This summer I had the opportunity to travel to Japan and South Korea.
When I told friends about this project, I usually got 2 kinds of comments:
- Why Japan and SK??
- With the whole family, it must be awfully expensive??
As you can see, I have very supportive friends 😉 Actually I do my best to get rid of them but after a while I miss them so what can I do? I’m stuck 😉 Just kidding, I like them as they are (stupid).
I told them that I had to be in Seoul mid of August anyway, so I decided to join the business with pleasure by having our family holiday there. And regarding the second point (“awfully expensive”), I told them it was not of their business but if they were worrying about the cost, their financial contribution was welcome 😉
Preparation is Key
As you can guess, this is not the kind of vacation that you decide on the last minute so it took months to organize and believe it or not, I like it a lot. I don’t see it as a burden but as an exciting period where you gather all information, you learn a lot about so many aspects of the country you’ll visit soon. OK, Japan, 4 main islands, what were the names by the way, where is Tokyo, where to stay, how to travel, what about the people and the cultural differences, do they speak English, what will we eat, what cities will we visit? Etc… I like it a lot. Books, movies, websites, all the things that you learn about your future destination multiply the pleasure of your experience once there.
We also decided to organize everything on our own, instead of relying on tour operators: on one hand it can be risky because you have no real experience of the country and it comes automatically with some improvisation when things don’t happen as they should, but on the other hand it brings a kind of freedom and adventure that I appreciate a lot. It’s a kind of balance between risk and interest. Going to countries where balance (yin/yang) is a way of life, we had a good feeling about it 😉
Like A Dream
Now that we are back home, after traveling so far away in so many places, I’m happy to say that we have been very lucky:
- Great weather: the rainy season was behind us (June/July) so we had the typical weather for August, hot and humid, with beautiful sunny days, we had rain only once for 10 minutes when visiting a temple.
- People have been very kind and helpful. I never saw that: even if communication was not always easy in English, the persons we asked for directions were amazingly helpful. Many times they asked us to follow them directly to the desired place. One day a young man did run minutes after we left him to tell us that meanwhile he had found a better way to go there! I never saw that elsewhere. Another day we were in a train station and we asked a young lady at the Information Center how to go the ferry terminal, well she left her desk and spent at least 20 minutes with us, going to a travel agency to print our final tickets and to the taxi station to make sure that the driver would understand where to go! These are just examples about directions but the same is true everywhere, in shops, in the street, in hotels or restaurants, you wouldn’t believe it.
- If you never traveled to Japan, you have no idea how safe, clean, polite, respectful, dedicated and helpful a country can be.
- When I say that we’ve been lucky, I mean it: shortly after our ferry trip from Fukuoka to Busan in SK, a typhoon has hit Fukuoka! Right timing…
- I will not detail our experience of South Korea, from Busan to Seoul, because this post is getting too long and now I’d like to switch to our main topic of interest, weight management.
Japanese Are So Slim!
When you visit Tokyo, if you come from the USA something strikes you immediately: most Japanese are skinny! You barely see overweight or obese people! Compared to the US, the difference is striking, really. I knew it already but honestly I did not expect such a difference. Young people, old people, men and women, they all look slim and full of energy. You know that I’m a serious (married) guy but I must say that I had a hard time keeping my eyes off the girls there 😉 They are thin and beautiful! And not only the young ones but also their moms!
And it’s not only me noticing it because of my interest in weight problems, my family also saw it and after a few days we even started a game where the winner was the first one to see an overweight person — sumos not included 😉 Depending on the city, it took us some time to find the first one but some days we had no winner for hours. Guess what it would be in your own town if you live in the US! You would win based on speed, not observation…
Why Are Japanese So Thin?
When it comes to weight management, you know that all existing literature can be boiled down to 2 words: nutrition and exercise. I prefer the 4 words formula: Eat Less, Move More. And in complex cases I like to add these 2 words: Get Support!
Regarding Japan, which factor plays the big role here, nutrition or exercise? We all have in mind the funny exercises that they do in the morning, at work or in schools: it’s good to stretch a bit but the energy expenditure is probably not the main explanation of their tight body. It has to come from nutrition: they all can’t be exercising every day, but they all eat everyday 😉 And what they eat is so different from the typical US processed foods!
It’s not a secret, their food habits are very healthy compared to ours: during our trip we have been eating fish and vegetables every day! Yes, even the kids because they had no other choice 😉 You can see many fast food “restaurants” in big cities, especially the famous yellow M but also the gray-haired colonel from Kentucky 😉 but these restaurants have been present since years and apparently it had no major influence on the average Japanese obesity rate.
OK, I realize now that I have to refrain from developing this Japanese weight loss topic: I will do so in a separate post, not only my personal impression but also more academic studies about the Japanese lifestyle and its effects on weight.
I often heard that Japanese people living in their home country stay thin and those coming to the US are gaining 15 to 20 pounds within a year. I don’t know if it’s true but after my trip from Tokyo to Fukuoka I tend to believe it! Their healthy lifestyle is a cultural defense against overweight, obesity and related diseases. What you consider as a challenge when dieting (eating fish and veggies…) is not perceived as an effort for them but just the way it is…
There is another point that I’d like to mention, aside Japanese weight considerations: my new activity trainer, mentioned in a previous post. I love it. Honestly for me it’s a real game changer that you should definitely consider if you are serious about losing weight. I’ll come back to that. The last point that I have to postpone is about ephedrine in Japan — even if they don’t need it as much as we do 😉
Here is a selection of photos I took in Japan. The ones from South Korea will follow shortly. Aren’t they beautiful?! Please be kind and share your comments below 😉
Asakusa Senso-ji temple:
Tokyo, Ueno park, Toshogu temple:
Tokyo, Shibuya streets:
Tokyo, Takeshita street:
Kyoto, Kinkaku-ji aka Golden Pavilion:
Kyoto, Kiyomizu-dera Temple:
Nara, Todai-ji temple, world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha:
Miyajima Island, Itsukushima Shrine (Torii):