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“Urawaza”: 6 Fascinating Japanese Life Hacks

“Urawaza”: 6 Fascinating Japanese Life Hacks

    I recently picked up a copy of “Urawaza: Secret Everyday Tips and Tricks from Japan” by Lisa Katayama, and I really enjoyed it. Described by Think Geek as “the Ninja version of Martha Stewart”, the book consists of dozens of off-centered lifestyle tips, covering everything from cooking tricks to winter sports.

    For example, you might “turbocharge” your winter sled by treating the bottom with nonstick cooking spray, or refresh stale coffee with a sprinkle of salt. Or, you might even use a household iron to help you perfect your bowling technique. If you have a common household problem, chances are that there is an urawaza trick that can help you out.

    The History of Urawaza

    As author Lisa Katayama explains in the introduction of the book, the culture of urawaza had its roots in post-WWII Japan. The country’s resources had been tapped by the war effort, and even basic provisions had become harder to come by.

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    There were plenty of families that were trying to do more with less after the war, and even in modern Japan there are many families living in tiny city apartments who are looking to make the most of their space and resources. In 1997, the Japanese TV program “The Ito Family Dinner Table” brought urawaza into the mainstream. The program became so popular that at one point, over 30 percent of Japanese households tuned in to watch the show every week.

    The Look of the Book

    Each tip in the book is framed on a single page, outlining the dilemma, the urawaza solution, and a brief blurb that explains why the tip works from the scientific standpoint. It’s short enough to read cover-to-cover in a single sitting, and accessible enough to skim through for only a few minutes at a time.

    Even the design of the book is geared to help the reader be more productive. The front of the book is emblazoned with big friendly letters that encourage the reader to “DO EVERYTHING BETTER!”, a move that reminds me warmly of the “DON’T PANIC” cover art of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

    The obi-style wrapper on top of the book jacket is billed as “an instant fast-forward” (read: built-in bookmark) to help readers mark their place and easily refer back to tips they are looking to try out.

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    So, What’s In This Book?

    The book contains over 100 tips across seven topic sections. Readers can peruse a variety of life hacks that include health tips, tricks to “amaze your friends”, beauty advice, “household hacks”, kitchen/food tips, laundry shortcuts, and tips for the great outdoors.

    Basically, whether you are young or old, male or female, there will be plenty of relevant hacks and tips for you to peruse. Whether you are looking for a way to prevent your car doors from freezing shut in the winter, or want to learn to master the perfect manicure, there’s a hack for that.

    My Top Picks

    Out of the dozens of great tips in this book, I have selected six that I thought were really interesting, unique, or just plain useful. Narrowing it down was tough, but the following tips are pretty excellent.

    1. A Foolproof Hiccup Cure: Instead of drinking water or swallowing sugar, the book suggests that you stick a cotton swab into your mouth and try to tickle your uvula. Doing so will initiate a gag reflex that will override the hiccup cycle. Kinda gross, but foolproof.

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    2. Stop a Crying Baby: If you swish a little water in your mouth next to the baby’s ear, this will calm the child. This is because the sound is similar to the noises that the baby was accustomed to hearing while still in the womb.

    3. Vinegar Tricks: A dab of apple cider vinegar can banish blemishes, and a mix of white vinegar and tap water can be applied to your hair to make it shiny.

    4. Coffee Stains Begone: Boil spinach in water, and use that water and a toothbrush to lift stubborn coffee stains from fabrics. The oxalic acid present in spinach is good for busting coffee stains, but proceed with caution: this trick won’t work on white fabric because of the green pigments from the spinach.

    5. Fix a Shrunken Sweater: If you’ve accidentally shrunk a favorite wool sweater, you can return it to its original size by soaking it in a solution of tap water and hair conditioner for about 30 minutes.

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    6. Use Your Washing Machine as a Shredder: Just place your documents into a pair of nylon pantyhose, and send them through the wash. The ink will fade or blur, and the paper will crumple and fall apart.

    Conclusion

    I really enjoyed reading this book. Although I haven’t had a chance to try out every single trick yet, I’ve found that some are better than others. For example, the “soap-in-the-microwave” trick was fun to watch, but didn’t deliver much in terms of results.

    But, I especially enjoyed the “create your own urawaza” section at the tail end of the book, as well as the section devoted to the art of tsubo (Japanese pressure points). The tips are solid overall, and the book is definitely worth picking up if you are a fan of life hacks.

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    Last Updated on August 15, 2018

    7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

    7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

    Bodyweight exercises are gaining ground in the fitness world due to the practicality and simplicity of getting in shape using your own body weight. Planks are one form of bodyweight exercises that will never go out of fashion. Planks are one of the most effective exercises you can do. Why? Because they require a small time investment on your part, and offer the chance to achieve substantial results in a relatively short span of time.

    Video Summary

    Why is it important to train up our core strength?

    There are numerous sites and blogs which detail ways to build your core muscles or core strength. Often though, these sites neglect to explain what your core muscles actually are, and why building them is important.

    This is quite surprising, as core muscles are quite easy to explain. Your core muscles are a series of muscles in your midsection, and are used in most forms of movement. Though they aren’t housed in your arms or legs, your core muscles can help transfer force from one limb to another, or are used in addition to muscles in your arms or legs to increase their effectiveness. As such a strong core will make a big improvement on your ability to move and exercise further.

    Also they are great for helping other muscles in your midsection such as your abdominal muscles. Your abdominal muscles are important for supporting your back and spinal column, and as such are important aids in preventing injuries. However for them to be most effective you need to spend a lot of time developing your core muscles.

    In short, planking exercises can make a huge improvement in your muscles down your whole body. Making them a hugely effective exercise to perform.

    One Exercise, multiple benefits

    There are few forms of exercise as effective at building your core as planking exercises. However, planking exercises benefit far more than just your core strength.

    By holding yourself in the position for a planking exercise, you’ll notice that your biceps, neck, and shoulder muscles are also being tested and strained. This this encouraging their buildup and development. This is great news if you like to do press ups, developed shoulder muscles will have a big impact on your press up performance.

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    When planking, you are holding yourself up through your arms and biceps and so by holding a planking position, your arm muscles are being toned and developed. Making planking a great alternative exercise to other forms of bicep developing exercises.

    Moving down your midsection, successful plank exercises actually develop the muscles in your butt! These muscles tend to be ignored by a lot of exercises, so this is another great benefit of plank exercises.

    In much the same way as you develop your biceps and arm muscles, holding the planking position helps develop the muscles in your thighs too.

    What is even better is that planking exercises don’t take much time at all. In fact you should probably only spend about ten minutes max per day in the planking exercise.

    What will happen when you start doing planks every day

      1. You’ll improve core definition and performance: 

      Planks are an ideal exercise for the abdominal muscles exactly because they engage all major core muscle groups including the transverse abdominus, the rectus abdominusthe external oblique muscle, and the glutes. The importance of strengthening each muscle group cannot be underestimated either, for all of these groups serve their own purpose. If you strengthen these muscle groups you will notice:

      • Transverse abdominis: increased ability to lift heavier weights.
      • Rectus adbominis: improved sports performance, particularly with jumping. This muscle group is also responsible for giving you the renowned six pack look.
      • Oblique muscles: improved capacity for stable side-bending and waist-twisting
      • Glutes: a supported back and a strong, shapely booty.

      2. You’ll decrease your risk of injury in the back and spinal column

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        Doing planks is a type of exercise that allow you to build muscle while also making sure that you are not putting too much pressure on your spine or hips. According to the American Council on Exercise, doing planks regularly not only significantly reduces back pain but it also strengthens your muscles and ensures a strong support for your entire back, especially in the areas around your upper back.

        Check out this article if you would like to find out about how doing planks on different surfaces can impact the effectiveness of this exercise in strengthening your core.

        3. You’ll experience an increased boost to your overall metabolism

          Planking is an excellent way of challenging your entire body because doing them every day will burn more calories than other traditional abdominal exercises, such as crunches or sit-ups. The muscles you strengthen by doing this exercise on a day-to-day basis will ensure that you burn more energy even when sedentary. This is especially important if you are spending the majority of your day sitting in front of a computer. Also, making it a daily 10- to 1 minute home exercise before or after work will not only provide an enhanced metabolic rate but it will also ensure that that metabolic rate remains high all day long, (yes, even while you are asleep).

          4. You’ll significantly improve your posture

            Planking exercises have a great impact and improvement on your posture. This is great news as a strong posture brings with it a huge number of fantastic benefits .

            A good posture keeps your bones and joins in the correct alignment which means both your bones and joints will be better maintained and more healthy, but also means the overall effectiveness of your muscles will be improved.

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            A good posture will ensure your back or spine is in the correct position and so you will suffer less back pain.

            On top of everything, someone with good posture looks better, healthier, and more confident.

            5. You’ll improve overall balance

              Have you ever felt that when you tried standing on one leg, you couldn’t stand up straight for more than a couple of seconds? It’s not because you were drunk- unless you happened to be at the time!-  but rather, it’s because your abdominal muscles weren’t strong enough to give you the balance you needed. Through improving your balance by doing side planks and planks with extensions you will boost your performance in every kind of sporting activity.

              6. You’ll become more flexible than ever before

                Flexibility is a key benefit of doing planks regularly, for this form of exercise expands and stretches all your posterior muscle groups – shouldersshoulder blades, and collarbone – while also stretching your hamstrings, arches of your feet, and toes. With a side plank added in to the mix, you can also work on your oblique muscles. This will provide you with further benefits when it comes to hyper-extending your toes, a movement that is crucial for supporting your body’s weight.

                7. You’ll witness mental benefits

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                  Plank exercises have a particular effect on our nerves, making them an excellent means of improving overall mood. How? Well, they stretch out muscle groups that contribute to stress and tension in the body. Just think about it: you are sitting in your chair, at home or at work, all day long; your thigh muscles get tight, your legs get heavy due to being bent for several hours; and tension develops in your shoulders due to being forced to slump forward all day. These are all circumstances that put too stress on the muscles and nerves. The good news is that planks not only calm your brain, but they can also treat anxiety and symptoms of depression– but only if you make it part of your daily routine.

                  How to hold a plank position

                  1. Get into pushup position on the floor.
                  2. Now bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms.
                  3. Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging or bending.
                  4. Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor.
                  5. Hold the position for as long as you can.
                  6. Remember to breathe. Inhale and exhale slowly and steadily.
                  7. When your form begins to suffer, pull the plug. You’re only benefiting from the plank by actually doing the plank.

                  Watch the video if you have any doubt!

                  Here is a great infographic that shows the best plank variation exercises to evenly target all abdominal muscle groups:

                    How to improve your plank time gradually

                    1. Start with the easier variation if needed. You can start with a bent-knee plank if you can’t perform a regular plank yet. If you can hold a plank for more than two minutes with ease, you can move on to these tougher variations.
                    2. Practise every day. Space your planking exercise throughout the day and do 3-4 times every day. Try to hold the position 10 seconds longer each time.
                    3. Perform other body-weight exercises at the same time. Push-up and squat will improve your core strength too.

                    Are you ready to devote 5-10 minutes of your day, every day, to stay fit, healthy and, most importantly, strong as a bull? Then jump in and make doing plank exercises a part of your life.

                    Who Should Be Cautious Doing The Plank?

                    You need to be cautious doing Planking exercises if any of these risks apply to you:

                    • Prolapse
                    • After prolapse surgery
                    • Pelvic pain conditions
                    • Weak or poorly functioning pelvic floor muscles
                    • Previous childbirth
                    • Overweight

                    Choose an alternative pelvic floor abdominal exercise or consult your doctor before performing plank regularly.

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