Small Steps

I know I’ve been quiet.  I was hoping to write about my new pedometer and the number of steps I take each day.  But the first day I used it I had a migraine.  The first migraine I’ve had in years.  That was promptly followed by shingles, which I haven’t had in just over four years.  I haven’t been walking much.  I haven’t been doing anything much.

I’m contagious and should really stay inside.  But yesterday I snuck out and bought coconut milk so I could make a coconut cake.  I couldn’t find raspberry jam so I made a cream cheese coconut frosting to go with my cake.  I also decided to make a dinner that involved lots of chopped vegetables, multiple salads, and dips.  All this on a day when I shouldn’t have been allowed near a knife.  I was a wee bit clumsy.  Both the kitchen and I survived.

Today I want to exercise but I’m not well enough.  Another few days of this and my wall crawling won’t be metaphorical.

2 Responses to “Small Steps”

  1. Norwin Says:

    Oh Karen – that’s wick. They say the shingles is a rotten thing to have. I hope it passes quickly for you. In the meantime, you’ll just have to break out the Big Bang Theory DVDs 😉

  2. karen Says:

    Mine isn’t too terrible. It was much worse the first time I had it. I feel like I’m getting over flu and that I also have an injury. My nerves hurt at unexpected times. But I can sleep with it. I’m also incredibly bored with it!

Stepping Up

Now that many train stations have switched off their escalators to conserve energy it’s taking me longer to get around the city.  I can no longer dash up a moving escalator to make the train that’s about to leave the platform.  Running up the stairs isn’t practical.  Not only would it exhaust me but the other people on the stairs aren’t moving in an ordered manner.  Escalators are easier as no-one is running down one while you are running up.  There are also rules on the escalator: you stand on the left and walk on the right.  There are no rules on the stairs and I’m surprised that aren’t more head on collisions during rush hour.  Actually there are arrows painted on the stairs to indicate the routes for walking up and down but these get obscured by the hundreds of feet on the stairs.

At times I feel like I’ve walked up a lot of stairs and on Wednesday I decided to count them.  I went to the clinic and did some grocery shopping.  The 355 steps I walked up were in three train stations and on two foot bridges.  I monitor the amount of exercise I do in a week but I haven’t been counting the walking I do between train stations or to and from the grocery store.  I have a tendency to think of exercise as a planned activity like today when I walked 4 miles along the river.  Or when I spend an hour at the gym.  But now I’m curious about the amount of general walking I do.

When I go on long walks I plot the routes using Google maps and work out distances.  I also record the time it takes me to do the walks.  I don’t want to do this for general dandering around the city so I have jut bought a pedometer to count the number of steps I take in a day.  I’ve no idea how many steps I take in a day and don’t know if I’ll come close to the target of 10,000 that I have been told about, but I should know this time next week.

Overweight In Japan

Ovid wrote an interesting post discussing the differences in weight between Americans and Europeans.  The Japanese appear to be thin yet there is still a lot of concern about obesity and the indicators of metabolic syndrome in Japan.  Actually, I had never heard of metabolic syndrome until I moved to Japan and was very shocked to hear people that I would consider to be underweight discuss their concerns about becoming obese.

On the World Health Statistics report for 2011 the number of  Japanese men over the age of 20 that were considered to be obese was 5.5%.  For American men the figure was 30.2%, and for British men the figure was 24.4%.  The definition of obese used was “individuals with a body mass index (BMI) ≥30.00 kg/m2“.

The Japanese, however, don’t think about obesity in the same terms as Europe or America.  My husband, Marty, works in Japan and has annual health checks.  As part of this he is weighed and his waist circumference is measured.  Ovid quoted the following figure as the average weight for a British man – 79.75 kilos (175 pounds).  Marty is about the same weight as the average British man and has about 20% body fat.  His BMI is less than 30 but in Japan he is considered to be obese.  He is very healthy but he gets a grade “C” for weight.  Yes, he actually gets grades for everything that is tested.  They have told him that his ideal body weight is 62.5 kilos (138 pounds)!  (Since I’m from Northern Ireland I just have to write that in stone: they want Marty to weigh just over 9 and a half stone!).

The other measure for obesity is his waist circumference.  The Japanese government has decreed that men should have a waist of less than 85 centimeters (33.5 inches) or they are at risk for metabolic syndrome.  Marty’s waist is currently 89 centimeters (35 inches), another strike against him.  Japan isn’t the only country that uses waist circumference as a health indicator.  But in America there are concerns when a man’s waist is larger than 102 centimeters (40 inches) and in Europe if it is over 94 centimeters (37 inches).

Marty doesn’t get overly annoyed at the results he gets from work, after all since moving to Japan he has lost 10 kilos (22 pounds), but I am glad that I don’t have someone grading me on my weight.



Out Of It

I’m having one of those days where my head is a bit foggy, and everything spins from time to time.  I’m not sure what is causing the dizziness but Marty is also feeling a bit strange.  Brain fogginess and dizziness are not a good combination.  I discovered that today when I was swinging my legs wildly while trying to walk down the steps to the train station.  If I had just been dizzy I would probably have sat down until the dizziness past but since my brain is moving slowly it took me much too long to realise that the lurching and leg swinging could have made me fall.  My first thoughts were all about Monty Python and nothing about how strange it was for me to be behaving like that in public.  It also never occurred to me that maybe I wasn’t well and that I should have turned round and went back home.

When I got to the train station I saw a older women stop at the top of a set of steps with a pram.  There are steps everywhere in Tokyo and it’s really noticeable at the minute as most of the escalators have been turned off to save electricity.  I walked up to her and said “would you like a hand?” and then proceeded to help lift the pram.  In Northern Ireland this would have been a perfectly normal thing to do.  But not here in Tokyo.  For a start I completely forgot to speak in Japanese.  I wasn’t thinking straight at all, I was just falling into a pattern of behaviour.  For some reason people don’t stop to help people with prams or wheelchairs in Tokyo.  I try to follow cultural rules but at times I just can’t help myself.  I can’t see an elderly woman struggle with a shopping basket in the supermarket without wanting to help.  I have been told that it can be seen as insulting to offer help, that I’m suggesting that the person isn’t capable, but I feel so rude when I don’t help.   And I can’t see a women with a pram at the top of a set of stairs without wanting to help.

I have no idea what the women thought about my help.  She told me that she was fine, and that she didn’t need help, but by that stage I had already lifted the pram .  I set the pram down, she thanked me, and I climbed the steps into the train station.  It was only when I got to the platform that I realised that I’d forgotten to speak in Japanese.  I hadn’t even noticed when she spoke in Japanese to me because I completely understood what she was saying.

I managed to catch the train and get the shopping without anything else odd happening.  But I will spend most of the afternoon sitting down as I really don’t like the spinning sensation when I stand up.

2 Responses to “Out Of It”

  1. Norwin Says:

    As least you’re a helpful drunk 😀

  2. karen Says:

    Funny. I wasn’t drunk. I wasn’t even hungover! Though I suppose it could sound that way… 🙂

Good Perl Week

I spend quite a few hours each week working on various Perl related projects.  All of these require me to interact with other volunteers.  This isn’t always easy, but sometimes it’s astonishing just how much energy and enthusiasm there is to improve to things. rjbs recently wrote on Twitter:

I’m so tired of hearing “people are disappointing” or “people suck.” People are *amazing*!

And he’s right.  My last couple of weeks in Perl have been really productive and I’d like to thank Dan Wright and Mark Keating for all the help they have given me.  I’d also like to thank Jesse Vincent and Matt Trout, who inspire me to get things done.

Strange Food

I saw a man walking a ferret today.  Marty tells me that this isn’t a strange thing, but it seemed strange to me.  Mind you I live in a country full of strange things.  I still have difficulty identifying everything I see in the grocery store.  There are whole aisles of food that I have no idea about and I don’t know if I’ll ever work out the difference between the 10 different types of fish flakes.

My local grocery store sometimes has stalls set up in the grocery packing area.  This week there has been a women selling green goo.  It can’t really be a green goo or slime, but I don’t want to get overly close to it.  I was terrified that she’d approach me and offer a free sample of the goo while I was packing my groceries.  I’m not really sure how to politely decline.  I know how to behave if I am given a sample.  I smile, say thanks, eat the goo, say something like “so delicious”, and then try to escape without buying any.  At least, that’s what everyone else was doing.  Sometimes it’s good to be a scary foreigner.

I saw a new item in the store today.  It took me a while to work out what it was but I can now buy probiotic straws. I think that I’ll continue to eat yoghurt to get friendly bacteria and avoid the straws.

4 Responses to “Strange Food”

  1. Norwin Says:

    You know, I’m sure I remember meeting a man with a couple of ferrets on leads somewhere in Tokyo. I even think I might have a blurry picture of them. They were very cute – a bit ottery as I recall.

  2. karen Says:

    This one was very cute too, though it took me more than one glance to work out what it was. Not quite as strange looking as the dog I saw with some sort of wheelchair to support its back legs. I could see it in the distance and at first had no idea what sort of creature it was.

  3. Christine Bailie Says:

    Hi,the green goo did not escape me,if I recall.

  4. karen Says:

    That’s right Chrissy, poor you. I remember you had a whole lunch of green goo one day 🙂


I didn’t feel like going to the gym today.  It’s wet outside and going to the gym requires preparation I don’t need if I’m going to exercise by myself at home.  I thought I would try the new exercise DVD I bought, Banish Fat Boost Metabolism.  I’m writing this blog post because the only part of me that still seems to move is my fingers.  Going to the gym now feels like the easy option.


Marty and I finally got round to celebrating our 15th Wedding Anniversary.  We went to a beautiful Italian restaurant in the Tokyo Bay area. We decided on the 7 course menu as it gave us the option of trying lots of small dishes.  I particularly liked the “deep fried raviolo pasta stuffed with Tomino cheese, served with red onion jam” and the “Gragnano Paccheri pasta tossed with lobster ragout and cannellini beans”.

We had a great evening and after 15 years of marriage don’t get overly concerned if everything doesn’t go exactly to plan.  It wouldn’t be Marty if he didn’t do something crazy and end up getting a train in the wrong direction while I stand around waiting for him at the correct train station wondering if I’d messed up.  The fact that the restaurant was in a tower on the 47th floor overlooking Tokyo Bay unnerved me just a bit, but then both it and I survived the last earthquake.

I’m hoping for many more anniversary celebrations.

4 Responses to “Anniversary”

  1. Norwin Says:

    I’m glad you got to celebrate it properly.

  2. karen Says:

    Thank you! We had a great night, though I probably ate far too much garlic bread. But it was so yummy and freshly baked.

  3. Christine Bailie Says:

    15 years well done x

  4. karen Says:

    Thanks Christine 🙂

Carnivorous Birds

Like many people growing up in Northern Ireland my concept of Australia comes from watching bad Australian soaps and animal programs starring Rolf Harris.  To me Australia is all about beaches, barbecues, and strange animals.

During my trip to Perth I went on my first ever Australian BBQ.  There really are outdoor barbecues at picnic spots that are free to use.  It was a bit different than I was expecting.  I’m used to barbecues being a wire grill with charcoal but this ran on gas and had a hot plate.  It was spotlessly clean and worked perfectly.  I can’t imagine having these in Northern Ireland, if the vandals didn’t destroy them the rain certainly would.

Australian BBQ

Australian BBQ

I also got to see kookaburras.  This is something else that I associate with Australia because of the song I was taught as a child, “Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree…”.  That’s as far as my knowledge of the birds went.  It turns out that they are a type of kingfisher. They were tame and rather cute with little short legs.  There was a whole group of them on the trees and ground around the barbecues.  (I’ve been trying to find a collective noun for them and they may be called “a riot of kookaburras” which is fairly appropriate.) They also like meat, maybe more than I do.  I was warned that they might try to steal my food but I was wasn’t expecting an aerial assault.  I mean seriously, one bird swooped down and stole the chicken kebab I was eating, grabbing the wooden stick right out of my hand.

Once I got over that shock I had to try to eat while defending my food.  I didn’t see the nasty little bird that stole my last piece of sausage until it landed on me and scratched my hand.  I’m not sure that I still think these birds are cute but they are certainly photogenic.

Kookaburra, sitting by the BBQ

Kookaburra, sitting by the BBQ

2 Responses to “Carnivorous Birds”

  1. Simon Cozens Says:

    I can’t help thinking that if Rovio knew about carnivorous birds their games would be an awful lot easier.

  2. karen Says:

    It would certainly help me play.