This morning we attended a nutrition education class and learned about the Fujitsu Telework-based Diet Management System. This trial program was developed to better their employee’s overall health and well-being by offering personalized guidance from a dietitian through mobile phone applications. It is amazing learning about all of the future possibilities (e.g., tele-work) for dietitians in the workplace.
In the afternoon we travelled to Tokyo to visit a public health center. We observed the happenings of the day, which was educating parents on proper nutrition and dental hygiene for their children as well as medical check-ups for the children who were three years of age. Japan appears to have a great early childcare system, as this tracks their physical as well as mental health for several years.
Professor Michael Kiestler invited us to join his English class today to discuss the differences and similarities of Japanese and Canadian cultures. We had a lot of fun talking about pop culture, dating, laws, and the general do’s and dont’s of each country. It was very interesting to learn about customs of the Japanese population, such as what age they begin dating, or what they do in their free time.
Later on we engaged in a soba making class in Tokyo with our “Soba Sensei” as well as our Wayo senseis, Reiko and Ikuko. We all had so much fun, and we learned that it is very difficult to create perfect soba noodles! It is basically an art. Afterward we tasted our soba, in the traditional cold way, except for Dr. Garcia who prefers her soba hot! It was delicious, and one of the highlights of the trip.
Today we visited the National Centre for Global Health and Medicine in Tokyo, one of the largest hospitals in Japan. Here we observed the food service process for approximately 600 inpatients. The meals were cooked in a large kitchen with approximately 40 staff around the clock. Afterwards we took a look at their counseling offices, which had plenty of food models and resources for clients. We received a copy of their diabetes handout with cute illustrations and explanations.
After visiting the hospital, we all went to Tokyo Disneyland. We saw the castle as soon as we got out of the station and got really excited. After taking a hundred photos in front of the castle, we went off to find the roller coasters. Our first ride was Thunder Mountain, which was a really fun roller coaster that winded through a mountain. We caught a bit of the parade afterwards with lots of brightly lit floats. The highlight of the night was at Splash Mountain, a huge log flume ride that takes a picture at the end. We went on a lot of the other classic rides like ‘it’s a small world’ and the tea cup ride. We had such a good time that Kelsey and Stefania might go back on Sunday!
Happy Canada Day from across the globe! When we realized it was Canada Day we all felt a little homesick but we were all excited to embark on our last week of this amazing trip. In the morning we went to the famous Kikkoman soy sauce factory in Noda. As soon as we exited the train station I said “It smells yeasty…” and everyone nodded in unison. The factory was only a five-minute walk away with many fermentation silos spreading the smell of soy sauce. We toured the facility and learned how Kikkoman has modernized their 300-year-old soy sauce production process. Kikkoman even exclusively develops soy sauce for the Emperor of Japan; a year-long process using only domestic raw ingredients. At the café we tried some soy sauce ice cream, which was surprisingly tasty, although Dr. Garcia disagreed saying “it is too salty for ice cream!”
In the afternoon we went back to Wayo University for our final food lab in diet therapy. Half the class made a typical Japanese meal with peanut miso maki, tempura, wintermelon stew, salad and matcha pudding. The other half made a meal designed for renal patients with low sodium and low protein alternatives including agar, low protein rice, and maltose. Stefania loved learning how to make maki and we all enjoyed socializing with the Wayo students in our groups. Many of the therapeutic diet options were tasty and I actually preferred the therapeutic diet tempura because it was crunchier.
In the evening we had an ikebana class, which is the art of Japanese flower arranging. The philosophy behind ikebana is to create harmony with the flowers by balancing the yo (light) and in (shade). The process was very precise and difficult for us beginners to learn. We learned that ikebana is not only aesthetically pleasing but also represents the harmony and balance between man, earth and heaven. After all the flower arranging, we all got to try on some traditional Japanese kimonos and learned a bit of origami, the art of folding paper, for example to make a (bird) crane.
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: