Sunday we all spent the day with our host families doing different activities. Stefania and Kelsey went to Odaiba, a new and trendy area. Nan went to Kamakura, an area with beautiful temples, flowers and the Great Buddha. Stephanie went hiking at Mount Takao, and Vanessa and Anthea spent the day shopping with their host families. We all can not believe how fast the days are flying by and we are looking forward to the last week of this amazing cultural experience.
Saturday Vanessa’s host mom and sister Miu took us to visit an ‘Onsen’ –
a Japanese public bath and hot spring. It was a gorgeous day outside and we got
to really relax. After trying out the many baths filled with different ingredients such as kiwi and milk, we got to pamper ourselves with the creams and hair products. We were all truly amazed by how beautiful and spa-like the ‘Onsen’ was.
On Friday, we observed their food service management class. In this class, the students learn all of the steps involved in food services. The students do everything from menu planning, purchasing food, recipe development, cooking food using an industrial sized kitchen and serving the food. We had a chance to eat the food that they prepared which was a hot soup with ‘udon’ noodles, tempura, a salad with octopus and a lemon desert. This class was similar to our food production management class at Brescia; however, it is a more a hands-on approach to learning about food services and takes hours to complete.
On Friday afternoon we took a boat across the Edo river to visit a Buddhist temple with Vanessa’s host family. It was a lovely way to spend the afternoon. Friday evening we spent the night in Roppongi, an area with an incredible nightlife with lots of restaurants and filled with so many people.
On Thursday morning, we attended a clinical nutrition practice class. In this class, we saw the students work on case studies similar to the case studies we do at Brescia. These case studies were on Hypertension and Pregnancy-Induced Hypertension. During this class we had the opportunity to talk to many of the students who are coming to Brescia. After the class, we had a seminar by Dr. Sakurai, a surgeon who works as a professor at WAYO teaching clinical nutrition. He gave an interesting talk on his involvement with Japanese medical societies and his strong desire to educate the medical team on critical nutrition support for patients particularly after surgery.
On Thursday afternoon we visited the Fujitsu clinic. This is a clinic for 10,000 Fujitsu workers, their families as well as ex-workers. We spoke with the company dietitian at the clinic and learned about the steps involved for someone to see a dietitian. She showed us many of the food models she uses when counseling and gave us an excellent tour of the facility where we saw the blood labs, the x-ray and MRI machines. After the tour of the clinic, we had a tour of the Fujitsu museum. Here we learned about Fujitsu’s history and learned about their new innovations in technology. One highlight from this visit was driving a train simulator and how we found it difficult to control the speed!
After visiting Fujitsu, we participated in a tea ceremony at Wayo. This was truly a cultural experience learning about how traditional Japanese green tea ceremonies are conducted. In the ceremony, you are offered Japanese sweets and tea. There are many procedures when taking the tea such as lifting the tea-cup with your right hand, putting it on the palm of your left hand and rotating the cup twice clockwise before putting it down.
Health check program
It was another rainy day today. We met each other at a train station early in the morning when the rush hour started. Train and subway are the major transportation in Japan for people to go to work. Every morning, the train is loaded with thousands of people and we are like sardines standing among other sardines. I was surprised that the whole train is very quiet and everyone stays clam and mind their own business, either reading the newspaper or watching videos on their cell phones. This is my first impression of the train in Japan, crowded but quiet.
Okay, back to the topic, we went to the community center in Yocaichiba (Sosa City) where the faculty runs a health check program for students from grades 1 to 8. The health check includes weight and height measurement, dietary assessment, blood pressure check and blood test. This is the 26th year since the program started. Every student has his/her own profile, a record of their personal health condition. The health program is a partnership among government, university, school and hospital. The results are shared with the public and the data is used for hospital/university research programs. All the students have to do the health check once a year, and they are well behaved to ensure the program goes smoothly. The rain stopped on our way back and the train is still crowded. What a typical day in Japan!
On Tuesday morning we attended another food lab. This lab was a life stage nutrition practice lab in which we learned how to cook food for pregnant and breast-feeding women. We cooked rice with carrots and shitake mushrooms and clams in a miso broth, fried Namaribushi made from bonito fish which is cut, steamed and fried with a citrus sauce, Japanese mustard spinach with a peanut butter sauce, hot chocolate milk, prune cake and orange. We learned that each of these foods has a purpose for females in this life stage. For example, clams are believed to help mothers produce milk. After cooking, we sat down, relaxed and ate our meals with our group members. Participating in this lab really showed us how their attention to detail in cooking and serving the food is emphasized.
On Tuesday afternoon we visited the National Institute of Health and Nutrition (NIHN). This was a very interesting experience as we got to learn about their goal to improve Japan’s public health by conducting research on diet and nutrition for health promotion. We had a tour of the facility (that included a gym and swimming pool) where participants are studied to determine the effects of physical activity in the prevention of life-style related diseases, cancer, and deterioration of vital functioning. We also had the chance to look at the metabolic chamber, a human calorimeter. This facility helps researchers establish the estimated energy requirement (EER) and the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) for Japanese. We also learned about their research on energy metabolism during resting and activity. Through learning about the innovative research related to nutrition and physical activity at the NIHN, we made many comparisons to Canada’s recommendations for nutrition and physical activity. Here is a picture of the human metabolic chamber:
Tsukiji fish Market
Located at the center of Tokyo, Tsukuji fish market is one of the largest fish markets in the world. It used to be a train station and is the most famous of over ten wholesale markets that handle the distribution of marine products, fruits and vegetables in central Tokyo. The market is mainly made up of inner market and outer market. Wholesale market is in the inner market, and we thought that is the most amazing part of Tsukiji. Hundreds of wholesale fish shops are well organized in different alleys. Most of the shops are run on a family basis and they open early in the morning around 4am and end around noon. There are plenty of marine products that are displayed in front of the shop, and some of them are unique from deep Japanese sea. With the dim light, it is more like a discovery journey of deep sea fishes rather than a tour of a fish market. Every shop has two floors where the second floor is used to be the home for the family. They work very hard to ensure the high quality of marine products. Another thing we noticed is that workers use every part of the fish – meat is cut for sale and the bone and head are used later as fertilizer for rice farms. This really shows one philosophy of Japanese life – a great appreciation of food. We didn’t have a chance to watch the famous tuna auction in inner market, but it is a unique experience to see how it works. Our tour guide told us the tuna price in the Tsukiji market has a big influence on the daily tuna price in Tokyo. Next time you want to watch it, get up early and be there around 3am!
The outer market has many retailers of marine related products (fresh or dry), plenty of restaurants and souvenir stores. It is crowed but also alive. You can eat the freshest sushi in the traditional street restaurants that have been operating for over 50 years. You can also buy some dried marine products that are not expensive and you probably can never find them in other places. Overall, the vivid Tsukiji market showed us the why Japanese love fish so much and how they appreciate the food source from the seas.
On Sunday, we spent the day with our host families. Anthea and Stephanie went to Kamakura with their host families to see temples, shrines, and the beach. Nan spent her day with Vanessa and her host family to see the aquarium in Yokohama. Kelsey went out of town with her host family to their “second home” which was near the beach. Stefania visited the Shibamata temple, went to Edo-Tokyo museum and went out for a traditional Japanese dinner with her host family.
What a wonderful educational and fun-filled week! We are looking forward to the second week of our stay in Japan. Stay tuned!