*I’m just an English guy trying to understand Japanese culture. Please forgive me if I get anything wrong! :) ❤️ 🇯🇵
Food & Drink
It’s simply delicious and I don’t know why! What’s the secret, Japan? Why is your food so delicious?
Communication style & language (but I’m planning a whole other episode about English)
Constant sounds of “gozaimasu”
Heeeee, hoooooo etc
Certain words you always hear and could use: arigato gozaimasu (levels of politeness) doitashimashite, sumimasen, onegaishimasu, nama biru no futatsu onegaishimasu, kawaii, sugoi, gaijin, chotto, dekimasu, desu, desu ka, hai, so desu ka, ne, so desu ne.
Weird and scary things that people don’t often talk about
Some weird sexual stuff
No need to dwell on anything else. Every country has its dark side. I guess that it seems a bit more interesting in Japan because there’s so much emphasis on the cute, childish things. Also, because of the slightly ambiguous religion in Japan it makes you wonder where the moral lines are. A lot of that stuff seems a bit vague, probably because I come from a christian culture where morality is written down in the form of rules – very clear lines which we’re always aware of.
Before coming my brother was staying with me and we watched the new Godzilla film – not the Hollywood version directed by Gareth Edwards, but the recent Japanese one directed by Hideaki Anno, Shinji Higuchi.
What does Godzilla mean? What does it tell us about Japanese culture? He’s created by nuclear tests in the ocean. He kind of represents the consequences of nuclear testing on nature, or the destructive power of nuclear weapons in Japan, or simply the vast destructive power of nature. At one time or another Japan has been subject to massive levels of destruction from either natural disasters or nuclear weapons. The nuclear attacks are obvious of course – but there were also nuclear tests by the US army after WW2 in waters affecting Japanese fishermen etc. The metaphor of natural disasters is easy to see. The 2011 earthquake and tsunami which affected Fukushima’s nuclear power plant – lots of scenes of destruction similar to what you see in the films. Godzilla kind of represents all of that. It’s interesting that Godzilla has been accepted as a sort of mascot in Japan. They love Godzilla, and in fact he’s sort of a protector of Japan, which I see as them owning this destructive power and turning it into something positive and uniquely Japanese.
The film also portrays the government as very inefficient and unable to make decisions quickly. So many people at various levels of status – all asking for second and third opinions and approval from above before making a decision. Some say this is a comment about the way the government responded to the Fukushima situation – slow to react, a lack of transparency, an inability to make the right decision quickly enough.
I don’t have all the answers about this place. There are a lot of mysteries. I think of all the sliding doors, the silence, the shadow, the ambiguity of the religious aspects of life, the weird things in Japanese cartoons that I just don’t understand, and simply wondering what Japanese people are really thinking behind their exterior which is hard to read, and the polite manners. Part of me believes there is just open space inside people, which is a kind of peaceful place where there’s no judgement, where there is no dogma, but there’s a kind of natural balance, like the space between rocks in a zen garden. But maybe I’m romanticising it just a little bit! I expect Japanese people are just as mysterious as the rest of us, because ultimately who does understand the secrets at the heart of the human soul?
One thing I can say is cool – I have made friends with some Japanese people in a more sincere way than many others I have met, and I’ve had moving connections with Japanese people that I don’t tend to have with others. I don’t know why. My Japanese friend for example, he said some moving things to me on my wedding day, and on the day I left Japan that seemed to come from some deep place of ancient Japanese wisdom. Yoda stuff, basically.
What did you do?
The basics of where we went and what we did.
Met by our friend, drove to Asakusa, sushi place. Food, beer.
Kamakura – drive – Tokyo skyline etc. Back in Kamakura – “natsukashii” – ‘good old’ or ‘Wow, it feels amazing to be back!’. Cherry blossom in the hills. Time with Moto’s family. Dinner at Matchpoint.
What is special about Karaoke?
Perfect way to have a party. There are whole buildings devoted to it in Tokyo. There are girls in the street who are like karaoke room dealers. You speak to them, book a little room. Go to the building and usually there are loads of drunken salary men pouring out of it. You get into your room – somewhere on the 9F of a big building. They bring you beer and food, direct to the room. There’s a computer database with thousands of songs on it. They’ve got everything. Everyone becomes a performer with their favourite song. It doesn’t matter if you can’t sing, the machine helps you a bit. Some people are brilliant. Everyone comes out of themselves a bit. It’s just you and your friends. Favourite songs get everyone in the mood. Singing is amazing fun. The videos on the machine are hilarious too – totally nothing to do with the lyrics of the song. Usually it’s a couple of people on a date in a random city. Often the lyrics are completely wrong too. We sang a lot of British pop and rock. David Bowie, Oasis and Pulp. My Japanese friend dances like Jarvis Cocker and really gets into the performance. He’s a “plastic gallagher”.
A day in Kamakura – Daibutsu, Cherry blossom avenue, noodles for lunch. Hookokuji temple & bamboo forest. Car drive to Ishiiki beach in Hayama with views of Mt Fuji. Yakitori restaurant in the evening, then another dinner of Japanese barbecue after that! Taxi ride back to the guesthouse – pristine taxi, automatic door.
Travel to Kyoto on Shinkansen. Bento boxes. Arrive in Kyoto. Kyoto was the capital of Japan during many important periods and was also the base of Buddhism. Also there are plenty of Shinto temples there since it was such an important place. Impossible to see everything in just a couple of days. More yakitori that evening and a lovely stroll by the river in the dark.
Kyoto shrine day. Early start and then these temples: Ninna-ji (beautiful rock gardens and pools, plus tons of cherry blossom everywhere. Interesting buildings – It is the head temple of the Omuro School of the Shingon sect of Buddhism and was founded in 888 by the reigning emperor. Various interesting buildings including the Goten, the former residence of the head priest in the southwestern corner of the temple complex. Built in the style of an imperial palace, the graceful buildings are connected with each other by covered corridors, feature elegantly painted sliding doors (fusuma) and are surrounded by beautiful rock and pond gardens.
Then to Ryoanji Temple – with its amazing rock garden.
Then Kinkakuji – the golden temple.
Lunch at a convenience store – just rice balls!
Then across town to Ginkakuji – where there is an amazing sand garden with a kind of replica of Mt Fuji. It’s bizarre. Crowded.
Philosopher’s Walk – cherry blossom everywhere. Also crowded :(
Some shopping for Yukata – found a place selling second-hand yukata in perfect condition. One for me, one for the wife. Lovely patterns. Not too expensive. Met a friend from London, dinner. Matsusaka beef! Apparently it’s more tender because it comes from virgin cows. What, less trauma because the cow had never had sex? How does that work? I remember being distinctly more relaxed after sex (and not just immediately after) but perhaps for cows it’s more traumatic, anyway…
Hot bath at the guesthouse in the communal area. Far less “public” than my experience in Thailand.
Next day – early start for Fushimi Inari Shrine, an important Shinto shrine in southern Kyoto. It is famous for its thousands of red torii gates, which cover a network of trails behind its main buildings. The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which stands at 233 meters and belongs to the shrine grounds.
Fushimi Inari is the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Foxes are thought to be Inari’s messengers, resulting in many fox statues across the shrine grounds. Fushimi Inari Shrine has ancient origins, predating the capital’s move to Kyoto in 794.
Basically there are these trails that go up to the top of a hill and most of the way is covered by these red gates. The red tori gates are common in the entrance to shrines and represent your movement from the normal world into the spirit world. They’re beautiful and this shrine with rows of thousands of red gates is stunning. The gates are donated by local businesses.
Then more walking around and some shopping for gifts and souvenirs. Shinkansen back to Shinagawa station – meet our friend again. Hotel in the Meguro area.
Gig that evening.
How was the comedy show in Tokyo?
I didn’t know what to expect.
No people, loads of people? Not sure.
Arrived, place was already totally packed. Got upstairs, room goes “huuuuuuu!” as I enter. People are going “luku? Luku? Heeeeee~!” Gasps etc.
Upstairs with other comics, introduce myself etc. We chat. People are surprised and going – can’t you stay? Let’s arrange other shows!
There’s a scene there but mostly for expats in English. This room was full of Japanese people (and a few others) and they’re all here for me!
I walk around upstairs trying to get myself ready, trying to decide what to do.
Audience is lovely, but I think they’re mainly waiting for me.
Apparently some people can’t get in the place. There are people in the stairs just listening.
I did about 45 minutes. Lovely audience of course. They’re lepsters. Interesting to see what worked and what didn’t work. The bits that didn’t work were some of the film references – e.g. Ratatouille, and surprisingly Taken
A lot of my routine is for a French audience. Taken is actually quite specific to a French crowd because the film is set in Paris.
Some bits the audience took on face value – like they took it as being true. E.g. some bits in my star wars routine about how my Dad is an evil strict overbearing tyrant like Darth Vader – not true, but just full of parallels about my life and Star Wars.
Especially the bits about Japan. I’ll play you some extracts later.
A few requests:
The jingle. The italki promo. Some impressions, Obama, Hobson’s Choice!
I wish I’d gone bye bye bye at the end!
Then after the show there was a massive queue of people who wanted to get my autograph. So bizarre.
Also, selfies, handshakes, talking to each person. Gifts.
It was actually an incredible experience meeting each person and hearing about how they listen to my podcast and how it obviously means a lot to them. I’m very glad to know that as always, because I put a lot into it myself.
It was bizarre – I was a celebrity for that evening, with people staring at me and taking my photo and stuff.
*This is where the episode ends, but feel free to read the rest of my notes which I didn’t read out*
Rest of the trip – in Tokyo. Hanging out in Meguro avenue, Daikanyama, Shibuya, Shinjuku. Shopping, sightseeing, eating tasty food. Taking photos. Just enjoying the sunshine.
Dinner at The New York Grill – where Lost In Translation was filmed.
Another day in the Ginza area – shopping for some more gifts like tableware and stuff from Muji which is my wife’s favourite shop. Driving around the imperial palace. Views of Tokyo tower – like The Eiffel Tower but sort of misshapen and not quite as beautiful but iconic in its own way. Went up the World Trade Centre for amazing views of the sunset. Everyone on a date.
Visited a couple of friends – including one at a super cool photography studio that allows you to take 3D photos.
Shabu shabu dinner in Shinjuku with Peter who I used to live with. He was featured in this episode actually (below)
As you know I just came back from a little holiday in Japan that I had with my wife last week. We spent about 8 days there in total and I’m going to talk about it here because I thought you might like to know about the trip. You know, sometimes I do these episodes about travelling experiences that I’ve had and they seem to be quite popular. For example, I’ve done ones about going to India, Vietnam, Indonesia, New York, different parts of France, California and Thailand. In this episode (or these episodes) I’m going to do another one, this time it’s all about my recent trip to Japan from last week.
So, here’s another travel episode with a few stories, some descriptions of places, culture and experiences and other general ramblings about my reflections on the time spent in the land of the rising sun.
For the dedicated language learners and orion team transcribers, a lot of what I’m saying is written in the form of notes and I’ll put these notes on the page for this episode. So, you can read them and check any new words you hear, or if you’re transcribing this you can use my notes, copy them into your google doc and then just fill in the blanks – the bits where I improvise details and speak “off script” which I will probably do as I go along.
No idea how long this is going to take, but it’ll take as long as it takes. I’ll divide it into several episodes if it gets too long.
I’ve done at least one episode all about Japan before. That’s number 118 “Sick in Japan”(Full transcript)
It tells the story of how I ended up sick in a hospital bed in Japan more than 15 years ago, feeling physically terrible and mentally very panicked, not knowing what was wrong with me. Do you remember? If you haven’t heard it, I recommend listening – you might enjoy it! Basically, I got very sick there and spent two weeks (even before I went to hospital) essentially lying on my bed in my apartment at home getting more and more ill, unable to eat, unable to sleep even though I was very tired, in a lot of pain from a horrible infection. Eventually I got to a doctor who agreed to treat me and after taking a blood test he informed me in slightly broken English that I had liver damage, I needed to go to hospital and I needed an operation. To be honest, his diagnosis was a bit lost in translation and it wasn’t as bad as I thought but I assumed the worst! I thought I needed a liver transplant because I had some sort of weird liver disease! I remember the first night in the hospital bed feeling like I was going to die or something, not knowing what was wrong with me, thinking that I was going to be given an operation to get a liver transplant and the worst thing was that I worrying that they would give me a Japanese liver! For some reason this scared me because I thought “Maybe it won’t work with my body and maybe I won’t be able to drink beer like I could before!” That was the worst thing – I won’t be able to drink beer! Even if I survive! Weird paranoia and fear and ridiculousness. Naturally, it turned out ok in the end, and in fact it all turned out to be part of a really great adventure. That was one experience I had during the two years I spent in Japan in 2002 and 2003. To hear the whole story listen to episode 118. It also explains a lot of the reasons I went to live in Japan in the first place and what happened to me while I was there, especially the difficulties, even though the majority of my experiences were really great.
Why did you go?
What’s it like in Japan? Let’s explore the culture, the people, the way of life and the mentality etc.
What did you do, where did you go and what did you see?
How was your gig? Tell us about the comedy show you did.
Why did you go to Japan?
You might be thinking, “Why didn’t you come to my country Luke? My country is a wonderful place with many fantastic things to offer. Come, Drink our favourite drinks, eat our national dishes, let me sing you the song of my people!” I’d love to visit everywhere all the time of course! But this time, it was Japan – a place where I used to live and which I’ve always wanted to return to, for my own personal reasons.
I have a connection to the place. 2 years of my life there. I made strong friendships and became attached to some specific places and things. It was hard to break away from it when I left years ago. It was an important period so I still have a connection with Japan. When I originally left Japan I thought I would never go back. I remember looking around at the places I used to go and I’d think – I may never come here ever again. That’s a strange feeling actually. When I first went to Japan I was a bit depressed and lost to be honest. When I returned I felt much more confident and positive in many areas, including work, how to live, how to connect to people, even how to perform etc. When I arrived I was feeling that there wasn’t much I could do. Everything was negative and a bit difficult. When I left I felt like I could do whatever I wanted! The place really lifted me up. Also I learned about the kindness of people and about how to relax and look after myself in the middle of chaotic stress. It was a good time and a place where things changed for me a bit, so naturally I have a soft spot for the place.
Now it’s 15 years later and I’m married. My wife loves Japanese things, she loves travelling, and I love her so I wanted to show her this important place. That was quite important to me.
Birthday – my wife wanted us to celebrate, anniversary. It was a special occasion.
What’s it like in Japan?
In no particular order, here are some reflections on the culture, lifestyle, psychology and general feeling of life in Japan, especially Tokyo.
About 130,000,000 people – more than double the number of people in the UK or France. Just under the number of people in Russia – but consider the relative space. Greater Tokyo has about 40,000,000 people, making it the most populated city metropolis in the world. But they make it work. Despite the large number of people, the place functions very efficiently. There’s not a lot of space but it’s amazing how interiors are designed to make the most of the space they have, and how everyone manages to keep everything peaceful and tidy.
The place is 70% mountain, so a lot of people are crammed into the city areas where it’s more practical to build. Also, the country sits on a whole series of fault lines which means there are regular earthquakes, more than a thousand in a year. Not all of them are noticeable, but many of them are. Mount Fuji is the biggest mountain in the country and it looms in the distance – sometimes visible from Tokyo, much more visible from areas in Kanagawa where you can see it from the beach or you get glimpses when travelling on the train, especially in winter when the air is clear and mountain is covered in snow. It’s a spectacular and beautiful sight – symmetrical, powerful, peaceful and majestic. It’s also an active volcano, which makes it seem a little threatening and powerful. If it erupted – it would be pretty devastating. https://qz.com/236129/what-would-happen-if-mount-fuji-right-next-to-tokyo-erupted-for-the-first-time-in-207-years/
I’m sure this has an effect on life there, but it’s kind of below the surface. I don’t know if Japanese people really think about it a lot, or whether it bothers them when they’re alone. I don’t really know. But there’s always this feeling of “the big one could come at any time” perhaps that contributes to the uniqueness, the energy, the weird zen-like feeling of the place.
Queueing and other forms of social order. Coming from France, where public moments of conflict are very common, Japan seems incredibly orderly considering the number of people living in quite a small space. I suppose this comes from necessity – that people need to be able to get along in order for the whole system to work. Generally, people respect each other’s personal space, there’s a lot of effort made to maintain the common good. It’s almost a subconscious duty to make sure you do your bit – don’t drop litter, don’t make loud noise, don’t take up too much space, be respectful to those around you. There’s a real sense of collective consciousness in Japan. In the UK, I remember coming back from Japan feeling that everyone seemed so individualistic and ego-centric. Also I was surprised by the way some of my friends behaved in an anti-social way – speaking loudly in public places, dropping cigarette buts outside doorways and so on. People also seemed to do a lot of talking about themselves. In Japan that seems to happen less, and it’s distasteful to talk about yourself too much. These are just observations I’ve had – I might be wrong about it all, and please correct me if I am, but I feel like Japan has more of a sense of collective consciousness, and collective duty and less individualism – that’s not to say people aren’t individuals, of course they are, but people seem to just pay more attention to things that will be for the good of everyone, and as a result the place is efficient, clean, tidy and peaceful.
The charisma man
I thought I’d talk about this now, since I’m on the subject of some differences between JPN and let’s say ‘western culture’. There’s this idea of the charisma man, which used to be a comic strip popular in the expat community. It’s quite interesting and a little bit controversial but it does tell us something about the way western people (especially men) can be treated in Japan, or at least one phenomenon which can occur (not necessarily every time with everyone). What’s a charisma man?
Wikipedia: Concept of the Charisma Man “Charisma Man” manipulates the superhero genre to ridicule the often unjustified self–confidence of some foreign men in Japan. Although something of a loser in his home country Canada—the home of Charisma Man’s creator—when around Japanese people the central character transforms from a skinny nerd into a muscle-bound hunk, extremely attractive to women and admired by men. Like other superheroes, however, Charisma Man has one major weakness: “Western Woman”. Whenever in the presence of western females his powers disappear and he becomes an unattractive, skinny wimp once more. “Charisma Man” is thus a statement on the relationships between Japanese and non-Japanese in Japan. According to Rodney: “The Japanese seem to see Westerners through some kind of filter. An obvious example was all the geeks I saw out there walking around with beautiful Japanese girls on their arms. These guys were probably social misfits in their home countries, but in Japan the geek factor didn’t seem to translate. “The dichotomy between the perception of these guys in their home countries and in Japan was amazing to me. This made me think of Superman; on his home planet of Krypton, Superman was nobody special, and he certainly didn’t have superpowers. But when he arrived on earth — well, you know the rest. “He was somebody — that was the whole premise of the first strip.” — Larry Rodney, in a 2003 interview with the Japan Times
I still see Charisma men in Japan quite a lot. Imagine some western guy who is acting a bit arrogant and self-important when really he’s not that great. The inflated ego of a western man getting attention from Japanese women. Partly it’s a bit unfair to Japanese women, that’s what some people say. It shows two things – one being that there is a certain filter through which some Japanese people will view western men – i.e. that they see them as more impressive and charismatic than they really are (or perhaps they’re just being polite) but the other thing is the way some western guys react to the attention they get in Japan. Some blokes let it go to their heads and they end up being tiresome egomaniac would-be alpha males who let all the adulation go to their heads. This is probably why they’re not that popular in their own countries – they’re just not that nice or charming, and it becomes more obvious in Japan when you see the way these guys become smug, arrogant self-important guys with an inflated sense of ego.
It’s just interesting to note the way in which people’s perceptions of themselves and each other can change depending on the cultural context. On one hand this is kind of a bad thing, but on the other hand it’s what makes Japan so special – people do treat you well, it’s really nice to have people show interest in you and to be genuinely impressed by where you come from and to be impressed by the differences. E.g. when we told people we were from Paris and London – this seemed to be impressive information. It’s nice! I’d rather have that than be met with indifference. Even if it’s even a little bit fake (which I’m not sure it is actually – I think people are genuinely curious) even if it’s slightly fake, it’s better than genuine rudeness. So it’s a double-edged sword – it’s lovely to be considered as slightly special because you’re different, but that can go to some people’s heads and make them act a bit arrogant, it can also get a little tiring after a while when you just want to be considered as a normal person like everyone else. I remember that I used to get a little fed up with people immediately being impressed by me when they first met me. Like, “where are you from?” “I’m from London” “Oh you are so cool guy! You are a gentleman!” and I thought “Well, I’m not really. I’m just a bloke – not all that cool really, just normal, and not that much of a gentleman really.” In the UK we tend to be a little bit wary of those big compliments and in fact when you really get to know someone you tend to just take the piss out of them, even when you don’t know them and first meet them, you might take the piss quite a lot – it’s a form of bonding and friendship building.
Quietness & “zen” feeling
Japan is officially a peaceful country.
But it’s more than that. The place can be incredibly peaceful. I’m not sure where this comes from to be honest!
Excellent – the customer is god. Polite in the extreme. Attentive. Generally everything is of high quality and you’re looked after well. Can be a bit robotic though, and I find that there’s a certain kind of high-pitched woman’s voice that you hear everywhere, from machines and announcements. Also there was an actual robot at the airport.
You could eat your dinner off the floor. The metro is shiny and reflective. Many indoor places ask you to remove your shoes and this is an excellent idea.
There are no bins anywhere! But also no litter on the streets. Very few cigarette butts. They all go in little cigarette butt bins, or people put them in their own little portable ashtrays.
A lot of natural forms. Not as robotic and futuristic as you might expect. There’s a lot of wood, lots of stone. Natural forms – imperfect shapes combined with symmetrical lines. Patterns, textures and surfaces which are imperfect. E.g. the texture of stone, or wood, or rough surfaces with random patterns and textures. The same kinds you find in nature, often combined – stone, wood, moss, water. Different textures next to each other, with natural lines, shapes very neatly presented. It’s extremely satisfying and peaceful, relaxing – Zen.
This is one of Japan’s big moments in the year. There are cherry trees everywhere, especially in certain spots and when the blossom comes out in early April it’s a beautiful sight to see. It’s a delicate pink colour and it looks like snow all over the branches. It contrasts beautifully with the blue sky and when the wind blows the blossom falls from trees again like snow. It lands on the ground carpeting it and also on rivers. It’s fleeting, transient beauty of the highest order. Japanese people celebrate it by having little picnics and parties in the park in cherry blossom areas. Lovely.
Cuteness – “Fluffy bunny land”
Cuteness rules – “kawaii”
Examples: Everything has a cute logo, everything is anthropomorphised with a cute little face – bread, chicken shops, cash machines, safety rules. Everything has a cute melody – constant little melodies like the music that plays when the green pedestrian light shines, bus doors, bus stops, cash machines, some streets just play music from the lamp posts. It’s like Super Mario Land, it really is.
Everyone has cute bags, badges, pencil cases. Even the people are adorably cute. They’re quite small, sweet, laugh and giggle easily, are self-contained (neat and tidy) quite easily scared (I mean, a bit socially awkward and shy) often have quite big fluffy hair, round faces. Extremely cute and adorable, especially the kids. Basically, Japanese people – you’re like cartoon characters to me, or ewoks or teddy bears.
Is that fair? I don’t know. I don’t mean to sound patronising, but Japanese people can come across as cute in those ways. But are Japanese people like Ewoks? Maybe. I’m sure Japanese people are perfectly capable of being mean, nasty, cruel, selfish and everything like that – I’m sure I’m just applying a filter to them just like they might apply a filter to me. Who knows… But I quite like the Ewok metaphor. Ewoks are cute and loyal, but they can also be deadly can’t they! When you think about it – the ewoks are perhaps the most dangerous creatures in the Star Wars universe. They basically stopped the Galactic Empire and helped the rebels destroy the second death star. You wouldn’t want to have to fight against them would you, even if they do look like cute little fluffy bears. Also, if you remember, in Return of the Jedi the ewoks were originally planning to eat Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo and Chewbacca, until C-3P0 stopped them. They were going to eat Luke Han and Leia. They’re vicious carnivores! Don’t underestimate them. Anyway, what I originally planned to say was simply that Japanese people seem very cute to me and cuteness or (kawaii seems to have an important role in Japanese life).
Why is everything so damn cute??? Why is cuteness so important in the culture?
Paul Ratner from BigThink.com While you may dismiss cuteness as a regional peculiarity, there is science to back up the unexpected usefulness of kawaii in life. A study by researchers from the University of Hiroshima did several experiments on students and found that their performance on a variety of tasks like fine motor dexterity and non-visual searches improved after viewing cute images of puppies and kittens. The scientists concluded that this is due to the increase in narrowing attentional focus that resulted from viewing the cute images. They advocated the use of cute images and objects in work spaces to improve productivity.
I often wonder how Japan manages to be so efficient, and I’ve always thought that there was just something in the air here which means that people find the most convenient stress free ways of getting on with things. Partly that atmosphere is created by just focusing on certain pleasing things and trying to stay calm at all times. I guess it’s similar to the way the Brits just keep calm and carry on and try not to let emotions stop you from just getting things done. In Japan they seem to emphasise the cuteness just because it makes you feel good, makes you feel protected, reduces stress and allows you to be more productive. Perhaps that’s because Japan is quite a stressful place when you think about it – the potential for natural disaster is quite high. If you think about it too much you could freak out a bit – tsunami, earthquakes, volcanoes, typhoons, Godzilla – they could all wipe everything out! Cute stuff helps you deal with that. Perhaps also the Japanese worship nature, like animals and so on – Shintoism believes in the gods of every creature or object, and you feel this level of respect in everyday life, kind of. It’s as if everything has it’s own Pokemon character which is both cute and potentially powerful and the Japanese are just in tune with all of that.
So, objects, animals and so on are given this cute personality just because this is the level of kind of respect that Japanese people attribute to things that in our culture would be basically meaningless. Maybe I’m wrong about that, if so – let me know what you think. Why are the Japanese preoccupied by cuteness? Are they the only ones?
Yumi Nakata from GaijinPot.com – 3 reasons
Reason 1: Kawaii usually refers to small children, babies and small animals. They are helpless and need to be cared for. In a culture that values youth, both men and woman are attracted to anything youthful. Women want to appear youthful and Japanese men are attracted to young girls, just look at the popularity of bands like AKB48.
Reason 2: Japanese people work very long hours and they are under enormous social pressure. Cuteness is the total opposite of Japan’s harsh reality. My sister who works in IT says she enjoys going to stores full of cute products especially after working long overtime hours. Cuteness is cool and soothing for Japanese people and allows them an escape from the realities of their life.
Reason 3: Japan is collectively a society with a 12 year old’s mentality and for many there is a strong resistance to grow out of this prepubescent stage. As adults Japanese people are expected to conform to strict social norms and expectations. However as I mentioned above, children are always taken care of in Japanese society. Therefore to cope with the harsh realities of adulthood, many Japanese people seek the comfort of cuteness.
Sick in Japan – Full Transcript
[STARTS AT 00:00:00]
Hello there! You’re listening to Luke’s English Podcast and this is Luke and I’m talking to you right now in your ears.
You’ve probably realised already that this was Luke’s English Podcast, because, well, first of all there’s a jingle at the beginning of the episode which says:
-”Hello you’re listening to Luke’s English Podcast”
probably when you heard that you thought:
– ”Oh, yeah. This must be Luke’s English Podcast or something”.
So that was probably quite a big clue. Also just the fact that you’ve probably decided to listen to this and it wasn’t just an accident. I doubt that you’ve just started listening to it by accident by, I don’t know, putting a coffee cup down on your computer and then, somehow the computer, just where you put the coffee cup on the keyboard that somehow typed in Luke’s English Podcast into Google and then it opened and then somehow it just started play as a surprise. I doubt that’s what happened. It probably wasn’t an accident. You probably said to yourself: – “I think, I’ll listen to Luke’s English Podcast now” and then you did, and so it, I’m sure it doesn’t come as a surprise that that is actually what’s happening right now.
I don’t really need to keep saying that you’re listening to Luke’s English Podcast even though you are. I’m just telling you what’s happening. Okay? I’m just giving you information. Okay? Good. Right.
Now, I’m glad that I’ve established that. So, anyway, welcome, and I hope you’re well. I hope you enjoy yourself as you listen to this. People tend to do lots a different things while they’re listening to this. That’s one of the joys and one of the brilliant things about podcasting that you can listen to this wherever you are, whatever you’re doing.
Apparently some people like to listen to this while they’re in the gym working out. If you’re on , like, a rowing machine or cycling machine, don’t feel like stopping. Okay? Keep going! Keep pushing yourself! Push yourself to the limit!
In fact, to be honest, I think, you’re probably, the setting that you’re using on that machine is little bit easy, I reckon. I think you can probably work a bit harder. Why don’t you just push the setting up a little bit higher. Just work harder! Come on! You could do better than that! Okay? Push yourself. l I wanna see, I wanna feel your sweat. Okay? I wanna smell the sweat coming through the Internet. That’s how much I believe that you can push yourself harder if you’re in the gym right now. Okay? You’ve got no excuse. I’m telling you push it harder, do a few extra weight lifts or turn up the setting on your running machine or whatever it is.
You might just decide that this is a good thing to listen to while you’re relaxing, which apparently a lot people like to do. Some people will brew themselves a nice relaxing cup of tea, and then sit down on the sofa and just get into a comfortable position. Maybe with some blanket as well just to make them feel extra comfortable – a pillow perhaps, maybe a teddy bear, something like that. Bring that nice and close around so it’s lovely and warm and so you can enjoy that lovely cup of tea you’ve just made. Just relax. Just allow the beautiful sounds of Luke’s English Podcast to enter into your ears and just get you into meditative learning state, where you can just pick up loads of natural fresh English.
Maybe you’re even lying in your bed, because a lot of people like to listen to this while they’re sleeping. I hope that…,I hope that doesn’t mean that somehow you find my voice boring that puts you to sleep. I prefer to believe that I’ve got a soothing tone of voice rather than just generally, extremely boring, monotonous voice which puts people to sleep. I don’t think that’s true. I think that people just generally find it relaxing and soothing, right? So if you’re lying in bed and you’re using this to help you go to sleep then, I hope you’re having, you’re in lovely comfortable position. Isn’t it wonderful just lying there in bed? You can just feel the lovely warmth of the blanket around you in the comfort of that mattress beneath you. I’m jealous personally. I’m very jealous. I’d love to be just lying in bed right now, doing what you’re doing.
Apparently they say that you can learn English when you’re sleeping, I wonder if that’s true. Well, if you do listen to this while you’re asleep then, and you feel like you wake up in the morning and feeling like:
– “Suddenly I feel the incredible potential that I’ve amassed during my sleep to be able to speak or write or understand fluent English”.
Just let me know if that’s the case, because I’d like to know. I just feel like it will help me understand everything a little bit better.
If you’re driving while listening to this – take care! Don’t drive too fast. Don’t break the speed limit! Okay? Don’t tailgate, because that’s dangerous. You should leave at least two car lengths between you and the car in front of you at at all times. Okay? Because if you’re one of those annoying drivers who sits right up behind the car in front of you then, just stop it! Okay? Because you’re probably not going to, it’s not going to help. You’re not going to make that driver go any faster. You’re just going to annoy them. Okay? So, stop doing that, because when I’m driving I can’t stand it when there’s another car sitting right there on my back bumper as if I’m not going fast enough. Well – “Just back off mate, okay? Back off, because that’s dangerous!” So just take it easy, just drive at a nice speed within the legal limits, and try not to piss off any of the other drivers, because road rage it is a problem. Okay? You shouldn’t be part of the problem, you should be part of the cure. Okay? Right. Good, good, good. Now, I’m glad that I’ve sorted that out.
If you’re jogging while you’re listening to this keep jogging. Don’t stop until, well until you get to your destination. Do you go jogging? By the way I’m quite interested in jogging, because well, I don’t go jogging myself. I’ve talked about this before. I must admit, I’ve talked about jogging before. I’m slightly obsessed with it. Obviously I know it’s really great exercise very good thing to do, but I just, I can’t…, my simple mind can’t get over the fact that one would run around somewhere and yet, not run to get somewhere or to get away from something. I don’t know. It’s just me. It’s just me.
Enjoy your jog, and you should feel very good about yourself, because that’s an excellent way to stay fit and healthy. That’s what this episode is about. I usually do this sort of rambling introduction at the beginning, just to get my mouth warmed up, but feeling healthy and keeping yourself in good condition is what this episode is about.
I think, I’ve already mentioned that previously I recorded an episode in which I teach you loads and loads useful expressions, phrases, phrasal verbs, vocabulary about being ill and your health and… If you want to pick up lots of useful words and expressions about health then, I recommend that you go back and revisit that episode. I can’t remember which number it is, but if you visit the website and the page for this episode, which is episode 118. The website of course is teacherluke.wordpress.com If you visit that then you will see a link to the previous episode I’ve just mentioned. You can click on that again, if you’ve never listened to it, I highly recommend it, because it’s a good way to learn some useful expressions about health. If you’ve already listened to it. Hell, why not just listen to it again? Because it’s a good way for revising and refreshing your memory, but for now, in this episode I’m going to tell you the complete story of how I ended up lying down in a hospital bed for two weeks in Japan.
When I went to Japan, I certainly didn’t expect to end up in the hospital on my own. There were no other foreigners in the whole hospital. It was just me and a whole hospital full of Japanese people. I was the only foreigner there. No one in the whole hospital spoke English to a very good level. It was very weird experience and I’m going to tell you all about it.
Now, I have mention this story briefly before in a previous episode. In fact the episode I’ve just mentioned about health, but in this episode I’m going to tell you the whole thing.
Again, I just must suggest that you visit teacherluke.wordpress.com and find episode
118, because you might find various notes or other things there which will help you to either understand this episode or pick up some of the language that I use in this episode. You will find as I read, as I go through this, you’ll find various phrases and things all about health and sickness and stuff, but also I’ll be using a range of verb tenses. So, look out for those, and also very, just phrases that pop out of my mouth as I explain the story. Okay.
Let’s see where should we begin?
Well, “Being Sick In Japan” that’s the title of the story.
Actually just over 10 years ago, I decided to go to Japan. Now, I qualified as an English language teacher in 2001. Just to give you a bit background information. At that time in my life, I’d recently graduated from University. I did a media and cultural studies degree which was really interesting. It’s not one of those degrees that gives you a vocation when you leave. It’s not like being an engineer or being a doctor or something. You don’t get a job at the end of the degree. In fact, my degree was all rather theoretical. I wrote essays about hollywood movies, and understanding the way that advertising works, and architecture, and cultural theories of people like Karl Marx, and the impact Sigmund Freud on modern culture, and that kind of thing. It was fascinating. I wrote a long essay about Lara Croft in Tomb Raider which was really interesting to write, and I got quite good mark for it, but I don’t know really how that, at the time when I finished university I had no idea how that was going to help me to find a job.
So, I was wondering what to do with my life, and so…, for various reasons I decided that I would become an English language teacher. Certainly I needed work. I needed to to find some career in my life. Also I wanted to travel. So, I thought I would kill two birds with one stone. Train to become an English language teacher, get a job, and also get the opportunity to travel.
I did the course. I completed it. I got my initial qualification which allowed me to teach English to quite a high standard, and to get work in other countries, and initially, I thought that I would teach abroad in somewhere in Europe. For some reason I had Barcelona in mind, because it was fairly close to London, and I knew that it was a great city to visit. They’ve got the the beach there. They’ve got some, like, a lot of history, a lot of culture, loads of great things about that city that make it very attractive. Plus there are English-language schools in the city that I could have worked for. I looked to work in Barcelona, I looked to work in Poland for some reason, and various other countries in Europe.
Then I remember I went for a drink with my friend Neil who you have heard on the podcast before in the episode about the Birmingham accident. Neil is my friend. I went for a drink with him. We were talking about where I should apply for work. He suggested that I apply for work in Japan, because I mentioned that there was quite a lot of work available there, but I hadn’t really considered working there, because it was very far away. It was like a very different place. I thought it might be very difficult for me to go and live there. I hadn’t really considered it. But he convinced me that it would be a good idea to go. He said to me:
– ”Why not go like to Japan that would be amazing”
I was saying things like:
– “Oh no, it’s a bit far away. No, it’s very expensive to get there”
and things like that. He was really encouraging me to go there. In the end I realised:
– “Wow! He’s right. Why should I.., If I’m gonna go abroad and live abroad for a while and teach English, why go somewhere close? Why not just go all the way up to the other side of the world? Go somewhere completely different. Somewhere, where the culture is really really different to the culture of the UK, and just have an amazing experience?”
On Neil’s advice I decided I would look for work in Japan.
I looked on the Internet and there were lots of teaching jobs there, because obviously there are so many people in Japan. They’ve got quite an advanced economy. Well, one of the most advanced economies in the world, and they have a lot of need to learn English, because they all need to be competitive in their careers and things. Also they tend to be very interested in Western culture. So, a lot of people in Japan feel it is very important to learn English, and there aren’t very many foreigner English speakers living in Japan. So there was lots of work available. I applied for work, I got a job and I thought:
– ” Wow! This is gonna be great!”, because actually for a while, for quite a long time I’d been really interested in Japan, because they’ve got, like, a really interesting culture and I really still love playing Japanese computer games and watching Japanese manga movies and stuff, and I’d always been fascinated in Japanese life. It just seems so different, so funny, and so interesting, and difficult to understand really. Just certain things about, for example, Japanese movies that just seemed really strange. I was quite curious to go and investigate.
I got the job and the company that I worked for helped to find me an apartment, and find me health insurance, and things like that. I saved up money by working in a restaurant. I saved up my money to pay for my plane ticket, and I had a few months to prepare myself. I learnt some basic Japanese. I read up on some, I read up on some books about Japanese culture and then, I started to get myself ready.
I didn’t feel nervous at all. In fact, I was looking forward to it for the whole time, for months and months, up until I actually left to go to Japan. I was really looking forward to it. Then on the day, when it came for to me to leave, I packed all my bags, and my dad took me to the airport. He took me to Heathrow Airport by car, and when I left, my mum was upset, because she was going to miss me, and she cried as I left.
Now, I’d already lived away from home for a few years. In fact, at university in Liverpool. I’d lived away from home in a shared house for four years. I’d already had experiences living abroad. I’d already had experience at living away from home. It wasn’t like a huge deal for me at that time. It wasn’t like…, wasn’t going to be a huge shock for me. I was alright with it. I was quite okay with it. In fact, I was, to be honest, really looking forward to just getting away. Just getting away from the country, because, after the university I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I was.., I was a bit fed up with my life to be honest, because I just didn’t feel like I was going anywhere and I was a bit frustrated. I was really looking forward to just getting away from it all and going to a completely new place, and just having an adventure.
Yeah, I felt fine. I didn’t feel nervous or anything like that. I feel really confident until I got to the airport. My dad dropped me off there, at the Heathrow Airport with my bags and said goodbye to me, and he left. As soon as he left I just suddenly felt really nervous, and really scared. I was on my own. I was about to travel all around the world to a completely new country, where I didn’t speak the language really. I suddenly felt incredibly nervous. I’d never taken a long flight like that on my own. I was about, “how old was I?”, I was about 23 years old. Suddenly I felt nervous. It was pretty awful, pretty weird. I remember, I had some bags of English coins. I had all these coins with me, and I just thought that I would be able to spend them in the airport, in duty free. But I remember walking around, I was so nervous. Making sure that I had my passport my ticket my bag and everything. I just couldn’t somehow mentally bring myself to get the coins out the bags and spend them on things. I was wandering around with these coins, all these bags of coins in my hands. In fact, I ended up taking them all the way to Japan with me and I had these bags of coins of English money in Japan for the whole time I lived there, which was pretty strange.
I felt very nervous. I got on the plane and I had a very uncomfortable flight. I just couldn’t really relax. There were lots of movies available for me to watch, but I just couldn’t bring myself to watch them, because I just couldn’t relax enough. All I could do was just – sit in my seat and listen to, they have like radio channels, well I found the radio channel with the relaxing classical music, and just listened to this music. I couldn’t eat, because I was too nervous. There was a guy sitting next to me. He was really annoying. He was like really tall and his elbows used up loads and loads of room. He tried to talk to me, but I just wasn’t interested. I just wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone. I remember at one point looking out the window, and I think we were flying somewhere over Siberia or something. I just remember feeling really strange, really freaked out. I was just thinking:
– “Oh my god this is…, this is all a horrendous mistake! What the hell am I doing with my life? Why I’ve decided to travel all the way to a different country where I can’t speak the language. I’m making a horrible mistake. This is a terrible idea. I should stay in England. I should focus on my career in London. I should be trying to find a job in the media or something. Why am I flying to Japan for god’s sake to work as an English teacher? This was never part of my plan!”
That’s what I was thinking.
I was having horrible moments of panic and self-doubt and everything, and it was awful. Finally, eventually, the plane landed and for some reason, as soon as the plane landed I felt:
We all got off the plane got into the airport, and I realised:
– “Actually, no, this is all right. This is going to be fine, because it’s not going to be that different. Life continues. They still have the same basic things in Japan as they do in England. They’ve still got gravity and stuff like that. It’s not going to be that different. I’m going to be okay. I’m going to, I’m going to enjoy this. This is going to be great. I’m not really going to miss my life in England. In fact my life in England was boring. This is going to be an amazing experience!”,
And immediately I started to enjoy it, and I started to notice things about Japan that were really interesting, and so strange to me like, for example, coming into the airport, immediately I noticed, there was standing at the doorway, there were two guys in uniforms, really fancy looking uniforms standing there with white gloves, and there were these just these two guys standing at the doorway. I couldn’t really see why they were standing there, what their purpose was, but they just stood there with their white gloves on and their suits and I thought:
– “Okay that’s pretty weird. Who are these guys? Is it really necessary for them to just stand by the door doing nothing?”
That was just really the first weird experience that I…, weird thing that I noticed that I didn’t really understand. I mean, now I realise that in Japan – well, it’s just part of their culture to have like these members of staff who dress very smartly and may be wearing white gloves just shows that they’re extra smart, and they stand there as a way of showing you that they’ve got people standing there like, maybe security guards or something to make you feel like you’re safe that this is a high-quality airport, and they have lots of staff who are very well, very professional, and that kind of thing. Now I understand it, but at the time, I was thinking:
– ”Who the hell is this weird guy in a suit and why, what’s the point of that?”
And so, anyway I settled into my my life in in Japan, and it was fine. It was really great, in fact. I settled in. Obviously, I had my periods of feeling homesick which is normal and it goes up and down. Sometimes you feel really comfortable and really excited about living in another country and sometimes you start to feel homesick, and you you realise that you don’t really understand what you’re doing, and the culture seems to be strange and frustrating, but generally speaking it was great.
The company that I work for, basically looked after me. They helped me find my apartment. Helped to sort out health insurance and a mobile phone contract for me, and things like that. They looked after me although they paid me peanuts. I mean, well, not literally peanuts. They didn’t obviously just every month bring me a bag of peanuts. No, that’s just an expression. It’s an idiom which means that they didn’t pay me very much. They paid me peanuts. They just paid me quite low wage. Particularly at the beginning on my probationary period. After about six months I got a pay rise, but at the beginning, really they paid me peanuts.
But really at that time I didn’t really know to be honest how to look after myself. Even after spending four years away from home, at university, where to be honest, I didn’t really look after myself very well either. I mean, I was 23 years old, but I still didn’t really know how to look after myself, how to eat properly and live like a proper healthy life. I didn’t eat a very balanced diet, because I had hardly any money, I would often survive by eating cheap, stuff that I didn’t have to cook myself. For example, in Japan they have these little fast food places that sell bowls rice and beef. It’s called gyudon They have a shop there called Yoshinoya which I was quite fond of, because it is so cheap, I mean really cheap. You can just get like a bowl of rice, beef and onions for just, well the equivalent to just about one or two pounds, and it was tasty as well. Certainly, at the beginning I thought:
– “Wow! This is nice!”
But to be honest it was a bit like the Japanese version of McDonald’s. It’s like Japanese fast food, but I liked it and I survived on that stuff for a while, just because it was so cheap, and easy to get. To be honest I can’t really believe that I ate that stuff every day sometimes, but to be honest, it helped me to save money. In fact, I even worked out mathematically how I could afford to live on gudon for a few weeks, just I could get through each month, before I got paid.
So I did manage to save money, but I didn’t really save when I went to my local bar. There was a bar that was near to my apartment. I used to go there at the weekends, and that’s where I would hang out with, like, some Japanese people that I just met in the bar. I decided one day that I would just go to this bar because I was bored, and I went in there and I met all these local Japanese people, and after a while, they got to know me and it was great. Those were some of the best experiences I ever had in Japan, actually. I was spending some time in this local bar, hanging out with some the local Japanese people I met, playing darts, and just trying to speak Japanese to them. There were some really funny people. The bar was called “Stone Bar”, near Tsujodou station in the Kanagawa area of Japan.
[26.00 Audioboo timecode]
So I lived near Yokohama which is not far from Tokyo in Japan. So yeah. Going to that bar was really one of the best experiences that I ever had. I mostly loved hanging out there, but I probably drank a little bit too much. It’s, to be honest, it’s quite hard to notice the negative effect that drinking can have on your health, and perhaps, that’s one of the things that contributed to me getting a little bit sick later on.
In fact there are a few things which I think contributed to me ending up really sick in a hospital. One of them maybe was the fact that I would sometimes at the weekends stay up quite late drinking cocktails with these friends of mine in this bar. Also work, I think I worked really really hard in the first six months. It was very stressful, because of a very steep learning curve. It was difficult for me to really learn how to teach English well without really breaking my back every day, because it was hard. It’s hard to teach English especially when you’re doing it for eight or nine hours a day without any preparation time. That’s pretty stressful. You end up in front of the students who are all there expecting to learn from you. They’ve all paid their money. They want to learn from you. There’s a lot of pressure there, and so it was quite a stressful experience for me, and eight or nine hours every day I was rushing around without a moment to to relax was quite tough at the beginning. So that I think perhaps contributed to me feeling a bit exhausted.
Also the weather. In England the weather is basically cold and wet during the winter and dark most at the time, in winter. Right? So winter is cold, wet and dark, but in Japan it’s dry and cold in the winter and yet hot and wet in the summer which is different to England which is wet and cold in the winter and hot and dry in the summer. Well I say hot. It’s not as hot as most countries, but hotter than it is in the winter, that’s for sure. In England when the sun comes out in the summer it’s quite normal and natural to throw off your clothes and just get as much sun onto your skin as possible. But when the sun came out in Japan, I did exactly the same thing. In the summer the sun would come out and I was like:
– “Wow! The Sun! Finally!”
I would go outside at the weekend and I’d try to get as much sun as possible which was a mistake, because I underestimated exactly how powerful the sun is over there. For some reason it’s just a lot more powerful than it is in England. I got, well, on one particular occasion I got really badly sunburned. I remember one day the sun was out, and it was at the weekend, and I thought:
– “Wow! Great! This is my chance to go outside and get some sunshine finally!”
I went out without putting any suntan lotion on, and I just had like a pair shorts and a vest and I went out on my bicycle. I had like this of like housewives bicycle in Japan. They call it mama-chari which is a…, imagine the bicycle that housewife would ride. I had one of these bikes, because I bought one really cheaply from a little bike shop around the corner. So I had a big blue mama-chari which had a huge basket on the back, like massive basket which I could put all my shopping in, and a big basket on the front, and I would ride around on this bike. I probably looked completely ridiculous to Japanese locals who would see me. This big weird foreign guy running around on a housewife’s bicycle. They probably thought I was a real freak, but I didn’t really care, because it was a great bike. It was really good. It was a pleasure to ride around on it.
I went out on this particular day on my mama chari housewife’s bicycle getting loads of sun and I spent loads of time in the sunshine and then, I came home that evening and I realised that:
– “Oh my god. Maybe I’ve got a little bit too much sun today.”
Because I was boiling hot, and I remember looking in the mirror, and I realised I was seriously sunburned, and I took off my vest, and it was like, my skin, the skin which had been exposed to the sun was so burnt, it was like pink, like a salmon. In fact when I took the vest off, it looked like, I was wearing a pink t-shirt, like a dark pink t-shirt with a white vest over the top, because the dark pink t-shirt was, well, that was where my skin was all sunburned. That’s what it looked like and then, the white vest was where the other vest, that I’d been wearing, had actually blocked the sun. So it looked like, I was wearing a pink t-shirt with the white vest over the top, but actually I just wasn’t wearing anything. It’s just the pink bits were where my shoulders and my neck had been really really badly sunburned.
They got so badly burned. I was so worried, because they even, my shoulders, they started to blister. I started to get these blisters on my shoulders, which then burst, and they were really painful, horrible experience. I’ve now learned that you must always wear suntan lotion when you go outside, but particularly in a country like Japan, because the sunshine was so much stronger.
Anyway this sunburn didn’t directly cause me to get sick, but it’s just an example of how I wasn’t really prepared for the difference in climate there. It’s just an example of how I wasn’t really looking after myself. Japanese listeners might be feeling a little bit alarmed when I’m telling you all of this, because Japanese people tend to have a great sense of how sensitive the human body is. For example a slight rise in temperature if they take their temperature and realise that it rise[n] just a little bit then, they really can’t go all out. They wrap themselves up in scarves. They take medicine. They wear these ninja style face masks, to make sure that they are looking after themselves. Japanese people tend to look after themselves pretty well, and they can be very health conscious. So, me telling you the stories of how I didn’t really look after myself might be a bit alarming for you. But don’t worry obviously. I’m fine. I’m okay. I’m still standing, and in a way I’m English. I’m naturally tough, even if I am a bit stupid sometimes. So, okay.
This brings me to the Japanese summer. Now, the Japanese summer is different to the summer in the UK as I’ve explained. Generally in Japan its beautiful in May. May comes along and the sun comes out and it’s gorgeous. You get fresh air. It’s not too hot, but it’s nice and sunny. It’s fantastic. It’s a bit like the best days in English summertime. Then at some point in June, it goes very cold and rainy again, and this is something to do with the large front of low pressure which comes across Japan. They call it rainy season, and for a few weeks it’s just cold and it rains all the time. It’s miserable. Okay? But this wet and cold weather wasn’t very strange to me. It wasn’t really a surprise to me, but it was quite disappointing. Obviously it’s a bit depressing when it rains all day every day. Then after rainy season, the humidity and heat arrive. So, that’s like the second half of July. All the way through the rest of July, all the way through August, and to be honest, most of September, and so that period, the humid and hot period was really difficult for me. As I’ve said in the UK, when the sun comes out and we go outside and we enjoy it while it lasts. To be honest a myth about the weather in England is that it rains all the time, and that’s not really true. It does rain a lot, but not all the time. Although our summers recently have been unusually wet, probably due to climate change.
So rather, the main feature of the English weather is it changes a lot. It is changeable. You get.., it might be hot in the summer, but only for a few days and then, it cools down. It might rain a little bit, but then, the sun comes out for a while. The weather changes a lot. I was used to this changeable weather. But in Japan, in the summer, after the rainy season, the weather was just constant. Just consistent. It was consistently very hot and very humid for months, like two and a half to three months of just the same weather all the way through. Now, that was really weird for me, because my body was expecting the weather to change to give me a chance to cool down a bit, but “no”, it didn’t. It was just hot and humid all the time between 30 to 40 degrees (centigrade), and sort of eighty percent humidity or more.
In central Tokyo if you ever go to Tokyo in the middle of summer, it’s about 40 degrees. Because all the air conditioning units are pumping out the heat. The sunlight and heat reflect off all the concrete and so, the heat has nowhere to go. In fact at night it’s even hotter, because the concrete in all the buildings has actually absorbed the heat during the day, and then, at night it releases it. The heat actually comes out of the stone in the ground, and the buildings and everything. It’s incredibly hot.
This was really really difficult for me. My body really couldn’t get used to it. I spent like almost the entire summer sweating. I don’t know how much, I must have lost a lot of weight, but basically 24 hours a day, seven days a week, I was just sweating. At night I was so hot that I slept without any clothes on, and without any bed clothes covering me, and I would still sweat all night. I’d wake up with a wet pillow. Now about air conditioning. You’re probably thinking:
– “ Why didn’t you just put the air conditioning on, you idiot?”
but I couldn’t actually stand the air conditioning either. I really hated air conditioning. I felt like it was dehydrating me. Because the air for my air conditioning in my apartment felt really dirty, dusty. In England, we don’t use a conditioning very much. I wasn’t very used to using it. I just preferred not to use it, and also I’d been given advice that it was best not to use air conditioning too much, and that you should just try to get used to the heat. I decided that I would try not to use the air conditioning very much and I didn’t like the idea of sleeping in my room with the air conditioning on. Blowing cold air down onto my head as I slept. I just didn’t really think that was very healthy.
Anyway I decided I would sleep without air conditioning, without any bed clothes and yet I would still sweat all night long and wake up with a wet pillow. In the morning I’d be sweaty. I’d have my shower. But because it was so hot and humid, almost as soon as I came out the shower and dried myself off I’d be all wet again and sweaty. I remember going to work in a suit. I had to wear a suit, black suit and tie to work every day. I would walk to the station and I would be pouring sweat as soon as I got to the station. Just pouring sweat and then, I’d get on the train and the train is a very heavily air-conditioned. The train is suddenly blowing ice-cold air down the back of my neck with with my sweaty neck and everything and then, after half an hour of being frozen in the air-conditioned train. I’d get back out into the boiling hot street again and walk to work and then, get frozen by air conditioning there. It was like, I’m sure it was very bad for me. I got pretty exhausted. I got stressed out by work. I didn’t really eat a balanced diet. I didn’t drink enough water. I didn’t sleep enough. I didn’t really cover myself up in bed which is a bad idea. I stayed up late at weekends and I probably drank a bit too much.
Also I remember in summer getting bitten by a mosquito. I was very careful to avoid letting mosquitoes into my apartment because we have one of those insect screens. From my bedroom I had like a sliding glass door which I could use to get onto the balcony. I had some plants on the balcony which I would water every now and then. I would be very careful to make sure that I closed the the insect screen every time I went outside. But I remember this one particular time I forgot to close the insect screen, and of course a mosquito came into my room. One lucky mosquito got in there, and I went to bed, went to sleep without my bed covers on, and this mosquito basically had a.., it was like an all-you-can-eat buffet for this mosquito. He just feasted on me. I swear I got bitten about 15 times by this one mosquito. In fact, I remember waking up in the morning, scratching, I was scratching my arm in my sleep and I woke up and I looked at my arm and there was blood on my arm. Because I’d actually killed this mosquito in my sleep. This must have been a very full and very sleepy mosquito at this point. To let it actually be killed by me in my sleep. I’m instinctively scratching my arm where this mosquitoes biting me and then, I realised, …I’m gonna sneeze. Feels good to sneeze…. and then, I realised that this mosquito had beaten me something like fifteen times and that my legs were itching already in my arms were itching. This constant itching was like really annoying it was another thing that prevented me from sleeping properly. I got this weird suspicion that maybe somehow the mosquito got me sick. I don’t know how, but it was about a week after being bitten by this mosquito so many times that I started to feel pretty sick.
I started to feel like I had flu, like I was feeling really tired, headache, chill. Like cold chills, aches and pains in my body, blocked up nose. I felt like my glands were swollen. I felt awful. I took some time off work. I lay in bed resting or at least trying to rest, but of course that was difficult because it was so hot. I couldn’t really rest. I remember one day I felt okay and I thought it would probably be a good idea for me to just get outside a bit, because staying indoors in my apartment was miserable. I just felt depressed. I thought it would be a good idea for me to go out. In fact I went out to a local temple. There was a temple on the hillside. I went for a walk up there and I went to look at the temple. It was an amazing place actually. This place in Kamakura in Kanagawa prefecture in Japan. Where they have a huge bronze statue of the Buddha sitting there in the temple. I went to check out this Buddha,I took some photos and by coincidence very strangely enough, when I was there I met Dave Grohl, who you might know you might not know him, but he’s the drummer from Nirvana. That’s grunge band with Kurt Cobain, Nirvana.
Well, Dave Grohl is the drummer from Nirvana. He is a huge rock star. He’s also in the band Foo Fighters and a few other bands and things. I mean he’s one of my heroes this guy, and just by coincidence I managed to meet him there, which was really strange. All part of this very strange summer that I was having. As I was walking out of the temple I noticed a group of foreign people walking in, like westerners. It’s not very common to see westerns when you’re in Japan. I made eye contact with them as if to say:
-”Oh, hello! You’re westerns as well.”
I remember looking at one of them and thinking
– “I know him. How do I know him?”
and then, as I walked past him, I realised
– “Oh my God! That’s Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters”
I went back. First of all I thought:
– “No, I’m gonna be cool. I’m not gonna hassle him. He’s probably on holiday”
but then, I went back to him and I plucked up the courage to speak to him. I managed to get a photograph with him. I had a little chat with him. We talked about my mobile phone actually. It was really strange. I said to him:
– “Hey, excuse me. Dave Grohl? You’re Dave Grohl, aren’t you? What the hell are you doing here at this buddhist temple on the side of a hilltop in Japan?”
It was very strange, but they were playing a concert in Tokyo in a couple of day’s time. They were just visiting the temple to do a bit sightseeing. That was amazing. I met Dave Grohl one of my heroes and chatted to him.
Anyway. I felt a little bit better, and I went back to work. I had an eight-day stretch. That’s an eight consecutive days of work. By the end of that eight days I was just knackered. I was absolutely exhausted, and I actually felt worse. I felt ill again. In fact I felt more ill than I did before. I had then three days off. I just tried to rest. I lay in bed trying to sleep. I couldn’t really sleep. I had swollen glands and painful tonsils. Your tonsils are glands at the back of your mouth. It’s quite common to get an infection in your tonsils. Particularly when you’re a teenager or when you’re quite young. I used to get tonsil infections quite a lot when I was exhausted. This particular time I got a really bad tonsil infection. It was incredibly painful. I couldn’t swallow. If you know what swallow means it’s – to go “swallowing” when you eat food or drink. I couldn’t swallow, because it’s too painful. I couldn’t eat. Well all I could eat was banana, because it was soft and miso soup I had always this miso soup and I just tried to drink miso soup, and I tried to eat banana, but really, I couldn’t eat or drink very much.
It was awful. I was in a really bad condition. My girlfriend, I did have a Japanese girlfriend at the time. She was half American half Japanese, because her Dad.., no. She was like quarter American, because her dad was half american and her mom was Japanese. She was like three quarters Japanese in one quarter American. Lovely girl who I was going out with at the time, but she ironically was at that time on holiday with her parents in England while I was in Japan, feeling awful, alone. It was terrible actually. It was a really bad time. All I could do was just try and rest and try and eat. Eventually my girlfriend came back and immediately when she realised that I wasn’t well, she arranged for me to go to the doctors. This was really a horrible experience, because the first doctor that we went to, just I think he just didn’t want to see me because, I don’t know, maybe because I was a foreigner. Over there in Japan they can be a bit strange with foreigners sometimes. I think it was a bit inconvenient for him to have to deal with me the fact that I didn’t speak Japanese. That’s my fault. I didn’t learn Japanese. The doctor was not friendly with me. I had had health insurance, but he still didn’t really want to deal with me.
Eventually my girlfriend persuaded him to to let me into his surgery. It was a very busy surgery too. He didn’t have much time for me. He wasn’t friendly at all. Generally the feeling I got in his doctor’s surgery was that, it was very old-fashioned, kind of Victorian, kind of vibe that I got from it in fact. I got the sense that I wasn’t welcome and the whole thing was just an inconvenience for him. He sat me in this chair which was like an old-fashioned dentist’s chair. I sat very upright with a neck brace around me and what was very, really off-putting for me is that I could see all his medical instruments in a glass cabinet next to me. There were like nurses and other people walking around behind me. It was like a dark room. He took out some of his instruments and he had like a long metal rod with a swab at the end. That’s a piece of cotton at the end.
He dipped it into antiseptic. His way of dealing with my tonsil infection, my throat infection was to, basically, use this swab and paint my tonsils with antiseptic. Now if you can imagine how painful that was, that was awful. It was one of the…, it was just horrible how painful it was. He was there sticking this thing down at the back of my throat covering my tonsils in antiseptic. It was so awful I couldn’t help coughing. I was like coughing the antiseptic back into his face. It was awful. I mean just a disgusting an experience, really really a nightmare. He didn’t even give me any medicine. He didn’t give me any antibiotics for my tonsil infection. He didn’t even give me a blood test to see what was wrong with me. At the time I didn’t really know, I just knew I felt really really bad. He just told me to go away and have rest. I tried to rest. I took another couple days of work. I tried to rest, but it didn’t work. In fact I started to feel even worse, even more exhausted.
Yeah. I continued to get ill. A couple of days later I went back to to this doctor. This was very awkward, because I met my girlfriend’s dad. It was the first time that I’d met her dad which was not really…, it wasn’t really a great situation to be meeting him for the first time. I looked awful. I looked like a zombie basically. It’s as if my girlfriend was going:
– “Well, dad. I would like to meet my boyfriend there he is. He’s an English zombie”
and I walked in
not exactly the best way to make a good impression.
Anyway he was very nice to me. He understood that I wasn’t very well. They took me into the doctor’s surgery again in the doctor this time decided that it might be a good idea to give me some antibiotics. He gave me three days’ worth of antibiotics. Antibiotics are those medicines that you need to deal with infection, for example, penicillin is an antibiotic. He gave me three days’ worth of antibiotics – these tiny little antibiotics pills. I knew immediately that this wasn’t going to be enough, because I quite a big guy, I need quite a large dose of antibiotics. I’d already built up a resistance to antibiotics because when I was younger I had the tonsillitis quite regularly when I was young. Tonsillitis if you don’t already realise what that is, that’s an infection of glands at the back of your throat. Glands are parts of your body which are responsible for producing things like hormones or producing saliva or sweat, things like that. You have glands in your throats, you have glands around the back of your head, you have them in your armpits, and in various other parts of your body. I had tonsillitis that’s like a bad infection of the glands in your throat. I’d had tonsillitis quite a few times when I was younger. My doctors in England had given me antibiotics already a lot of times for that. I knew that I needed quite a large dose of antibiotics in order for them to work. I reluctantly went back home to my apartment with these antibiotics. I took them but it didn’t work. I just continued to feel ill.
My girlfriend…, I don’t know, I’m not in touch with this girl anymore. We lost touch for various reasons. It’s a long time ago, but if you’re listening then – God bless you, basically. Because you really looked after me. I really appreciate it.
She found me another doctor, because we decided that this other doctor was just a waste a time. She found me another doctor near my school. Actually he had a surgery near the school that I used to work in. I came into this surgery again like a zombie. I walked in feeling awful and by coincidence this doctor was one of my students. I didn’t realise that this guy was a doctor at the surgery he was just another one of my students. Now I met hundreds of students at this school. One of them was this guy. This was good. This was really nice, because I already had a relationship with this guy. He already knew me. The fact is that as a teacher with him I’d given him a lot of attention and care already. I’d already built up a relationship with the guy. This was really good, because he cared about me a lot more than the other guy did, the other doctors. This doctor took a special interest in me. He decided that he was going to definitely try to make me feel better.
I mean, anyway, that’s what a doctor supposed to do. Right?
It was no great surprise, but anyway. I felt more comfortable with this guy because I already knew him. Not that his English was very good, in fact his English was very basic. Despite the fact that obviously he had the most amazing English teacher in the world – me!
He sorted me out a bit. He gave me a blood test. He put me on an intravenous drip. That’s when basically they put medicine directly into your blood. They attach something to your vein in your arm or in the back of your hand. They then hook up a plastic bag full of medicine which then comes down a small tube and goes directly into your blood. It’s an IV drip. He gave me an IV drip of antibiotics, because he realised that I needed a really good dose of antibiotics. That made me feel much better. I lay there in this bed for half an hour while all the antibiotics went into my arm.
I immediately started to feel better. It was incredible actually. I went home feeling a lot better. Not perfect by any means, but certainly better than I had done. The next day I went back to this doctor in order to get the results of my blood test and I was thinking:
– “I’m gonna be alright. I’m feeling better. I’m sure it was just tonsillitis and now I’ve had these antibiotics I’m feeling a lot better.”
But I still felt pretty awful. I still felt pretty exhausted really in a bad way. I went into the surgery and the doctor gave me the results of the blood test. Now bear in mind that this doctor’s English wasn’t very good and obviously I didn’t speak very good Japanese either. So, a lot of what he said to me was lost in translation. I misunderstood really what he was saying. But what he said to me was:
– “Okay, Luke. You have liver damage. Your liver is damaged.”
He showed me my results and he said:
– “This is what you liver should be”
It was something like fifty, I don’t know really what the numbers meant, but he said:
– “You liver should be around 50. Your liver is about 250.”
I was thinking:
– “Okay. That’s really bad isn’t it?”
– “You’ve got liver damage. You have to go to hospital. You will need an operation.”
Obviously, immediately I started to panic, because I thought:
– “What? I’ve got liver damage. I need to go to hospital and I need an operation.”
Immediately I was assuming that he meant that I had some liver…, he also said to me:
– “You’ve got the EB virus”
I don’t know what the hell the EB virus was. I was thinking
– ”My God. What is this? Some horrific liver disease? I’m gonna need to go to hospital and I’m gonna need to have a liver operation, I’m gonna have to have my liver changed”
That’s what I was thinking at this time. It completely freaked me out. I was so frightened. I broke down at that point. I was just thinking:
– “Oh my God. I’m really ill. I’m gonna go to hospital to have a liver operation. This is an absolute nightmare”
It was awful. It was just terrible. They took me to hospital. Checked me into hospital. The next thing I was lying in a bed in a Japanese hospital. They took me to Kinugasa hospital in Yokosuka which was near to where I was living. I was in hospital. I had no idea what was wrong with me. As far as I knew, I had some liver disease and I was gonna have to have an operation in a day or two. I lay there. I clearly remember the first night that I had there. When I arrived it was about ten o’clock at night. My girlfriend’s mum and my girlfriend took me to the hospital. They couldn’t really explain what it was. To be honest, I was in such a bad way. I was confused and probably quite paranoid. That was a really bad moment. I remember lying in the bed just trying not to panic basically. Just lying there, trying to sleep, just trying to rest, trying to keep myself calm, just trying to play games with myself in my head to stop me thinking, to stop me worrying about my health. I was lying there, thinking:
– “Okay, just try not to think, try not to worry too much. You’re in hospital now. That’s good.”
Just to keep myself calm I played the ABC game over and over again. That’s where you, you might know the game already. That’s where you pick a subject and just try to list things that begin with each letter of the alphabet for that subject. I just played as many ABC games as I possibly could. I was like:
– ”Okay, boys names. Alright. Andrew, Ben, Chris, Daniel, Edward”
– “Girls names. Okay. Ann, Belinda, Caroline, Denise, Elisa”
I just kept playing this game in my head all night, just to stop me thinking about things. I got to…, I can’t remember all the different subjects that I covered., but just some random things like:
– “Okay. Smells. Different smells. Okay. absinthe, battery”
all these sort of things.
For some reason the letter “Q” and the letter “Z” are always the hardest ones to find words for when you’re playing the ABC game.
It was horrible. They gave me a lot of drugs. They gave me more intravenous drips. In fact every day I had about…, I had intravenous drips for about five to six hours every day.
Now, you’re probably thinking youself:
– “What? What was was it Luke? How ill were you? What did you have? What was wrong with you?”
Well, I still didn’t really know until my girlfriend’s parents contacted my parents and told them everything that they knew, everything that the doctors had told them. They contacted my parents and told them all of that. I had a mobile phone in the hospital which had email on it. I eventually got an email from my parents. Obviously they were very worried about me. They’d checked out all of the symptoms that I had and everything the doctor had told them via my girlfriend’s parents. They’d checked it all out on the Internet and they’d worked out what I actually had.
They sent me this e-mail which explained everything to me and this was a huge relief because it turns out I didn’t have some horrible life-threatening liver disease. I had “infectious mononucleosis” which is otherwise known as “glandular fever” and that’s actually quite a common virus, let’s say. It’s a virus which infects the glands and the symptoms are that it gives you liver damage, because you’ve got a high white blood cell count in your blood, and your liver is working hard to try to clean out the white blood cells from your blood.
It is a quite common thing. I didn’t need to have an operation. In fact, what the doctor had actually meant was, he said:
– “Okay, you’ve got liver damage. That’s a normal symptom of glandular fever”.
… what was the other thing? You’ve got liver damage.
– “You have to go to hospital”
The reason he told me that was because I had to go to hospital in order to rest. I just needed to rest and to get medicine, treatment, and I just needed rest basically for a few weeks.
– “You will need an operation”
What he meant there was that I would eventually need to have my tonsils removed, because of the frequency at which I was having infections in my tonsils. He decided that it would be a good idea for me to have my tonsils removed. So it was nothing to do with having a liver transplant or anything like that. I was just panicking at that point. When I learned that actually I had quite a common virus…, I mean it’s quite common and the symptoms can be quite serious if you don’t rest. Obviously what I had been doing is going to work, not eating properly, not resting and so I felt absolutely awful. I felt like I was on death’s door.
It wasn’t a life-threatening illness. In fact it’s quite common illness. I was in the right place in hospital, there to relax and take it easy. All of that panic and all that worry and paranoia was unnecessary, and then, as soon as I realised that I was going to be alright I relaxed quite a lot.
In fact, being in that hospital was quite fun in a way. It was quite an interesting experience being in a hospital in Japan. I was the only as I said the only foreign person in the hospital except for the Indonesian guy who worked there as a carpenter or he was a caretaker or something in the hospital. Somehow the staff in the hospital decided that this guy, this Indonesian guy called Chandra should be my interpreter.
Chandra didn’t really speak very much English himself, but he was a lot better than the Japanese staff in the hospital. Chandra-san would come and visit me. He would talk to me, asked me what I wanted to eat for from my lunch and dinner. It was great. I basically lay there in the bed all day. My friends came to visit me which was fantastic and they brought me books and music and stuff. I spent about two weeks lying down in bed having people bring meals to my bed. I had a relaxing ice pillow. Nurses would come and make sure I was okay. In fact all the nurses in the hospital in that particular ward decided they would come and visit me, because I think for them it was like quite exciting, novelty to have an English guy in the hospital. They’d all come to visit me. They’d all want to talk to me. I was like the star of the the hospital ward. Most the time they left me alone. I just lay there listening to ambient music on my headphones, reading “The Lord of the Rings”. I read the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy which was fantastic, because I love those books. They’re really really great. I had a lovely time just lying there in a hospital bed being treated like a king. People would come and visit me as I said. It was lovely.
I mean, it was also a very strange place to be. It was just a very bizarre experience to be on my own in this Japanese hospital on the other side of the world. All sorts of weird and wonderful things happened. But generally I had quite a nice time, although, of course, I felt pretty exhausted. My throat hurt a lot. I had other symptoms. But they gave me loads of drugs which really helped me to feel better.
As I said, every day they would give me intravenous drips. They would give me two large bags of a kind of clear pink fluid directly into my arm, and each bag would take three hours to go into my arm, and to this day I don’t know what it was. I don’t know what they were putting into me. I think it was probably a mix of vitamins and stuff like that, to help me recover. But it would take three hours for each of these bags to go in. I’d be lying there with this pink liquid going into my body. I could taste it in my mouth even. It was very strange. They’d also give me a bag of antibiotics every day. In fact they probably gave me too much antibiotics, because after about 10 days of this I was nearly ready to leave the hospital. I woke up one day with a rash all over my body. A really bad rash. A “Rash” – when you get lots of red spots. They can be very itchy. I suddenly had this rash all over my whole body which was a surprise. But apparently it was a result of having too much antibiotics. Sometimes that happens.
I had to stay in the hospital while the rash went away. But what a bizarre experience. Eventually I was discharged from the hospital. I went back home. I still had some time off from work. The company were quite understanding. They gave me quite a long time to recover. The doctors recommended it. In fact, the doctors sent some…, they wrote letters to my company suggesting that I needed to have time off to recover. I had a couple of fantastic weeks, just relaxing in my flat. I learned to look after myself.
So now, obviously now I’m healthy again. I’m absolutely fine. That was ten years ago. Now I have this story to tell about when I got sick in Japan, and also, I learned a few lessons from the experience. I think we can all learn a few things from the experience that I had. What can we learn from this?
Well, first of all I’ve learnt that you should eat healthily. You should eat a balanced diet with lots of fresh vegetables, because you’ve got to get all those vitamins and minerals into your system, to make sure that you can stay healthy. Also drink plenty of water. You’ve got to keep yourself hydrated. Particularly when you’re in hot places like Japan in the summertime. Keep yourself hydrated. Drink plenty of water. When you go to live in another country, you’ve got be prepared for cultural differences. You’ve got to be ready for things being a bit different, even stuff like the weather. The climate is going to be different. Prepare yourself. Make sure that you’re looking after yourself. Try to follow the ways in which the locals do things. For example, in Japan they would, in the summer, they’d all just take it easy. I would notice people in the street kind of slowing down a lot. They would try to relax. Particularly the people who lived in the houses near the beach where I used to live. I noticed that they would have a very slow pace of life particularly the locals. They just knew how to deal with the hot summer. Take it nice and slow during the summer. Don’t stress out. Take time to chill.
In your home, in the summertime, when it’s really hot, keep the doors open and the windows open to create a draught of natural cool air that will just come through the apartment. Do that rather than using the air conditioning. Wear relaxing clothes. I learnt to get out of my business clothes. Get out of my work shirt and my trousers at the end of each day and I’d change into my a pair of shorts and a pair of flip-flops. I could really get into a relaxed mode. Sleep, when you’re in bed, even if you’re hot. You should have something covering your body, even if it’s just covering your midsection. You should sleep with something over your body, even if you’re hot. You shouldn’t sleep with nothing covering you at all, because even if it’s hot in the room somehow your body will get cold. You need to have something covering you when you’re sleeping at night.
One thing I learnt from some of my students as a way of keeping cool when it’s really hot. You should take some bottles of water and freeze them in the freezer. You’ve got like litre bottles of water frozen in the freezer and then, you can take them out of the freezer and put them in your bed in the evening and then, when you come to to get into bed, because you’ve had all these frozen bottles in their, the bed is like really cool and really nice and comfortable to go to lie down in. That’s kind of a nice tip. Put some frozen bottles of water around the bed and on top of the bed or even in the bed. It’s nice and cool when you go to lie down. Look after yourself. Get plenty of sleep. Stay positive and that’s just a general rule in life. You should always stay positive, because it might not be as bad as you think.
For example for me, I thought I had some life-threatening disease, but in fact I didn’t. I could have panicked. I could have freaked out, but I had to stay positive. I think that’s a good thing to learn in general. Stay positive, because it might not be as bad as you think.
Don’t give up. By the same token. Don’t give up. Don’t decide that it’s all over. Don’t give up.
Don’t drink too much. I mean, don’t drink too much alcohol. Obviously sometimes it’s great to just enjoy yourself, have fun and enjoy yourself, but you shouldn’t drink too much. Ironically my doctor, who I became friends with afterwards, told me:
– “Right. You shouldn’t drink alcohol for a while”
I didn’t drink alcohol and then, he actually invited me to his house for a New Year’s Day party. When I got to the house, he gave me a beer. I said
– “But I thought you said I shouldn’t drink”
…and he was like
– “Oh, no. You can drink today. It’s fine!”
Apparently it was alright to drink on that particular day. I’m sure he know what he was talking about. He’s a doctor. That was a couple of months after I’d been in hospital anyway. I hadn’t drunk anything for two months. I was very well behaved. I really felt the health benefits actually. I just gave up drinking completely. I didn’t drink that much to be honest, not compared to some people I know. But I gave up drinking completely, I felt really good. I felt really fresh and everything. I went to this party at this Japanese doctors house. He was forcing me to drink beer at eleven o’clock in the morning. It was pretty funny. Actually I had a really good time at that party. It shows that sometimes it’s good to drink, just relax and unwind and enjoy yourself.
If you’re living in a foreign country make an effort to learn the language. You should learn like…, I should have learned Japanese, it would have helped me. It would have meant that…, it would have avoided all those weird misunderstandings which made me believe that I was gonna die in a Japanese hospital. You should take time out of your life to relax and take it easy sometimes. Listen to some ambient music I recommend, stuff like Brian Eno, Aphex Twin, The Orb. Listen to that really nice chilled out relaxing music sometimes. It’s good, it helps. I’m sure it lowers your blood pressure and things like that. Enjoy your life. Just enjoy it. It’s healthy to be happy. Accept friendly invitations. For example, the invitation from this doctor that I had. I had such a good time at his party. It really made me feel good about myself. I felt very healthy afterwards, except friendly invitations. Generally you should be nice to people. I was very nice to the doctor in my English lessons. I took a lot of care and attention to make sure that I was teaching him correctly. I gave him lots of good attention. In the end it paid off, because when I became his patient, and he was my doctor, he felt like he should take extra special care over me, because I‘d been careful with him as a teacher. Be nice to people, because in the end you might not…, it’s a good policy to be generally kind and nice to people. Because it will come back to you in the end.
Okay. that’s pretty much it, I think, for this episode. Wow! My god! I’ve been talking for like an hour and 15 minutes. Okay, that’s it. I’m gonna stop now, because otherwise this episode is going to be much too long. I’ve been rambling on and on and on in this episode, but I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Please do feel free to leave your comments on this episode. You can share your own stories if you’ve ever had a similar experience. Just tell us about maybe your experiences of living in another culture. Have you ever lived abroad? Were there anything that’s you found difficult. Have you got any good tips for “How to survive hot summers in foreign countries” Have you got any good little health tips for example?
Do visit the page teacher.co.uk, episode 118. You may well find some useful bits of language which I’ve written there.
That is it for this episode. Stay tuned for more episodes in the future.
But for now – it’s bye bye bye.
[THE END OF THE EPISODE]
Here are some of the things I say in this episode, with some phrases and vocabulary I use. You should listen to the podcast while reading these, or check some of the words in a dictionary afterwards (google: “macmillan online dictionary” or “cambridge online dictionary). The sentences won’t make any sense unless you listen to this episode. I hope this is useful to you. There is also a full transcript for this episode below.
Some phrases and sentences you will hear in this episode
1. Hello, this is Luke’s English Podcast. You probably realised that already, because of the jingle etc. “Oh, this must be Luke’s English Podcast”. It probably wasn’t an accident. You probably said to yourself “I think I’ll listen to Luke’s English Podcast now”.
2. Welcome and I hope that you’re well. People tend to do different things while listening to this. Some people like to listen in the gym while working out. Don’t feel like stopping! Keep going, keep pushing yourself to the limit! I want to smell the sweat coming through the internet.
3. Brew yourself a nice cup of tea. Just relax and allow the sounds of Luke’s English Podcast to go into your ears and get you into a meditative state.
4. I prefer to believe that I have a soothing tone of voice rather than a boring, monotonous tone of voice which puts you to sleep.
5. “Suddenly I feel the incredible potential that I have amassed in my sleep!”
6. Don’t break the speed limit. Don’t tailgate, because that’s dangerous. You should leave at least 2 car lengths between you and the next car.
7. I can’t stand it when there’s another car sitting on my back bumper.
8. Just back off mate!
9. Road rage is a problem and you shouldn’t be part of the problem you should be part of the cure.
10. My simple mind can’t get over the fact that one would run around somewhere and not run to get somewhere or get away from something.
11. I’m going to tell you the complete story of how I ended up lying down in a hospital bed in Japan.
12. Various other phrases that just pop out of my mouth…
13. Just over 10 years ago I decided to go to Japan.
14. At that time in my life I’d recently graduated from university.
15. It’s not one of these degrees that gives you a vocation.
16. My degree was all rather theoretical.
17. The impact of Sigmund Freud on modern culture.
18. I thought I would kill two birds with one stone.
19. Initially I thought that I would teach abroad somewhere in Europe.
20. There are English language schools in the city that I could have worked for.
21. I hadn’t really considered working there.
22. He convinced me that it would be a good idea to go. “Why not go to Japan, that would be amazing!”
23. Why go somewhere close? Why not go all the way to the other side of the world?
24. On Neil’s advice I decided that I would go to work in Japan.
25. They all need to be competitive in their careers.
26. For quite a long time I’d been really interested in Japan.
27. I’d always been kind of fascinated in Japanese life.
28. I was quite curious to go and investigate.
29. I saved up money by working in a restaurant.
30. I read up on some (books about) Japanese culture.
31. I was really looking forward to it.
32. I’d already lived away from home for a few years. At university I lived in a shared house.
33. It wasn’t a huge deal for me at the time.
34. I was alright with it. In fact I was really looking forward to just getting away.
35. I was a bit fed up with my life.
36. My Dad dropped me off at Heathrow airport.
37. I had some coins. I thought that I would be able to spend them in the airport.
38. I couldn’t, mentally, bring myself to get these coins out of the bags and spend them on things.
39. I ended up taking them all the way to Japan with me.
40. I couldn’t bring myself to watch the movies.
41. His elbows used up loads of room.
42. I just wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone.
43. I just remember feeling really strange, really freaked out. I remember thinking “this is all a horrendous mistake, what the hell am I doing with my life?
44. I should stay in England, I should focus on my career.
45. I was having a horrible moment of panic self doubt.
46. They’ve still got gravity, and stuff like that.
47. There were two guys in uniforms, like really fancy uniforms.
48. At the time I was thinking, who the hell is this weird guy in a suit?
49. I settled into my life in Japan.
50. Obviously I had my periods of feeling homesick. It went up and down.
51. Generally speaking it was great.
52. The company helped to sort out health insurance.
53. They paid me peanuts. They paid me quite a low wage, particularly at the beginning on my probationary period.
54. I didn’t really know how to look after myself.
55. I didn’t eat a very balanced diet.
56. They have a shop there called Yoshinoya, which I was quite fond of.
57. I kind of survived on that for a while.
58. I even worked out mathematically how I could afford to live on Gudon.
59. I used to go to my local bar at weekends. I would hang out there at weekends.
60. Going to that bar was one of the best expriences I had.
61. It’s quite hard to notice the negative effects that drinking can have on your health, and perhaps that’s one of the things that contributed to me getting a bit sick later on. In fact there were a few things which contributed to me ending up really sick in a hospital.
62. Work was very stressful because of a steep learning curve.
63. In England when the sun comes out it’s quite normal and natural to sort of throw off your clothes and get as much sun on your skin as possible.
64. I’d go outside at the weekend and try and get as much sun as possible.
65. I had a big blue ‘mama-chari’.
65. They probably thought I was a real freak.
66. I was boiling hot and I realised I was seriously sunburned.
67. The white vest was where the other vest I’d been wearing had blocked the sun.
68. I got these blisters on my shoulders that would then burst.
69. The sunburn didn’t directly cause me to get sick but it is just an example of how I wasn’t really prepared for the difference in climate there.
70. Japanese listeners might be feeling a little bit alarmed.
71. If they take their temperature and realise that it’s rised [risen!] just a little bit then they go all out. They wrap themselves up in scarves, they take medicine, they wear these, sort of, ninja-style face masks, to make sure that they are looking after themselves [and other people of course]. Japanese people tend to look after themselves pretty well, and they can be pretty health conscious so me telling you these stories of how I didn’t really look after myself might be a bit alarming for you, but don’t worry, obviously I’m fine, I’m okay, I’m still standing, and in a way I am English so I’m naturally tough even if I am a bit stupid sometimes.
72. Okay, this brings me to the Japanese summer.
73. This is something to do with a large front of low pressure which comes across Japan.
74. For a few weeks it’s cold and wet. It’s miserable.
75. After rainy season the humidity and heat arrive.
76. We go outside and we enjoy it while it lasts.
77. The myth about the UK is that it rains all the time.
78. Our summers have been unusually wet and that’s probably due to climate change.
79. The weather was just constant, it was consistent.
80. My body was expecting the weather to change to give me a chance to cool down a bit.
81. The concrete has actually absorbed the heat during the day.
82. My body really couldn’t get used to it.
83. I must have lost a lot of weight.
84. I’d wake up with a wet pillow.
85. I couldn’t actually stand the air conditioning either.
86. I felt like it was dehydrating me.
87. I’d been given advice that it was best not using air conditioning.
88. As soon as I dried myself off I’d be all wet again, and sweaty.
89. I’d walk to the station and I’d be pouring sweat.
90. I got stressed out by work.
91. I stayed up late at weekends.
92. I remember getting bitten by a mosquito.
93. I had some plants on the balcony which I would water every now and then.
94. It was like an all you can eat buffet for this mosquito and he just feasted on me.
95. I woke up scratching.
96. This must have been a very full and very sleepy mosquito at this point to let it actually be killed by me in my sleep. Me instinctively, kind of, scratching my arm where this mosquito was biting me. And then I realised… I’m gonna sneeze! A-CHOO! Ah it feels good to sneeze!
97. And then I realised that this mosquito had bitten me something like 15 times and that my legs were itching already and my arms were itching already.
98. So this constant itching was really annoying. It was another thing that prevented me from sleeping properly.
99. I’ve got this weird suspicion that somehow this mosquito got me sick.
100. I started to feel like I had flu.
101. I was feeling really tired, headache, Cold chills, aches and pains in my body, blocked up nose, I felt like my glands were swollen. I felt awful.
102. I took some time off work. Lay in bed, resting.
103. Staying indoors in my apartment was miserable.
104. I went out to local temple.
105. They have a huge bronze statue of a buddha, sitting there.
106. By coincidence, very strangely enough, I met Dave Grohl. [Drummer from Nirvana, in The Foo Fighters]
107. As I was walking out of the temple I noticed a group of westerners.
108. As I walked past him I realised “Oh my god that’s Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters!”
109. “Oh I’m going to be cool, I’m not going to hassle him”
110. I managed to get a photo with him.
111. They were playing a concert in Tokyo in a couple of days’ time.
112. I had an eight day stretch. That’s eight consecutive days at work.
113. By the end of that I was knackered. I was absolutely exhausted.
114. I had swollen glands and painful tonsils.
115. It’s quite common to get an infection in your tonsils.
116. I couldn’t swallow because it was too painful.
117. All I could eat was banana, because it was soft, and miso soup.
118. I was just trying to eat miso soup and eat banana.
119. She was three quarters Japanese and one quarter American.
120. She, ironically, was on holiday in England.
121. She arranged for me to go to the doctors.
122. It was a bit inconvenient for him to have to deal with me.
123. That was my fault, because I didn’t learn Japanese.
124. A kind of Victorian vibe.
125. I sat very upright with a neck brace around me.
126. What was very off-putting for me was that I could see all his medical instruments in a glass cabinet next to me.
127. He had, like, a long metal rod with a swab at the end and he dipped it into some antiseptic.
128. His was of dealing with my tonsil infection was to use this swab and paint my tonsils with antiseptic.
129. I couldn’t help coughing. I was coughing the antiseptic back into his face.
130. This was very awkward because I met my girlfriend’s Dad.
131. I looked like a zombie.
132. Not exactly the best way to make a good impression.
133. This time the doctor decided that it might be a good idea to give me some antibiotics. He gave me three day’s worth of antibiotics.
134. I’ve already built up a resistance to antibiotics.
135. Tonsillitis – that’s an infections of glands at the back of your throat.
136. Glands are parts of your body which are responsible for producing things like hormones, or producing saliva or sweat, things like that.
137. I’d had tonsillitis quite a few times when I was younger.
138. I knew that I needed quite a large dose of antibiotics in order for them to work.
139. I, kind of, reluctantly went back to my apartment with these antibiotics and I took them but it didn’t work and I just continued to feel ill.
140. By coincidence, this doctor was one of my students.
141. I’d already built up a kind of relationship with this guy.
142. His English was very basic, despite the fact that he’d had the best English teacher in the world: Me (yeah, right)
143. He put me on an intravenous drip. That’s when, basically, they put medicine directly into your blood. They attach something to your vein in your arm or in the back of your hand, and then they hook up a kind of plastic bag full of medicine which then comes down a small tube and goes directly into your blood – it’s an IV drip.
144. So he gave me an IV drip of antibiotics.
145. Now bear in mind that this doctor’s English was not very good.
146. A lot of what he said to me was lost in translation.
147. You’ve got liver damage, you have to go to hospital and you will need an operation.
148. Immediately I was assuming that I had some sort of horrific liver disease and I’m going to need to go to hospital and I’m going to need to have a liver operation and I’m going to have to have my liver changed.
149. It completely freaked me out.
150. I kind of broke down at that point.
151. They took me into hospital, checked me into hospital and next thing you know I was lying in a bed.
152. As far as I knew I had some kind of liver disease and I was going to have to have an operation in a day or two.
153. I was in such a kind of bad way, I was confused and probably quite paranoid.
154. (ABC game) Smells: err, absinthe, battery…
155. They checked out all of the symptoms that I had and everything that the doctor had told them via my girlfriend’s parents.
156. They checked it all out on the internet and they worked out what I actually had. So they sent me this email, which explained everything to me, and this was a huge relief because it turns out that I didn’t have some sort of horrible life-threatening liver disease. I had infectious mononucleosis, which is otherwise known as glandular fever, and that’s actually quite a common virus, let’s say. It’s a virus which infects the glands, and the symptoms are that it gives you liver damage because you’ve got a high white blood cell count in your blood, and so your liver is working hard to try to clean out the white blood cells from your blood.
157. What the doctor had actually meant was, “okay you’ve got liver damage, that’s a normal symptom of glandular fever… ”
158. “You will need an operation” – what he meant there is that I would eventually need to have my tonsils removed because of the frequency to… at which I was having infections in my tonsils he decided it would be a good idea for me to have my tonsils removed.”
159. So it was nothing to do with having a liver transplant, I was just panicking at that point.
160. I felt like I was on death’s door.
161. All that panic and all that worry and paranoia were unnecessary.
162. Being in that hospital was quite fun, in a way.
163. Nurses would come… I think for them it was quite an exciting novelty to have an English guy in the hospital.
164. I was kind of like the star of the hospital ward.
165. Most of the time they left me alone and I just lay there listening to ambient music on my headphones, reading The Lord of the Rings.
166. It was a very bizarre experience.
167. They would give me 2 large bags of clear pink fluid into my arm.
168. I think it was a mix of vitamins to help me recover.
169. I woke up one day with a rash.
170. Apparently it was a result of having too much antibiotics.
171. Eventually I was discharged from hospital and I went back home. I still had some time off from work. The company were quite understanding. They gave me quite a lot of time to recover.
172. What can we learn from this:
-You should eat healthily
-Drink plenty of water. Keep yourself hydrated.
-When you go to live in another country you’ve got to be prepared for cultural differences.
-Try to follow the ways in which the locals do things. (The locals had a slow pace of live)
-Keep the doors open and the windows open to create a kind of draught.
-When you sleep you should have something over your body, even if it’s just over your mid section.
-Take some bottles of water and freeze them in the freezer.
-Stay positive – and that’s just a general rule. It might not be as bad as you think.
-Don’t give up.
-Don’t drink too much.
-I should have learned Japanese.
-Take some time out to relax
-Listen to some ambient music (Brian Eno, Aphex Twin, The Orb)
-Enjoy your life! It’s healthy to be happy!
-Accept friendly invitations.
-Be nice to people. In the end it will pay off. It will come back to you in the end.
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