease and produces antibodies which are then ‘saved’ in the body. Some time later, if a person comes into contact with the actual disease, their body is already ready and prepared to fight off this disease.

Many people suffer or die from preventable diseases because they are not immunized. A 2015 case in Japan featured a 10-month-old boy who caught Japanese encephalitis and although he did live, his arms and legs have been severely paralysed. There are many cases of people catching and dying from measles.

The elephant in the room

Some people (we’ll call the Karens) are against immunization because of several reasons including: possible side effects including the adverse medical reactions, the introduction of harmful chemicals (including aluminium and mercury), and there being “no point” in being immunized because the diseases that people are immunized from are ‘no longer a risk’.

I know that I have set up a straw-man argument against the Karens of the world but I shall enjoy using this argument flaw method regardless.

Number 1: immunizations cause adverse medical effects

Most people will cite the study that “showed” a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Simply put there is NO link between the two- in any way. The review into this study was produced by the WHO (World Health Organization) who’s only bias is the promotion of global health.

Other people may look at the “link” between the DTP vaccine and SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and while it seems to be directly related to one another, this is again false. If there were a true link between the 2 factors, the number of SIDS deaths would be astronomically higher. The SIDS deaths were by chance but people have a need point to a cause of death and the vaccine was chosen.

In fact, several studies have shown that the DTP vaccine actually reduces the chance of SIDS deaths.

Number 2: the introduction of harmful chemicals

Many Karens will also say that “vaccines contain harmful chemicals that will harm me/ my child, so I’m not going to vaccinate. It’s my choice.”

The first question for the Karens of the world is: do you drink from soda cans, or live near a road, or smoke? Yes, you already take in 4 times the aluminium that is allowed in a vaccine.

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Other harmful chemicals that may exist within a vaccine usually only exist in trace amounts which help with the bodies autoimmune response and only in certain vaccinations. However, using mercury and formaldehyde as examples- mercury acting as a preservative- in tiny amounts and in a safe compound- and formaldehyde used to render certain viruses such as polio inactive for use in vaccines, more harmful chemicals are ingested in everyday life than via vaccines.

If we look at mercury, and ignoring the fact it has been eliminated from most vaccines since 2001, 69 mcg of mercury is ingested in 1 can of tuna while 25 mcg of mercury is taken in with one influenza injection.

Regarding formaldehyde (the highly carcinogenic, environmentally toxic chemical used in embalming), is extremely common in the environment. Most apples contain more formaldehyde than in the “Hepatitis B, DTaP and polio vaccines together”- a little FYI, this includes organic apples as formaldehyde is a naturally occurring chemical and the human body produces it as part of metabolism which is then converted into carbon dioxide and exhaled.

Pont 3: there is no point in vaccinations as the diseases that are being vaccinated against are no longer a threat

This one is the easiest to disprove to the Karens of the world and can be done with just one world: measles.

Need a bit more? The WHO reports on disease prevalence and outbreaks globally and has reported such trends as the highest measles’ prevalence are in countries with low vaccination rates and there are ongoing out breaks (Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan and Thailand). While the data from 2019 is still provisional (to be finalized by July 2020), there were some serious trends that appeared when comparing the first 6 months of 2018 and 2019.

  • The US reported over 90,000 cases of measles at the start of 2019- the highest in 25 years
  • From 2018 to 2019 measles prevalence has increased:
    • 900% in the WHO Africa region
    • 120% in the European region
    • 50% in the Eastern Mediterranean region
    • 230% in the western Pacific region
  • Additionally, the WHO reports that fewer than 10% of measles cases are actually reported.

The final jolly bit will be just one number- the number of people that died from measles in 2018. Please remember the measles is mostly a preventable disease- so most of these deaths if not all were preventable.

More than 140,000 (…)”

https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/05-12-2019-more-than-140-000-die-from-measles-as-cases-surge-worldwide

So Karens of the world, there is no reason not to be vaccinated- not even ignorance will save you!

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Vaccination in Japan

There are 2 types of vaccines in Japan: voluntary and routine vaccinations. Routine vaccinations are free if you take your child to a clinic within the time frame. Some voluntary vaccines may be routine vaccines in some prefectures.

Voluntary vaccinations are paid for out-of-pocket- and there is quite the list (see below). It is also important to note that out of the 15 vaccinations, 5 are ‘live’ vaccines which depending on pre-existing medical conditions, you may not be able to take.

Routine VaccinationsVoluntary Vaccinations
RotavirusHaemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
MumpsPneumococcal Conjugate (PCV13)
InfluenzaHepatitus B virus (HBV) universial vaccine
Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Polio (DPT-IPV, IPV)
BCG
Measles, Rubella (MR)
Varicella
Japanese Encephalitis
Diphtheria, Tetanus (DT)
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

The ministry of health has a vaccination programme in place for children under 1 to be inoculated free of charge, and they’ll receive 19 shots in total (including boosters) but not every family is able to go to a clinic regally and if an appointment is missed, the remaining shots must be paid for by the parent.

An additional problem regarding vaccinations in Japan is the lack of combined vaccinations. In the UK, most children receive the MMR vaccine but in Japan the Mumps vaccine is routine while the MR vaccine (measles and Rubella) is voluntary. One way to increase total vaccination rates would be to have a greater availability to combination vaccines but Japan wants to protect domestic vaccination production rather than import vaccines which are seen by many to be better.

A full vaccination schedule (in English) is available on the further information page.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

初詣: First shrine visit of the new year

How2: Hatsumode in Nabari

While living in Japan, it is inevitable that you will pick up some good and some bad habits- it’s just how it goes. One habit that I adore, and will miss, is Hatsumoude or visiting a shrine at the beginning of January.

A Shrine worker stoking the fire

Hatsumoude is held at most if not all shrines across Japan and each shrine offers a different benefit such as business success, transportation safety, academia etc.

The main shrine in Nabari city is Urufu Shrine, located in the Hirao district of Nabari. The main benefit of performing Hatsumode at this shrine is transportation safety (交通安全) and charms (お守り) can be bought (and were bought) for 500 JPY to help ensure your safety.

Upon arrival, I was greeted with a massive bonfire, which had the delightful job of keeping me warm while I waited for midnight to welcome in the new year. A tent was set up which offered sake, sweet sake and dried fish (all of which were delicious!).

Everyone was enjoying the fine heat and looking at our phones to see when the clock struck midnight. Suddenly many people seemed to quietly erupt with the phrase “あけおめ” or an informal happy new year. There was quite a queue to pray and thank the kami for the previous year and for help with the coming. Naturally, I took lots of photos, but they were terrible- so I had to visit another shrine.

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積田神社 or Sekita Shrine

Sekita Shrine is an ancient shrine with a 1250 year-old history and it is dedicated to the Shinto Kami Kashimaookami (鹿島大神). It is said that in ancient times before the opening of the heavens and the earth, Kashimaookami was appointed by Tenso Tenjin and descended from the heavens to earth (or from Takamagahara).

Kashimaookami is particularly known for their protection of the Tohoku region (northern man-land Japan) and has been worshipped as a god of military arts and equal to the god of thunder (war). More modern depictions include the phrase “鹿島立ち” meaning to set off on a journey and as a god who will protect you on your journey- or a perfect kami to ask for protection when travelling back to the UK.

A bonfire is still burning 2 days later

When entering a shrine, you are expected to purify yourself with hand washing (post to come) and when coming up to the shrine, make an offering of saisen (賽銭) or donations into the donation box or offertory box (賽銭箱- the kanji is a bit literal). Luck donation amounts are usually considered to be 5, 50 , or 500 JPY(the ‘best’ donation is 9 5 JPY coins- a good fate from beginning to end). But why 5 yen coins?

5 yen in Japanese is pronounced go-en (五円) and guess what this is the same as? If you guessed Pulmonary aspiration- 誤嚥 (swallowing the wrong way) go try to brilliant medical Japanese skills but I meant ご縁 or luck/ fortune.

After praying or asking a kami for a wish, it is traditional to get an Omikuji or fortune for the year ahead. Fortunes cost 100 JPY and it is either a ‘lucky dip’ or shaking a wooden contained until a wooden rod emerges with a number which corresponds to a fortune.

If your fortune is bad, you have the option of keeping it- it is an option- or tying it to a rope at a shrine to keep the bad fortune enshrined there instead.

Omikuji will give you a complete fortune and advise on matters from academic success, financial success, matters of the heart, travel, health etc- in much more detail than a horoscope (AN I did write “horror scope” but that would be a bit morbid now wouldn’t it).

Finally, I would like to wish you all a very happy new year from Nabari and Japan or in Japanese: 新年あけましておめでとうございます.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring in 2020!

Nabari City
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Resolution: drinking water just after waking up

Is drinking water just after waking up good for you?

Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels.com

Today is January second and if you are already hard at work on your New Year’s resolution: congratulations. If you are yet to start of are struggling, don’t worry. A New year’s resolution is a promise to change your life style- it is a marathon NOT a sprint.

After starting to establish a sleep schedule, another small habit to add is drinking water in the morning- just after waking up.

Drinking water upon waking up has several reported benefits even if some of them are more placebolike in nature. Several sources state that drinking water on waking up will help your metabolism, help your concentration levels, help you eat less and help flush out toxins. But does it really help?

It is likely when waking up you may be dehydrated or in the early stages of dehydration. Dehydration does affect concentration levels so rehydrating does help with cognitive ability. Fun fact, the myth that hydration levels can be judged by urine colour is mostly a myth- there are many other things to take into account.

Next, does drinking water help with your metabolism or help flush out toxins? Simply put, there is no direct evidence to support any of this but many sources have claimed that drinking water on waking up has helped them with starting a healthy lifestyle and maintaining body weight.

What is the point then? I drink water in the morning because I have found it useful- as it helps reduce my appetite and eat less- but it is not exactly a scientific study.

This is but one small step towards a healthier lifestyle and its benefit is something you need to decide yourself. I would recommend drinking water with a slice of lemon in it for extra taste, but that is my preference.

Thank you for reading and heathy exploring.