Wayo Exchange in Japan (Week 2): Wednesday

Today we went to Sosa city (Yokaichiba) to visit the health screening of students in grades 3 and 4 students from two different primary schools. The health check team was formed by one doctor, several nurses and some dietitians. The nutrition students, supervised by the faculty/researchers from Wayo, completed the food frequency questionnaire, 24- hour recall, and daily physical activity. They also measured the height, weight and waist circumference. The children also had their pulse rate and blood pressure check. The last part of the check was the drawing of the blood sample. After the annual health check, a nutrition education program is conducted in the community. The purpose of this health screening is to prevent life-style related diseases in the early stage of life.

When we examined the children’s height and weight records, we found that there are 8 in 42 children whose weight above 20% of the standard weight according to their age and none had weights less than 20% of the standard weight. Based on Japanese health standards, a weight above 20% of the standard is considered as obesity. So in the group of students observed, about 20% of them are considered obese. Because childhood is a critical life stage for cell fission and proliferation, there is a high link between overweight in childhood and obesity in adult, which eventually results in the risk of diabetes, heart diseases, etc.

This screening system provides fairly accurate measures of children’s health and helps dietitians carry out specific diet/nutrition education for children. It was amazing to observe their data collection procedures!

Wayo Exchange in Japan (Week 2): Tuesday

The visit to the nursery school in Oyumino is one of our most impressive trips. Like the most nursery and elementary schools, it only allows indoor shoes/slippers when inside the building.

About 40 staff take care of 130 kids from 0-5 years old. For the kids under 1year old, one staff take care of 3 kids, feeding them one after the other, playing with them, changing their diapers, doing everything just like a mom. For the kids above 1year old, staff to kids ratio is 1 to 5. Children 3 years and older are allowed to feed themselves. At lunch time, a plate of vegetable and main dish are placed in the middle of the table and children use mini tongs to grab the food for themselves; furthermore they pour the “genmaicha” (cold brown rice tea) to a small tea cup and they look very comfortable doing it. This public nursery school is supported by the local government. Each child costs about $2,000 per month and 75% is paid by the government. All the staff have a nursing or cook certification and are well trained.

The school’s orchard and vegetable garden is another highlight. Donated by the director’s father, the school owns an amazing orchard with several fruit trees (orange, fig, quince, persimmon, plum). All the fruits are served to the kids when ripe and extras are preserved. week2-tuesdayAside from the fresh fruits, the garden is used to teach the children (and their parents) about plants. There are over 100 kinds of vegetables planted in the garden. When we visited, it was full of sweet potatoes, egg plants, peppers, tomatoes, and green onions. In early autumn, when sweet potatoes are ready to be harvested, the parents are invited to the sweet potato picking event and they can bring home some of the produce.

We really liked the gardening lessons and events with parents, especially the director’s philosophy of helping children nurture a love of food and nature. Gardening events such as watering, picking, pickling throughout the whole school year really help the children build their appreciation of food and nature. When the love of food is developed in early childhood, the children benefit for their lifetime.

Wayo Exchange in Japan (Week 2): Monday

Good weather continues on Monday.

We had our second cooking lab to prepare a meal for pregnant and breast feeding women in the fantastic cooking lab, which has a lecture area, cooking area and dining area. The rice combo here which is called a set meal, is usually composed of rice, bowl of  soup, 1/3 cup of vegetable, and a main dish of a piece of fish or meat, and sometimes a dessert of gelatin or fruit. week2-monday

One thing I like about this set meal is you have a balanced diet and a sense of the amount of food eaten in each meal.  Each food is placed in small nice plates or nicely shaped decorated bowls so that each dish looks like an art and there is no flavor contamination. Eating from a small plate/bowl makes you feel more satisfied and there is tendency to overeat. However, with a set meal, it is hard to leave food on the plate when you are full or you have a dish you don’t like, since they do not like to waste food.

Later in the afternoon, we participated in an Ikebana, a flower arrangement class. It is definitely more than arranging flowers. Ikebana focuses on DO (way), creating a bridge between the outside garden and the plants inside the home arranged in a vase. Before arranging the flowers and plants, we wore our first Japanese traditional dress KIMONO. It is beautiful, but difficult to dress with it on your own.

Wayo Women’s University in Japan (Week 1): Friday

This morning we observed the food service class. One week they create a menu, organize, purchase, and calculate the nutrition content of the meal. The following week they cook, serve, present their crafted menus on each table, and clean the restaurant. This course is from 9am to 3pm every Friday, and they have every minute efficiently and effectively planned. Their lab is in a large industrial kitchen that is attached to a dining room. We all loved the facilities and appreciated how hands on the nutrition program at Wayo is. For the lunch, they made a delicious spaghetti bolognese, salad with a lemon vinaigrette, a broth based cabbage soup and rice dumplings “mocha” for dessert (a common dessert dish).

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After lunch we waited for Kaneko sensei, Momoko and Yukari to take us to the Doai nursing home near Ryogoku. We took the JR line and got off right in front of the sumo wrestling museum. The nursing home is affiliated with 3 hospitals which are all next door. This home was able to maintain some fairly traditional Japanese elements, for example, the sliding doors to usher in the outside lights and large baths that multiple patients can use at a time. We were very impressed with the clean facilities and the fact that they have one staff member for every 4 patients. After touring the nursing home we went to the hospital to meet with the President/CEO. We then headed to a traditional Japanese garden in the middle of the city. It was amazing, lush greens with the view of the skyline and the Skytree in the back. The garden included many beautiful structures, a pond with “koi” fish and turtles as well as a large red bridge. It was really beautiful and at that point we were pretty tired so it was a relaxing rest stop.

Next we continued onto the sumo wrestling museum. It was closing in 10 minutes but it was a small, one room museum so that is about all the time we needed. Outside the museum they had cut out pictures of sumo wrestlers for us to have fun with.

After the museum, we went to Asakusa where we got the water bus to Odaiba. The interior of the water bus was so cool, it felt like you were in a lounge or a bar. We even were able to go to the top deck to get a better view of the city. After we arrived in Odaiba we were shocked at how beautiful it was. We were all exhausted and had promised our host families that we would be home fairly early but at the same time we all knew that we wanted to stay much longer. Some of the highlights were the big malls, the Fuji building, the replica of the Statue of Liberty, the gold needle, the view of the rainbow bridge and of course the large statue of a transformer. Not to mention that night it was about to rain  and the clouds created such a gorgeous sunset which was sort of blue, grey and yellow.

As we were about to make our separate ways home we discussed about how amazing friday-02our first week in Japan had been and how lucky we all are to have this opportunity. Ikuko and the faculty/staff and students at Wayo have helped open our eyes to how nutrition practices and education differ all across the world! As well, we have acknowledged that there is still so much to learn, thankfully we have another two weeks to go!

Wayo Women’s University in Japan (Week 1): Thursday

10384747_10154305883285274_5042768613462521135_nWe attended Yanagisawa sensei’s first year food lab. The five of us got dressed for the class in a lab coat, hair net, bandana and slippers. The lab rooms were amazing and much larger than the food labs at Brescia. The lab is divided into three distinct rooms based on their purpose: the lecture and showcase, the kitchen and of course the dining room. Although we do not understand what the teacher was saying, watching the demonstration was just as, if not more, fun as watching a cooking show on the Food Network. After watching the teacher demonstrate the meal we were about to make, we headed into the kitchen area. We were each assigned a number and we joined one of the groups of Wayo students. In these food labs all the students make the same meal, and today we made four dishes. The first dish was a ginger simmered mackerel, then rice with sake and green peas, a tofu dressed vegetable salad and then dessert was rice flour moulded into dumplings with “matcha” (green tea). We all worked very hard with our own teams to make this delicious meal and were able to chat using limited English or Japanese that we have learned. Even when we couldn’t communicate with our words, the girls in this lab taught us so much using gestures too. Both the Wayo and the Brescia students enjoyed being able to work together and discussing the difference between life in Canada versus Japan.

Later on that day we were able to view a “Shokuiku”– a nutrition education showcase that students had prepared to try and to promote eating healthy and the Japanese food guide. We were all amazed to see the Japanese food guide, it looks like a spinning top to symbolize exercise and the top part is a glass of water. We were all very impressed and excited to compare the differences with the Canadian food guide. As part of this education fair, we were also able to check our bone density and luckily we were all very happy with our results. Next we went to a presentation on milk from a large dairy company that was promoting a new campaign called 3-A-Day. From this company we got lots of Japanese pamphlets, milk, cheese and yogurt. And as it turns out this day was World Milk Day!

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Next it was time to join the tea ceremony club. To enter the Tatami room we had to remove our shoes and wear socks. We entered the room and walked along the sides to sit on the outer sides of the room. The proper way to sit is on bended knees and on your heels which we learned is extremely difficult!! This club is run by a teacher who works with the students to educate them on the proper way to perform a tea ceremony. First, the girl serving dessert (Hantou) bows to us twice and we have to bow back with your hands on floor in front of your knees. Then she enters the room and places your dessert down and you have to bow again once she does. Once we finished the sweets, the girls came around again and placed our tea in front of a black line. We then had to bow then use our right hand to bring the tea to the other side of the black line. Then you pick it up and place it in the palm of your left hand. By using your right hand you turn the cup all the way around twice clockwise. We then drink at the spot of the design by taking small sips to get every last drop. After we were done drinking, you had to clean the spot where your lips touched the cup, turn the cup twice counter clockwise before putting it down.

After experiencing so much and learning so many interesting facts and even cooking methods, we were all on our way to our home stays ready for a good night’s sleep.

Wayo Women’s University in Japan (Week 1): Wednesday

wednesday-01It is extremely obvious how important energy conservation and environmental preservation is to Japanese citizens. This includes a heavy reliance on public transportation, walking and biking, always turning off the lights and even turning off the bus engine while at red lights. Also most washrooms do not provide a hand dryer or paper towels. It is expected that you bring a small towel with you in your bag to use rather than wasting many paper towels. The Japanese make sure to put a great effort into keeping their environment and public transportation clean, even though there are very few garbage cans. It is expected that you bring your garbage home with you if you cannot find a garbage can on your route. Also when you purchase food at a street vendor it is intended to be eaten directly in front of the vendor to avoid creating a mess elsewhere.

Once we arrived at school we attended Namba sensei’s tennis class. We started with running three laps around the tennis course, then Namba lead us through some stretches and drills and finally we played two matches. Yuka joined us and she helped us through the drills. We were all very happy to get outside and work up a sweat.

This was the first day that we ate lunch in the cafeteria. At Wayo’s cafeteria there were about five options for lunch. There is a table at the entrance of the cafeteria where you are able to see each of the options and then you can purchase a ticket for the food you would like to eat from a vending machine. With that ticket, you give it to one of the women working behind the counter and they will give you your lunch. We all thought this cafeteria system was so cool and we were amazed to see the differences with the typical Canadian cafeterias we are used to.

Following lunch we headed to Konodai station to take the train to a restaurant that doubled as a school for a lesson on making Soba noodles. Hashimoto sensei taught us how to make Soba noodles. We started off with 100g white flour, 400g buckwheat and 230g of water. Slowly you add the water to the flour mixture while mixing it with your finger tips. The second step is to combine the dough and then the intense physical manipulation starts. We formed the dough, folded in multiple times and then cut it into small noodles, a much harder task than you might expect. I do not think any of our students realized how much physical labor goes into making soba noodles. But the best part was when we got to eat the noodles we just made, and they were delicious! They prepared the noodles cold for us to try, which is the common way to eat soba noodles in the summer. The rest of the soba noodles were packed up for us to take home to our host families to try!

Wayo Women’s University in Japan (Week 1): Tuesday

This morning Ikuko planned a tour for us to see and learn about the Tsukiji market, which is the largest fish market in the world. We all met at Konodai station and headed towards Ginza, a prefecture in Tokyo. Once we had arrived at the tour center, we were greeted by their staff and shown a video about the Tsukiji auctions that occur very early, before sunrise. Each group had their very own tour guide who shared their knowledge with us for the next two hours as we walked the streets and floors of the inner and outer markets of Tsukiji. It was the busiest and most efficient place any of us had ever seen. We learned the names of many fish that Canadians have completely different names for. The tour guides were great at speaking English, even shared that they knew Anne of Green Gables, a Canadian iconic story. The guides also had so much patience for our many inquiries, it made the experience that much more enjoyable for us all!

After the market tour, the guides took us to the restaurant where we were to have our very fresh plate of Japanese sushi. All of us had at least tried sushi and raw fish prior to this experience, but we together agreed this was by far the best sushi we had ever tasted. This particular sushi was created by chefs who had been training for at least 7 years, and the fish was from the freshest of tuna, sole, shrimp, fish roe, bonito, eel and scallops. These two very important details were what made this plate of sushi such a delicious work of art.“Oishii”! (delicious).

From Tsukiji we were taken back to the subway bound for Asakusa where our Hato bus was waiting. Before the Hato Bus tour we went to a coffee shop in Ginza for a refreshing cup of coffee or freshly squeezed juice. It was perfect to prepare us for the next three hours of a Tokyo tour packed with sites to see.

  • Asakusa was the location of the Sensoji temple, said to be the oldest temple in Tokyo and famous for its main Kaminarimon Gate, where a giant lantern hangs. From the temple, there is a strip of shops filled with souvenirs and food vendors. Prior to going to the temple, it is customary to shower yourself with incense, a sign that you are calling the gods for good health. We were so interested to be shown the traditions of the Buddhist religion when visiting a temple. We all bought and shared a variety of snacks once we met back to the bus at the end of the Asakusa Temple visit.
  • The Skytree was such a beautiful place to visit and experience together. From 350m above we could view so much of the city of Tokyo including the Sumida river. Beneath the Skytree is a famous shopping centre which we explored for souvenirs and more treats.

After the Hato Bus tour had finished we had all learned so much about Japan and the locations we visited. Aney and Yuka helped us all find out different lines to make our way home. Wayo has already shown us such amazing hospitality in their country.

Wayo Women’s University in Japan (Week 1): Monday

monday-01Most of us had to learn our route to Wayo in the dark the night before, and some of us were guided to the train this morning. Successfully we all made it for 10am rejuvenated and excited for our first day at Wayo. Ikuko and Dr. Garcia provided us with our detailed schedule for our first week. There were so many things to look forward to, and we all felt so grateful for the effort Ikuko and the Wayo staff had put into making our first week filled with learning experiences.

As a group we took the elevator to the 18th floor of Wayo’s East Tower where we were greeted by President Keshida, two Vice Presidents, the Cahir of the nutrition department, and many more. All of them gave us a very warm welcome to Wayo. It is very evident that they cherish the partnership we have created together. This program is so special to them and to the students who are lucky enough to experience the opportunities that this relationship has created. They prepared a wonderful meal that included a variety of items that we all enjoyed thoroughly. This is where we learned many of the phrases and blessings to be said during a Japanese meal, such as “ita dakimasu,”which means thank you for this meal. The staff and students were so informative and excited to help us. This allowed all of us to overcome the language barrier and become friends. The view from this floor was unbelievable so we appreciated it for quite some time after the meal had ended.

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In the afternoon, Reiko, Momoko, Aney, Izumi and Yuka showed us their beautiful campus and their state of the art facilities. We couldn’t believe how humble they all remained when showing us around. They knew so much and were very happy to share information or answer any questions.

After the tour they decided to take us for “takoyaki” which is like a pancake ball with octopus meat inside. It sounded odd at first but they were absolutely delicious. It was truly a warm welcoming.

Wayo Women’s University in Japan (Week 1): Sunday

After traveling from different parts of the world and changing time zones, we all arrived safely at Narita Airport, in Japan, closer to 6pm (Japan time). Reiko, from the Homestay company, greeted us so energetically. She guided Xiaojie, Fang Fang, Sarah, and Jodi through the first Pasmo (train card) purchase. Dr. Garcia and Reiko led us to board our first rapid train experience where we all tried very hard to stay awake, anxious to meet our Host Families. It was very refreshing to breathe the air as we climbed the streets towards Wayo Women’s University for the first time with our luggage. Ikuko and Etsuko met us in the lobby of the West building of Wayo campus. Four separate host families awaited our arrival in a very bright room on the second floor. We were introduced and given a brief orientation by Reiko before we were joined by our host parents and sent home to eat our first Japanese meal and sleep our first night in Japan.