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10 Things About Life In Japan You Probably Don’t Know

10 Things About Life In Japan You Probably Don’t Know

Life in Japan can be challenging, but also absolutely amazing and wonderful. Having spent two years in the country of the rising sun as a kid I still remember quite a lot of things that kept me thrilled and amazed. Here are ten things about the Japanese lifestyle that you should know before moving in or traveling to this wonderful country!

1. Christmas is a lover’s holiday

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    Christmas is not a traditional holiday in Japan. Though, in recent decades it became popular to decorate everything with lights and buy fur trees, do not expect a traditional evening meal with a turkey in a family setting. Think of Christmas in Japan more like of Valentines day in the US. On December, the 24th you are expected to ask out your date to a fancy place, think of a unique date idea or some other couple activity and yes, prepare a gift, but a romantic one. In Japan, gifts are rarely exchanged among family members and friends unless that was pre-arranged earlier.

    Another peculiar Christmas tradition in Japan is going festive at KFC! It emerged after a surprisingly successful ad campaign in 1974, where a group of foreigners were desperate to find a turkey for Christmas and ended up celebrating at KFC. There’s always a huge queue in front of any KFC at Christmas as everyone are eager to grab a 40$ special meal of chicken, wine, cake and champagne. The tradition is so popular in Tokyo, that you need to pre-order your Christmas-special chicken meal and book a table in advance!

    2. Keep your trash with you

    One of the first things you notice in Japan – trash cans are impossible to find at public places! Yet, there’s not litter on the streets either and by no means you should become the one who leaves it! So, what are you expected to do with your bento pack or a melon soda can? Put it in your bag and carry it home like all the Japanese people do. Alternatively, veteran expats pointed out there are public trash cans available at McDonald’s and konbini (convenience) stores.

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    When living in Japan, you will learn a lot about handling trash. As the islands are tiny and densely-populated, it was crucial for the Japanese to focus on recycling and minimizing their impact on the nature around. That’s why one of the first things you receive when moving in your apartment is a gomi guide – an immensely detailed instruction on all-things-trash, from sorting it the right way to days when certain types of waste are collected. Caveat: if you missed throwing the appropriate type of trash on the right day, you will have to wait for another week till you can get rid of it!

    3. Driving experience is different

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      First of all, you need to get used to the fact that your steering wheel is now on the right side of the car and you are obliged to drive on the left side of the road. Also, all the speed limits are listed in kilometers, not in miles. Make sure you can convert them correctly before stepping on that gas pedal. Traffic lights are horizontal and double stacked, so it takes some time to figure out which one is working for you now. While most Japanese drivers are really accurate and attentive, there’s another road hazard – careless cyclists who often pop out unexpectedly on intersections and sometimes ride on the opposite side of the road.

      Remember, you are not allowed to drive in Japan with a US-only license. You should either have an International Driving Permit that can be retrieved from American Automobile Association (AAA) or the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) back in US. However, those are valid only for short-term stays in Japan (less than 90 days). If you plan to settle in Japan for longer, you should either get driver’s license of the international standard or switch overseas driving license to Japanese ones.

      Don’t get upset if the whole thing looks difficult to you, Japan has impeccable train service that will get you to any place at no time.

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      4. Bowing isn’t as easy as you think

      You do know that the Japanese bow at practically any occasion from a greetings to apologizes. Learning to do it the naturally graceful way for a foreigner may be really tricky. Here are three main types of bows:

      • eshaku – leaning about 15-degrees in an informal setting and as a greeting.
      • keirei – 30-degree bow to show a higher level of respect say to your boss or other people who are higher than you on social scale
      • saikeirei – 45-degree bow reserved for major occasions like meeting the emperor or say when you’ve screwed up really big (think destroying someone car).

      5. Always carry an umbrella in summer

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        The rainy season (tsuyu or baiyu) takes place in most parts of Japan from early June till late July and a month earlier at Okinawa. Whereas it does not rain straight for two months in a row, the weather becomes really unexpected. You can leave the house while the sun shines bright to realize it’s raining cat and dogs in a mere hour when you are about to leave the shop. Unless you’d like to spend ¥100 each time it starts raining (or get soaking wet), do carry an umbrella all the time.

        Also, do not forget it’s impolite to enter any store or other venue with your dripping umbrella. There are special boxes installed outside where you should place it. They are never stolen, yet if you don’t have a particularly distinctive parasol, it might be accidentally taken by someone else. Surprisingly, you can find it the next day at the same box as that someone returned it for you.

        6. Policemen are really friendly and concerned (sometimes even too much)

        Japan traditionally tops the list of the safest countries in the world with extremely low crime and murder rates. Hardly anyone actually locks the doors at home and if you lost your phone or wallet at the train station, there are 99.99% chances you’ll get it back the next day with the same amount of cash. Therefore, Japanese police is busy sorting out other issues the citizens have. Say, if you got lost in Tokyo, a policemen will surely guide you back to your home or the nearest metro stations. You can chit chat with them and joke all the way back home. Also, these folks can call you a cab and lend you money if you had a rough drinking night and missed the last train.

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        However, as Karin Muller pointed out in her book “Japanland: A Year In Search of Wa” sometimes the local police friendly concerns can become too much. The local officers were really concerned about her nightly running habits, numerously talking her out of jogging around the beach after dark for no specific safety reason. But that’s kind of a cute motherly-like concern, right?

        7. There’s no need to double-check anything

        There are zero chances you will receive the wrong amount of change from a cashier. Not a single chance the item you ordered would be fake or lack any accessories that were sold with it. Japan has no tolerance for scamming or dishonesty. Not only it is highly shameful to trick anyone, but also rather costly with huge fines and legal consequences for those who’ve attempted and got caught.

        Also, bargaining isn’t a thing in Japan. All the prices are fixed even at street markets. Do not ask for a discount unless it’s already listed on the product.

        8. Night clubs are not for dancing

        It is just as odd as it sounds – you are not allowed to dance at a vast majority of night/dance clubs around Japan. Basically, any night venue in Japan has a “Please, no dancing sign” and if you get rebellious after a few shots and still decide to get low on the dance floor, you can get kicked out. According to a law adopted back in 1948 (and never changed since then), clubs with a floor space less than 66 sq/m  (710 sq ft) cannot obtain the proper license and allow customers to dance. A later law adopted in 1984 bans dancing after midnight. Real estate prices in Japan are whooping. Finding and renting a place over 66 sq/m gets extremely expensive and hard to find. Add extra fees for obtaining “dancing license” from the government and we get an absolutely broke club owner who will need to work for decades before he starts earning at least something from the venue.

        If you plan to have a night out dancing till dawn, look for clubs based outside the city or in industrial areas like ageHa based in Shin-Kiba (port district) in Tokyo. Free shuttle buses run from/to various parts of town, plus the venue’s open till late with an array of professional dancers to round out the onstage entertainment. However, there’s been a slow shift in the society and the “no dancing” law could be modified by Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics.

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        9. There are special sleepers to attend the bathroom

        First of all, when entering the house you are supposed to take of your shoes and either put on the sleepers proposed by the owners or walk barefoot around cozy tatami floor. Also, there’s a set of special sleepers reserved for walking in the bathroom only. Usually they are left next to the door or right in front of the entrance. You are supposed to wear them only while using the toilet and it’s extremely embarrassing to forget changing them back after you’ve finished all your business there. Also, it’s polite to put them back just the same way they were standing, so that the next person could easily slip into them.

        You’ll find the same “bathroom sleepers” in numerous restaurants and venues around Japan. Make sure you do not end up walking in them back to your table. Also, you are required to take your shoes and leave them aside before entering a fitting room at the shop. All of them have special clean podiums where you should stand barefoot.

        10. Laundry is usually done every day

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          Basically, each Japanese family does the laundry every day. By 7 am you can see an array of crispy clean clothes drying outside. Usually, it is considered inappropriate to wear any clothing item twice without washing it first. That’s a crucial point to consider if you plan to share your living space with a Japanese person.

          Featured photo credit: Moyan Brenn via flickr.com

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          Elena Prokopets

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          Last Updated on November 15, 2019

          Expert Advice That Will Teach You How to Increase Your Metabolism

          Expert Advice That Will Teach You How to Increase Your Metabolism

          Wouldn’t you like to be able to eat twice as much as you do now without gaining weight? If so, I have good news for you because this is possible when you learn how to increase metabolism.

          How Much Do You Know About Metabolism?

          Before we get to the meat, let me say that metabolism is a term that describes all the chemical reactions in your body.[1] These chemical reactions keep your body alive and functioning, however, the word metabolism is often used interchangeably with the metabolic rate or the number of calories you burn.

          The metabolic rate is a rough estimate of how much energy your body needs to simply stay alive and perform all its biochemical reactions. These reactions require energy, aka burn calories.

          Imagine that your brain alone consumes nearly 20% of your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure at rest),[2] your digestion and the detoxifying system come second, repairing tissues third and so on.

          Staying alive is expensive for your body and its two main currencies are fats and sugars.

          When I am talking about improving your metabolic rate (metabolism), I mean improving the amount of energy, your body requires to (pretty much) lay down in bed and do nothing for 24 hours.

          Extra physical activity, extra thinking or fighting illness are things that require a lot of energy (burn a lot of calories) but they don’t really increase metabolism… actually they can decrease it.

          Can You Naturally Change the Speed of Your Basal Metabolism?

          The answer to this question is yes and you can also achieve an increase in metabolism and a drop in body fat by eating more.

          Shocked? Well, I was too.

          The way I came across this phenomenon is quite funny. Over my 10 years as a coach, I helped many busy professionals to naturally increase their metabolism by getting them leaner, fitter and stronger but, at the beginning of my career, I actually had no idea whether they were losing weight because of an increase in metabolism or because we created a calorie deficit with diet and exercise.

          When I was training my clients regularly, they would lose weight. Every time I would take a few weeks of vacation, I would come back to London and find out that most of them gained back a generous amount of weight despite the fact that they were following their diet and they swapped our weight training sessions with cardio.

          On the contrary, when they were going on vacation, they would do zero exercises and binge like there was no tomorrow but come back either lighter or weighing the same (but looking more muscular).

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          Observing this phenomenon happening over and over again, got me curious about the mechanics of our metabolism and the ways to hack it.

          Was it really possible that by relaxing and eating more food, someone could actually maintain his/her current weight or even be losing fat?

          Driven by the desire to answer this question, I spent a good amount of years researching and testing different food strategies until I finally cracked the code to an improved metabolism that allows you to eat like a king and look like a Greek God.

          Does Eating More Increase Metabolism?

          Before I explain why eating more increases your metabolism, let me dig into something that I see people doing much more often: “eating less and moving more.”

          It is quite common to see people embarking their yearly weight loss journey (usually after Christmas or Easter) by following very restrictive diets and bombarding their body with several hours of exercise per day.

          Despite the short-term effectiveness of this approach, in the long run, if the goal is to increase metabolism and lose a lot of fat over an extended period of time, this simply won’t work.

          As I have mentioned before, eating fewer calories and exercising more are energy-consuming activities for your body. In the first case, your body needs to use its own energy reserves to top up the missing energy it needs to fully function; and in the second, it takes your body extra energy to contract your muscles.

          In both cases, your TDEE (Total daily energy expenditure at rest) doesn’t vary much; therefore your metabolism stays unchanged.[3]

          A different scenario happens when you eat less and move more for an extended period of time (weeks or months). In that case, your metabolism will slow down because your body is receiving a “we have little access to food and we need to run away from threats” signal.

          Your metabolism is like your bank account.

          To understand this concept, let’s imagine that you have $4,000 coming into your bank account each and every month. The money you spend on housing, transport, food and leisure are calibrated according to this monthly income.

          Now, imagine that a rich uncle starts to send you $1,000 each day. What would you do? Probably, you would save that money for the first two or three days but, when you notice that $1,000 keep on coming every single day, you would likely start to spend more right?

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          What if, instead of a rich uncle sending you money, a poor uncle needed your financial help to pay for the treatments of his illness? You would probably try your best to adjust your spending according to your old $4,000 monthly budget.

          That’s exactly how your body reasons:

          More Resources Coming in = More Energy Released (Improved Metabolism)

          Fewer Resources Coming in = Less Energy Released (Decreased Metabolism)

          Note that activities like weight training[4] and high-intensity interval training (HIIT),[5] when combined with an increase in nutrient-rich foods, will also improve your metabolism.

          For this reason, today, when I coach a new client, I always start by increasing their daily food intake and their physical activities. Usually, people are quite confused because they come to me to lose weight and I tell them to eat more but, without fail, the next weekly weight-check shows a lower number.

          Be aware that not all foods are equal and only certain foods have the power to increase metabolism to a noticeable extent.

          Foods That Increase Metabolism

          Doubling up on Snickers bars won’t improve your metabolism and you know that. What you may not know is that certain foods that are marked as “healthy” doesn’t help you with increasing your metabolism. They also make you gain weight.

          Before giving you a list of foods to eat or avoid, let me explain a simple principle of human biochemistry.

          Your body uses energy from three (or four) main sources:

          • Sugars: whether you eat a Snickers bar or a banana, the carbohydrates contained in both get absorbed in the gut and become blood glucose (the basic form of sugar our body utilizes as a source of energy).[6]
            When blood glucose is present in the bloodstream (elevated levels), the body always uses it as its primary source of energy. When blood glucose levels drop (this phenomenon happens when you’re using these sugars to fuel a physical activity or when your pancreas produced a spike of insulin and stores that glucose into fat and muscles), your body starts to release fatty acids into the bloodstream to use as a source of energy.
          • Fatty acids: either from your own fat cells (adipocytes) or from whatever fat-containing foods you ate in the past 2-3 hours. Fatty acids are a slower and more consistent form of energy than sugars that your body can utilise.
          • Amino acids: Amino acids are the broken-down form of proteins. Proteins cannot be used by the body as a source of energy, not even in their broken-down form. Your body can transform amino acids into glucose with a process called gluconeogenesis.[7] This is a very inefficient process where a decent amount of energy gets wasted (and that’s a good thing for us but I’ll get to that later).
          • Ketones: when you don’t feed your body any source of carbs (or proteins in excess), your liver produces an alternative source of energy called Ketones. It can replace the need for glucose (most of it at least).[8]

          Now that you know the four energy sources the body can use to fuel its metabolism, let’s get to the meat (quite literally).

          To make this simple for you, I am going to divide foods into three categories:

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          1. Red Flags – Avoid the red foods because they slow your metabolism. They are usually extremely low in micronutrients and high in antinutrients (agents that are highly toxic). They are highly processed or spike your insulin levels (therefore stopping your fat burning process).
          2. Orange Foods – Limit your consumption of orange foods. The orange foods on the list are suboptimal choices but they don’t have a negative impact on your metabolism when consumed in moderation. In fact, they contain a decent amount of micronutrients and, if eaten in small amounts, they shouldn’t stop your fat burning process.
          3. Green Foods – These are foods to consume most. Green foods will improve your metabolism and should be the main bulk of your diet.

          Next, I’ll get into details exactly what foods to eat and avoid:

          Sugars and Carbs

          Sugars do not directly improve metabolism because they stop the process of fat utilisation. There is an exception to this rule though. When you eat a diet extremely low in carbohydrates and sugars for an extended period of time (two to six days onwards), introducing carbohydrates and sugars can actually improve metabolism quite a bit.

          Unfortunately, for most of us that love eating bread, pasta, fruit and yoghurt, unless we were on a low-carb diet for the past few days, these foods are not an optimal choice.

          Sugars like fructose (found in fruit or commercial sugar) actually decrease metabolism and should be limited. Heavily processed sugars and carbohydrates should be also limited. Here is the colour list of sugars and carbs that affect metabolism:

          Red Flag Sugary Foods You Should Avoid:
          • Dried fruit
          • Commercial and packaged corn
          • High fructose corn syrup
          • All sorts of candies and lookalike
          • Packaged fruit juices and purees
          • Sugary dairy products like flavoured yoghurt, condensed milk etc
          Orange Sugary Foods You Should Limit:
          • Bread and flour-based products
          • Milk and also vegan milk alternatives that are sweetened
          • Most fruit (exceptions are in the green list below)
          • Potatoes and potato starch products
          • Oatmeals and other grains
          Green Sugary and Carb-Containing Foods That Improve Metabolism
          • All berries except strawberries
          • Tubers like squash, carrots, parsnips etc
          • Sweet potatoes
          • White rice
          • All green vegetables

          Fats

          Fatty acids and fats, in general, can improve or decrease metabolism depending on their composition.

          Red Flag Fatty Foods You Should Avoid:
          • Margarine and hydrogenated fat
          • Lard
          • Gmo oils
          • Most vegetable oils from seeds and peanut oil
          Orange Fatty Foods You Should Limit:
          • Nuts
          • Meat fat
          • Nut oils (macadamia, almond, cashew etc..)
          • Seeds
          Green Fatty Foods You Should Eat Daily
          • Extra virgin olive oil (non-heated)
          • Avocado
          • Coconut oil
          • Butter (organic)
          • Egg yolks (free-range)
          • Bone marrow

          The fatty foods in the green section tend to be very effective in increasing metabolism, especially in the absence of carbohydrates because they stimulate the production of ketones (I’ll talk about this later).

          Bear in mind that 1 gram of fat has 2.5 times the calories of a gram of protein or carbohydrates; therefore “eating more fats” to increase metabolism should be done very gradually to avoid weight gain.

          Proteins

          Eating food not only sends regulatory signals to your brain about abundance vs scarcity of resources, but it can also increase your metabolism for a few hours. This is called the thermic effect of food (TEF).[9] It’s caused by the extra calories required to digest, absorb and process the nutrients in your meal.

          Protein causes the largest rise in TEF.[10] It increases your metabolic rate by 15-30%, compared to 5-10% for carbs and 0-3% for fats

          Eating protein has also been shown to help you feel more full and prevent you from overeating, in fact, a study found that people were likely to eat around 441 fewer calories per day when protein made up 30% of their diet.[11]

          Also, proteins help preserve muscle mass.[12] The more muscle mass we have, the higher our basal metabolism is.

          For these reasons, the first nutritional advice I usually give to clients is to reduce sugars and increase proteins. This quick swap is often enough to kickstart their metabolism and commence the fat burning process.

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          Red Protein Sources That Should Be Avoided
          • Cheap whey proteins
          • Soy proteins
          • GMO meat
          • GMO eggs
          • Packaged meat
          Orange Protein Source to Be Limited
          • Canned tuna
          • Canned fish
          • Canned meat
          • Gluten-rich products like Seitan
          • Farmed fish
          Green Protein Sources to Have Daily
          • Free-range meat
          • Free-range eggs
          • Wild meat and fish
          • Whey protein isolate
          • Collagen and beef protein hydrolyzed

          Note that this is a general categorisation of the foods that, when added to your diet, have the power to increase or decrease metabolism. There are some specific foods and supplements worth mentioning because they have been proven to improve metabolism by increasing thyroid output or resting heart rate, they are as follows.

          Other Foods and Supplements

          Cold water

          Drinking water may temporarily speed up your metabolism. Studies have shown that drinking 17 ounces (0.5 litres) of water increases resting metabolism by 10-30% for about an hour.[13]

          This is not a surprise since our body is made up mainly by water and proper hydration is key to a fast metabolism. This calorie-burning effect may be even greater if you drink cold water, as your body uses energy to heat it up to body temperature.

          MCT Oils or Powders

          Medium-chain triglycerides or MCT have been shown to improve metabolism by stimulating Ketone production.[14] Coconut oil contains MCT fats and, when used as a replacement for cooking oil can help you improve metabolism.

          You can buy the concentrated version of MCT oils and eat it separately to further enhance this effect. Either way, coconut oil or pure MCT oil can be a great addition to your diet if you’re following a ketogenic or intermittent fasting protocol.

          Caffeine

          Caffeine and coffee have been shown to improve metabolism by improving heart rate and, therefore improving calorie consumption.[15]

          Green Tea

          Green tea

          is thought to increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation, and to reduce fat production and absorption.[16]

          Bottom Line

          In this article, I just covered the basics of food and metabolism but, there are many other non-food related things you can do to improve your metabolism, like improving your sleep quality and following certain exercise routines.

          For now, just know that making small and gradual changes to your diet can increase your metabolism and improve your general health. Starting from changing one habit at a time is always the best strategy to accomplish any goal.

          Once you improve your diet, your hydration and your supplementation you can think about testing more advanced “bio-hacks” or techniques like ice baths and fasted HIIT training.

          And remember, having a higher metabolism doesn’t only help you lose weight and keep it off but it also give you more energy and a feeling of vibrancy. If you give it time, it really is worth the investment.

          Featured photo credit: Fitsum Admasu via unsplash.com

          Reference

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