My high school friend Hiro Fujita was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in late 2010, and ever since then he has quickly lost the ability to control his entire body, with the exception of one finger. When Hiro became sick he was working as a strategic planner at the Japan branch of the ad agency McCann Erickson. Throughout his battle, the agency has been supporting him by launching a pretty comprehensive campaign to raise awareness around ALS with Hiro as a willing and determined poster child, designing t-shirts and launching a video series featuring some famous friends of ours — this one features the guitarist Char — speaking on behalf of Hiro.
When Hiro was healthy he played football and had many friends and partied like a rock star. Clearly, even with this debilitating disease, he hasn’t lost his rock star status — it’s the first time since football games and prom that I’ve seen all of our wonderful friends from Tokyo rally around a cause with such fervor, and he’s triggered a successful and impact-filled campaign against a very poorly understood disease with the support of some of the most high-profile, compassionate people in our community.
A couple of weeks ago I linked to an article about my high school friend Hiro, who is living with ALS. Now he’s written his own thoughts down–an important message to enjoy movement, something he’s been stripped of.
Every morning, my helper comes to my apartment and helps me stretch out. He opens the windows, and while I am stretching, I can hear birds singing, cars driving by, kids playing on their way to school, people doing their laundry and such things.
In the past, I simply brushed this away as “noise.” But now, these “noises” mean something more. They represent movement — people and things moving — and movement is something I no longer have. ALS is taking that away from me.
If I had known what was to happen, I would have spent a lot more time feeling, seeing, inhaling and appreciating the world around me. So, I ask you to take a moment tomorrow to walk through the park and simply enjoy it. Look out for me; I’ll be the guy in the wheelchair, smiling.
There’s an award-winning cosmetics company called Tengen that uses volcanic ash from the Sakurajima volcano in Kagoshima — called shirasu — to make skincare products. The sediment that Tengen uses is 400,000 years old and found in a secret location. They then combine it with oil and sodium hydroxide to make facial cleansers, gels, and face creams.
There’s a new toy coming out at the end of this month that I kinda want. It’s a bath bomb maker — you know, those big balls of fizzy aromatic goodness for your bathtub that they sell at Lush. The main ingredients in bath bombs are baking soda and citric acid; so basically all you have to do is add your favorite relaxing smells — herbs, rose petals, essential oils — and some water, put all the ingredients in the ball, stir it and compress it, and out pops a perfect bath ball. If only I had a bigger bath tub at home, I would totally use it all the time. It’s a fun craft project and great for producing homemade gifts. The kit costs about $40 and comes with enough baking soda and citric acid to get a project started.
I just found out that the hospital I was born at, Tokyo’s Aiiku Hospital, just delisted itself from the official registry of perinatal clinics because they don’t have enough doctors. Sad! The hospital, whose name Aiiku is a combination of the kanji for “love” and “grow,” is the first of what could be many to delist because it couldn’t solve the problem of understaffed, overworked doctors. (If you’re listed, it apparently means you have special equipment for dealing with complicated pregnancies.) The hospital was founded in 1938; it’s where Princess Kiko gave birth to her baby prince in 2006.
I’ve been thinking about getting Lasik for a while now, but yikes. This news makes me think twice. Dozens of patients who got laser eye surgery in a Ginza clinic are suffering from corneal inflammation and conjunctivitis after the clinic allegedly used a dirty steam cleaner to disinfect the devices that slice the surface of people’s eyeballs. The clinic was aware of these problems, but they didn’t tell health officials; instead they got a replacement disinfection device and hoped it would slide. For shame, Ginza clinic!
A twenty-something year old Kagawa woman who had in-vitro fertilization found out mid-pregnancy that the hospital had injected her with the wrong egg–i.e. someone else’s baby. Apparently, the hospital accidentally used a left-over egg from a previous operation, found out later, and told her. She had an abortion and sued the Kagawa government, which administers the hospital, for 20 million yen. IVF is pretty common in Japan, but adoption, surrogate births, and most other ways in which you may bear someone else’s kid are not so accepted. Abortion, on the other hand, was once (not sure if it still is) the number two method of birth control.
A 69-year old Tokyo man died two weeks ago because of a huge glitch in the Japanese ambulatory system. Somebody was just telling me about this recently. In Japan, if you call an ambulance, they then in turn have to call around to neighboring hospitals to see if the doctors in the emergency room have time to see another patient. As it goes, emergency rooms are often pretty busy and a lot of them say no. On this particular night, 14 hospitals said they were too busy and refused to take the ambulance in. The guy died 90 minutes after he was hit by a motorcycle. Most of those 90 minutes were spent in the ambulance, even though paramedics were at his side within minutes. He had severe head and back injuries and lost too much blood.
More than 14,000 emergency patients were rejected from hospitals three or more times in 2007. The record is a woman in her 70s who was having trouble breathing. She was denied entry by 49 hospitals. WTF?? One pregnant woman died in 2006 from a brain hemorrhage during childbirth because she was rejected by 19 hospitals.
Note to self: If ever in an emergency situation in Japan, don’t call an ambulance. Call a cab instead, because if you show up at the door instead of succumbing to the courtesy system of the ambulances, they’ll have to see you.
Japanese drug stores have more beauty products than any Walgreens, Longs, or CVS, but one thing that always baffles me is the complete absence of locally made body lotion. Yes, there are a gazillion types of face cream and hand cream. But body lotion is always imported—it’s so strange! I had to special order my favorite Japanese one, which is made out of rice. Speaking of lotion, I found these super cute "We are friends" Hand Cream. The idea behind it is that the containers are so frigging cute that you can’t help but become friends with the creepy guy in the cube next to yours if he has one too.
One of the wonderful things about Japan is that anybody can buy cigarettes from a vending machine. Even a 10 year old. But recently, some vending machine companies have started to implement face recognition technology that would guess the buyer’s age based o the size of their facial features and bone structure and then decide if they were underage or not. The government just announced its approval of this method for nationwide use.
The crackdown on cigarette purchases by minors began with the Taspo Card, a card you have to have in order to buy smokes from a machine. Hasn’t been universalized yet, but that’s the plan. It serves the same purpose as a driver’s license when you show ID at a smoke shop in the US.
I wonder how accurate the face recognition tech is though. It would suck if you’re just young-looking or have really small bones. And I have definitely seen some 12 year olds with bigger heads than their parents.
Last week, I caught a cold. It was going around. So I took off early from work, put on an extra layer, and proceeded to hibernate. I spent a lot of time making chicken soup, rice porridge, and ginger honey tea. I brought my laptop and blanket to the couch so I could veg out and occasionally check in at work.
Everyone has their own idea of what the best remedy for a common cold is. My friend Kayoko, a doctor, recommends Yunker. Go to your Japanese supermarket, she said, and buy a bottle of Yunker, or Zena, or one of those other Japanese energy drinks. Chug it and go to sleep.
So I went out and bought this Yunker 3-pack for $14 (it even came with a free Sato-chan elephant cell phone strap).
The main ingredients in Yunker are water, sugar, and alcohol, and it’s infused with things like royal jelly, Asian ginseng, riboflavin, and hawthorn berry extract. And it tastes like crap. Not the kind of crap that makes you nauseous, but more like a really strong shot of spicy-sweet liqueur.
I don’t know if it was the Yunker or the strain of cold I had this time around, but I completely healed two days later.
This brand new toy from Takara Tomy is actually a petite, super cute air filter. It’s just under $150 but only available in Japan for concerned parents who don’t want their babies breathing in dust and pollution while they sleep.
For the first time ever in world history, a video game will be sold at drug stores. Starting November 15th, Drug Segami, a drug store chain, will be carrying a Nintendo DS Lite game in stores all over the country. It’s called "Kenko Kentei" and it letts players log their health info and recommends exercises and dietary regimes. The software was developed by Yudo, a company started by the guys who created Beatmania and DDR.
Reuters reports that seven government officials in Ise started a group called the "Seven Metabolic Samurai"—a play-on-words on the famous Kurosawa film that refers to a dietary regime of hardcore exercise and health food.
Older men dieting is not uncommon in Japan. In fact, it’s become trendy, and very high tech (remember the cell phone camera diet plan, instituted this past spring). Talk of metabolic syndrome—excess fat, high blood pressure, high cholestrol—is all over dinner tables and news talk shows. So it’s only natural that a bunch of politicians would champion the cause by doing this. Right?
And so the diet samurai continue to train despite the death of one of their colleagues in August—he died of heart failure while jogging. Sad, and scary, but not quite enough to make a samurai terminate his mission.
This is the antibac2K. It’s a compact, lightweight air cleaning system that looks like a spherical alien ship. When you plug it in and switch it on, the blue and green LED lights illuminate and the thing starts spinning, disseminating a proprietary air filtration mist into the atmosphere. The effect is similar to those bulky ionic filters they sell at Sharper Image—it gets rid of bad odors, eliminates allergy-inducing dust particles, and kills of 99.99% of bacteria such as salmonella…but this one’s much smaller and cooler-looking.
A recent survey conducted among Japanese dental school students revealed that 62% of men training to become dentists are also regular smokers. Wow! You’d think that dentists wouldn’t smoke because of all that hype about how it stains your teeth, etc., right? Perhaps even more surprising, half of all men in their 20s overall smoke. That’s a lot. For women, the numbers are a little lowers, but 35% of female dentistry students are smokers, too.
If you’ve been to Tokyo, you know that restaurants and cafes and night clubs are all very very smoky. Ironically, more and more of Tokyo’s wards are banning smoking on the streets (more for environmental than health reasons), so you’re more likely to pop into a restaurant to smoke than the other way around.
You always hear that too much cell phone usage could ruin your brainwaves, but is it really true? According to the Mainichi, more and more people in Japan are suffering from electromagnetic wave hypersensitivity. Here’s an account describing one victim’s ill fate:
Mutsuo Sano found out he’d developed electromagnetic wave hypersensitivity after undergoing an MRI examination back in 1993.
examination went on for 1 hour, 40 minutes and I collapsed as soon as
it finished," Sano tells Sunday Mainichi. "My head and chest were
searing with a pain that felt something like a burn. I couldn’t sleep
for three days afterwards."
Sano received painkillers, which provided some relief, but as soon as
he stopped taking them, the symptoms would return. He sought help from
a dozen hospitals, but was told his pain was all in the mind. Finally,
he was told he had electromagnetic wave hypersensitivity. Ever since,
he’s moved house six times to avoid high-voltage power lines or mobile
phone transmission bases. He can’t use a computer, or mobile phone,
must sit at least 6 meters away from his TV and can’t stand for long in
front of his fridge.
A step machine where you don’t have to stand up! Genius. Panasonic’s newest exercise gadget is called "Raku Raku Walk" (Easy Walk) and has an adjustable seat paired with the standard Stairmaster paddles. So what the fuck does this do, really? Well, apparently, it gives you an aerobic experience that’s easy on the knees. So it strengthens your legs without giving you knee probs later.
The emperor’s cousin, Prince Tomohito, is going into alcohol rehab for a month. Can you imagine being his AA counselor? I think it would be very difficult, given all the formalities required to even look at him or touch him, never mind tell him about his substance dependency problems. Good luck to you, doctor from the National Hospital Organization who has been dispatched to his aid.