How to: Survive being sick In Japan


Today I’m going to talk about how to successfully survive an illness while abroad. Specifically in Japan, but some of these insights might apply elsewhere as well. About a week after I arrive in school and was just getting over jet lag, I got a cold that lasted roughly 9 or 10 days and it was freaking miserable. Now, I made a bunch of mistakes and I’m determined to help you not do the same.

I had been feeling weird for a few days but one morning about half way through my first class I felt death’s cold breath down my neck, so I went to the health center. Turns out I had a solid fever, and what would turn out to be a very bad long lasting cold. Now in Japan, colds are not really excused. Like, you better be puking your guts up to take a sick day, because a cough won’t cut it. Or at least that’s what every blog I ever read said. And while this might be true of work culture, this didn’t apply to my college. Certainly, it is always better to go to class if you can but the International center helped me work things out with the teacher whose class I missed. And luckily, as far as I know, I’ve received no penalties for it. That being said, Japanese Colleges are significantly more chill than workplaces or even high schools here.

Japan, despite being advanced in many weird ways, is also very behind in many weird ways. In the place where you can order just about anything from a machine and ask little helping robots questions in grocery stores and coffee shops, you still have to go to work and be around thousands of people when you’re sick. My doctor told me before I arrived in Japan that she believes most, if not all flus, originate in Asia. At the time, I thought it was an insane thing to say, but now I’m not so sure. Because there is an expectation for people to work even when sick, you are exposing basically everyone, to every illness circling at any given time. In addition, while I was sick, many people told me it was because of the weather, saying things like “Yeah, the weather keeps changing from hot and cold right?” or “Did you bring an umbrella, getting wet can make you sick!”

Of course, I’m paraphrasing, but it’s still baffling to me. I’m sure if it is just something they say or if they really believe that the weather and not bacteria and viruses cause colds. Who knows though, because old wives tales live a long time, even in America. Anyway, this mindset means that sick people are around all the time. They don’t stay home and what ends up happening is you have several hundred people packed into a tiny train, all breathing the same air and I could swear at least 30% are sick at any given time. They often wear face masks, which I guess is helpful but if you were eating and coughed into your hand, then held onto a place handle, the next person to grab that has now been infected. Japanese people must have great immune systems or they’d just be sick all the time.

When I first got sick, I went to a walk-in clinic after being sent by my school’s health center. There was only one doctor so they did the quickest exam possible and gave me some medicine. I swear this medicine made me worse, or at the very least did nothing to help. I took it as directed and after 2 or 3 days of feeling not the slightest bit better, I stopped taking them and started to feel better… go figure. After that, I spent another two days thinking I couldn’t do anything because I have watch videos and read articles that said Japan doesn’t have drug stores or you can’t really get any actual over the counterDSCN0100 medicine, you have to get it from the doctor and I’m here to say THAT IS NOT TRUE!!!

Luckily, my “big sister” a Japanese girl assigned to look after me, brought me over the counter medicine that actually worked. I will add a picture of it in case you need it. I believe she found it at a convenience store actually, but I could be wrong. It shows on the front in little pictures what it helps and all that. I also discovered that there are cough drops. They’re actually meant for voice care for singing apparently but they work well as cough drops. I think they’re made of natural teas, but I swear dscn0102.jpgthey work just as well. They’re kind of hard to find though because they’re found in the candy aisle. I found them low and out of the way, but they were there! I will also put a picture for these.

Don’t do what I did and not get medicine and the things you need simply because of what you read online. Regardless of where you are, go look anyway. At worst, you’ll find some sick herb shop and you’ll end up with some fantastic herbal medicine. Don’t knock it til you try it. Some herbal stuff works better! Either way, don’t just sit through it miserable like I did. Also, unless you need a doctor’s note (which you can only get for throwing up illnesses (ie the flu)), if you know your body and what you need to get better, I’d suggest maybe skipping the doctor’s visits. Even as a resident with national health insurance, while it was only like $17 totally roughly, it can add up, especially if you’re a tourist who doesn’t have proper insurance. And even then, the multiple visits they might suggest can also stack up.  In addition, the lines are long. Plan to wait way longer then you’re going to want to while you’re not feeling well.

HOWEVER, if you are feeling abnormal or particularly bad, go see a doctor. Go to a walk-in or a general hospital just to be safe. If for any reason you’re feeling that possibility of needing to go to a hospital, listen to your body, you know yourself the best.

Every culture has some form of sick food. You will likely not be able to get your sick comfort food while you’re abroad but find out what that country deems sick food. You get to learn more about a culture and you know you’re going to be getting good food for healing. In my household, it’s chicken soup and soft boiled eggs, here it’s a stew-like thing with rice and broth. Of course, you’re not going to want to cook, so at least in Japan, you can get instant Miso, which is what I lived off of for several days along with more basic types of ramen. I don’t suggest going for the fancy ramen or instant noodles, all the extra meat and even the noodles can hurt your stomach when you’re sick.

Quick survival guide for being sick while abroad!

-Don’t listen to blogs, Japan has drugstores, get the medicine you need. The label are usually easy to figure out but if not find a clerk who speaks English, there’s usually one, or find someone and point to what is wrong, they can probably help you.

-Those aren’t candies, they’re cough drops, good ones too. Use them.

-Go to a doctor if it’s an emergency, otherwise take it easy and give it a few days.

-Drink lots of fluids (ie: water, soup, tea, etc.)

-If you can, have a reserve of quick easy sick food ready, if not, when you start feeling sick, it’s time to build up that stock, because you’re not going to want to go out later, trust me.

Avoid sugar and dairy. (I know you might have gotten ice cream as a kid but sugar and dairy are best friends with the bacteria residing in your body right now.)

-Rest, don’t let the Japanese culture work you into a serious medical situation. (Plus, you get a little leeway because you’re a foreigner.)

-Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you are in a dorm situation like I am, every one of your roommates or floormates will not only be excited at the chance to meet you but a lot of Japanese people love to help out and they know how you feel and how best to help you. Remember, they’ve been living here a lot longer than you. (Don’t forget to be appreciative!)

I made a lot of mistakes. I probably pushed myself too hard. Went out with friends when I started feeling better even though I should have rested. I didn’t get the medicine I needed right away and I didn’t necessarily eat all the right things. There was one day when I was out of soup and I was so hungry but I didn’t feel well enough to go to the store so I didn’t eat…. That’s also not good. If you can eat, do. It will help quicken the process.

Fortunately, I’m all better now. And I have a new camera and a new phone! (Oh yeah, my phone died if I didn’t already say, more on that later). You know, I did go pray at a shrine for my bad luck to leave and what do you know, things are getting better. I’m sure it’s a correlation but I’m going with it.

If you found these tips helpful leave a like! If you think you know someone who could benefit from my experiences, share it with them! And as always, I love to hear from you guys. Do you have any horror story about being sick while away from home? How did you handle it? Let me know in the comments below! Have any follow-up questions? Feel free to leave me a message or a comment, I would be happy to answer as best I can! Thanks for reading!



The other night I went out with some friends to Okonomiyaki. It was my first time eating the Japanese savory pancake. I believe only native in our group knew what they were doing but we had a great time learning the ropes for grilling our own food. The table we were sat at was a traditional short table with cushions around it. Typically you sit on your knees or crisscross but my legs quickly started falling asleep so I was the weird foreigner all sprawled out but they were very understanding as my legs are stupid long.


Unfortunately, Mihi didn’t send me any pictures she was in, but she was taking this one so that’s something. The other two are Swan and Jihyung (AKA Kelly) 


Mihi, the native in the group convinced us to get the courses so we could try a bunch of different things. We got a few different kinds of okonomiyaki, something else I don’t know the name off and some yakisoba. It was all very delicious but I got full almost half way through. So much food. In America, we often stereotype the Japanese as eating less and it is true that their portion sized tend to be smaller but don’t be fooled, Japanese people can eat. There were two Japanese girls across from us and they put away almost as much food as the four of us did. I don’t know where they put it all. The first okonomiyaki was my favorite. Not a clue what was in it but it was so good. I always have so much fun going out with my friends. That was a really fun night. Lots of good conversation. We stayed there for almost 5 hours I think. We got there around 5 and didn’t leave until after 9. Time flew.

I look forward to going out with them again. I will, of course, write about it when I do. Thank you for reading. As always, I love to hear from you guys so please leave a comment. If you enjoyed, give this post a like and consider sharing it. I’ll write again tomorrow.


Birthday Dinner and Japan’s Italian Food

This was more than a week ago now, but I met a girl in one of my classes that introduced me to her friends and they ended up inviting me out to dinner. They said there were getting pizza so I said yes, naturally. They didn’t tell me until we got there that it was a surprise party for one of the girls, so I was even more flattered they brought me along.

P_20170411_171551First, they brought out some gnocchi that had some parmesan on top. I’m pretty sure they were basil flavored. They were great. Then we looked at the menus and there were some odd combination pizzas. Ones with fish eggs and mayo, and stuff like that. There were some normal ones too. I chose a simple pesto pizza and they chose a variety of other things. As Japanese people often do, we all shared so I got to try the P_20170411_174936assortment of Japanified pizzas. First came the margarita pizza another girl asked for. It was good. Though, I immediately noticed the very small amount of cheese that was on the pizza. This continued to be the case with all the pizzas, but this makes sense since cheese is very expensive here. Next came out the pesto pizza. It was great. I love P_20170411_172839pesto, and even without a lot of cheese, the pesto carried the pizza for me. Off to a strong start. So far everything is tasty and is fairly standard despite the distinct lack of cheese. The next pizza to arrive is this nicely displayed pizza. It has a bunch of some meat laid out with an egg in the middle. The meat was some form of pork. Back in America, I’m a half vegetarian, meaning I don’t eat mammal, but here it wouldP_20170411_174940 be difficult for me to be strict about it and I would have to miss out on a lot of classic Japanese dishes so I decided while I was here I’d let it go and eat whatever. I have to say the pork on this pizza didn’t totally make me regret being a half vegetarian. I figure I just haven’t developed a taste for it. I’m not much of a meat person anyway. The next one was a pizza similar to the margarita pizza except it had anchovies on it. I know


Sorry for the blurry photo, not sure why that happened.

this is a classic in America too, so I tried it. It’s a margarita pizza with the flavor of fish. Not my forte, but I get why some people like it. Then we got something that looked nothing like pizza but it was actually pretty good. Gotta be honest, I’m not totally sure what was on P_20170411_173620it, but it was pretty and tasted good, so I didn’t really care. I think the most surprising thing of all was the pasta we had that night. At some point, we had spicy penne pasta which all of us agreed was very spicy. And a white pasta which had sounded good to me. What was in the white pasta was startling, to say the least. I had been eating it and it actually tasted pretty good. I was pleased with it until I realized the sauce was made out of tiny fish. I started seeing all the little eyes and thought about the tiny colorful fish I had as a kid and was a bit disturbed. I finished it though I felt a little weird after. P_20170411_180251


I felt bad that I was so surprised by all the food. I don’t know why but I was expecting something like Olive Garden or Cheesecake factory and it was not like that. Foreigners must come to Japan a lot and find themselves eating an unfamiliar version of Itailian food. The experience made me wonder though, how is American Italian food different from actual Italian food. I bet we’ve Americanized it, much like with have with every type of food we’ve appropriated. I wonder how Japanese people like the Americanized Italian food when they visit. Or better yet Italian food in Italy. Eating Italian food in Italy is one of my bucket list goals for sure. Japanese food is better in Japan so I can only imagine Italian food would work the same way.

P_20170411_181401After we had all eaten, the birthday girl got her surprised. The restaurant had put together a beautifully decorated plate with a little ice cream and cake on it. She was very surprised but I think she felt good that her friends had thought about her like that. That night was great. I had new food experiences and had great conversations with new friends. I definitely want to go out with them again. I really appreciated them taking me into their friend group. I’ve been very lucky in friendship here.

As always, I’d love to hear from you. Consider leaving a comment below. If you enjoyed this post leave a like and if you really enjoyed, consider sharing it. Thank you for reading!




Harajuku! Off The Beaten Path

The other weekend a new friend of mine took me around Harajuku, which for those of you who don’t know, is a district that is huge for fashion subcultures and anything that isn’t Anime or Mainstream. It is very popular with many artists such as Gwen Stafani as she mentions a lot in her Rich Girl song.

Even Marilyn Mason is known to strut that territory when he visits Japan I learned. There’s a good reason for that. This time around I didn’t get any fashion shots, I will save that for another post, but I did get to go to plenty of cool places, some popular and some more for the locals.



The first thing you see when you exit the station


After we got off the train and exited the stations we decided to get lunch as we were both hungry. She asked what I wanted and I said whatever. The first place we were going to go to was closed so she took me to this great 70s themed burger place. Whoever picked the music in this joint knew their stuff, bands like the Bee Gees and America, and even some Jackson 5. I was singing along to almost every song. If you want a sense of the atmosphere of this place, listen to I want you back by Jackson 5 while you read this like I’m doing as I write this.


P_20170409_130038While there I got a chicken burger and a mintP_20170409_131428 milkshake and it seemed artisen. The burger was so juicy and the mixture of the sauces and veggies on it were well thought through. It was delicious. The milkshake was another pleasant surprise! They used actual mint. There was not a drop of syrup in that shake. It tasted very different than the hyper sugary shakes you get in the states but it was so rich and still very sweet. It was great. I’d be curious to try their other flavors.

Next, we went to Kiddy Land! It’s a hot spot for tourists and foreigners but it was worth it. Four floors of plushies and figurines from lots of great media. I didn’t take too many photos as I wasn’t sure if I was suppose to, but you can get a sneak peak of what you can find in there.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There’s something for everyone. There’s Disney, Starwars, Ghibli, and plenty of Japan original characters, some anime stuff and even some terrifying mascot character you can take pictures with. Lucky for me, it was already surrounded by kids so I skipped out on that. The place was a wonderland for kids and for those that enjoy youthfully sort of media. Sometimes it’s nice to escape into a Ghibli Film, what can I say? Another very interesting experience I had was going to the bathroom. That was the first time I ever saw one of those fancy smart toilets. It even had a flush sound button. Which I don’t quite get because I’ve heard it, it’s not convincing and who are you tryna trick anyway? The seat was heated which is both kind of nice but also a bit disturbing having been use to a cold toilet seat my whole life. I still have not tried the bidet, I have to admit, I’m mildly scared too, but I guess that’s an experience I should have. I’ll let you know how that goes someday.


Next, we went to a mall that has a super cool entrance. It’s like going through the looking glass. Inside was even more surprising because the shops don’t have store fronts. They’re P_20170409_152420just open. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when one shop ends and the other begins, except they usually have different color flooring and internal walls. This really surprised me and my friend was amused by this. I said “Does this make it easier for people to steal?” and she explained to me that that isn’t a very big problem here. There’s a sense of trust between the Japanese, so they don’t feel the need to make shopping more difficult. Apparently, most malls are like this here. It was very nice. You could easily see what was inside and there was a nice flow between stores, overall if we could swing it in America I would say it’s a better way, but unfortunately, our culture doesn’t support the same level or trust or morality, ironically. You can kind see the open shop format in the Conan Cafe picture below. This trust and respect in this country makes it feel like one big neighborhood a lot of the


Characters outside a Conan Cafe

times. I feel very safe and able to get help at any time if I needed. The shops trusting its costumers embodies that to me. It’s just an example of how it’s different here in a good way.


Lastly, we went to a Sushi restaurant. It was super cool. You order on a screen and it comes on a little platform that speeds down a track to you. It was delicious and not very expensive. I got P_20170409_200243quite a bit of food and didn’t spend very much. The sushi was amazing. I got some raw tuna on rice or tsuna nigiri and the fish here is so much fresher and way less fishy. It tried a bunch of different things but that was probably my favorite and I don’t normally like raw fish.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

P_20170409_122943We did so much more that did but I didn’t capture it all. This post would have been twice as long and I wanted to experience somethings not through a lens. Undoubtedly, I will make more posts about Harajuku. I plan to collect fashion pictures and street art photography. I will give you a taste of what I saw.

Look forward to the things to come. This post has turned out to be very long, so if you made it this far, thank you very much! I hope you enjoyed it. I promise to work on my photography.

Thank you for reading. If you have anything to add or have any questions, leave me a comment below! I love hearing from you guys!