Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Though here at journey's end I lie . . . I will not say the day is done."

As this post goes up, our airplane will be taking off from Nagoya International Airport. After much contemplation and deliberation, we have decided to return to America to pursue our education, careers and family life. To be able to live in Japan was the fulfillment of a dream for us- but right now our dreams are taking us back home. It is, therefore, with deep sadness (this blog really grew on me . . . ), that I close 'From the Far East', a blog that focused on our adventures in Japan.

BUT, as the Japanese saying goes, "goodbye is only a new beginning" and I will be starting a new blog once we get settled into our American lives. Stay tuned for more musings, as I'm confident that adventure can be found anywhere . . .

Check out my new blog detailing the life of a librarian here: http://agoodsketch.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Conversations about Blood Type

To give you an idea of the prevalence of the notion.

Meeting A for the first time . . .

A: Hello, my name is A.
Me: I'm Heather, its' nice to meet you.
A: So . . . what's your blood type?
Me: Uh . . . I don't know . . . should I?
A: *shocked* Oh, um . . . *walks away confused*

I frantically research my blood type in preparation for the next encounter . . .

Having lunch with friend AB . . .

AB: How is your lunch?
Me: It's very good! This place is really nice.
AB: So, what's your blood type?
Me: *proudly* I'm a B negative!
AB: Oh . . . a B? That's not good . . .
Me: . . . Is there something wrong?
AB: Oh, I just don't get along with B's.
Me: Oh . . . sorry . . .
AB: You must not be a B. B types are loud and obnoxious.
Me: No, I think I'm a B.
AB: I know! You must be a BO instead of a BB! I don't get along with BB, but you must be BO. Are you?
Me: Um . . . I'm a B negative . . .?
AB: *blank stare* (muttering) You must be a BO . . .

I try to figure out what BO could stand for . . . and hope it isn't what it sounds like . . .

At a Cafe with friend AO . . .

Me: Do you believe in blood typing?
AO: It is a scientifically proven fact. I don't have to believe in it.
Me: O-kay . . . how do I find out if I'm a BO or a BB?
AO: How could you not know?
Me: *sighs* Guess I'm new to this.
AO: Well, all you have to do is *strange math calculation involving my parent's blood types* . . . then you would be a BO.
Me: . . .
AO: Or if you *more strange math using my parent's blood* . . . then you're probably a BB.
Me: . . .
AO: So what are you parent's blood types and I'll tell you what you are.
Me: . . . I don't know . . .

I consider trying to find out whether I am a BO or BB -- then I give up . . .

Conversation with my English student B . . .

Me: Do you judge people by their blood type?
B: Of course!
Me: *sigh* Well, what is your blood type?
B: I'm a B.
Me: Really? Me too!
B: Wow! We're really naughty!
Me: What?!
B: Having a B blood type is considered really bad in Japan because we're very independent and do everything at our own pace. It's just our personality . . .

These are all actual conversations I've had with Japanese friends about blood type. I could tell you a different one for every friend and most of the acquaintances I've had here. I once saw a statistic that said about 70 percent of Japanese believe that blood type determines personality. About 50 percent judge all their encounters with other people -- whether romantic, friendship or business related -- by blood type.

For those of you who actually know your blood type, here are the general personalities.

Type O:
Type O's are outgoing, and very social. They are initiators, although they don't always finish what they start. Creative and popular, they love to be the center of attention and appear very self confident.

Type A:
While outwardly calm, they have such high standards (perfectionists) that they tend to be balls of nerves on the inside. Type A's are the most artistic of the blood groups. They can be shy, are conscientious, trustworthy, and sensitive.

Type B:
Goal oriented and strong minded, type B's will start a task and continue it until completed, and completed well. Type B's are the individualists of the blood group categories and find their own way in life.

Type AB:
Type AB's are the split personalities of the blood groups. They can be both outgoing and shy, confident and timid. While responsible, too much responsibility will cause a problem. They are trustworthy and like to help others.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Japan Pays For What It Eats. Twice

It used to be that the Japanese would try hard to stay fit, simply for the overall image of their company or community. With an increasingly Western diet and lifestyle, however, the Japanese are putting on weight at a rate that has alarmed the government. With health care costs growing exponentially, the Japanese government is passing new laws regarding health, one of which makes routine company health checks mandatory.

Big businesses in Japan have been issued their ultimatum. They have until the year 2013 to get their employees meeting government health standards, or the company could be fined. New health standards include goal waist measurements of 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women - guidelines from the International Diabetes Federation. People failing to meet this goal are undergoing health education, being forced to take the stairs, participate in company exercise programs and eat company issued lunches.

This program is rooted in money, which seems to be the best motivator for losing weight regardless of nationality. I do not think, however, that a program like this would work in the United States, simply because it is penalty rather than reward based. Americans love to be rewarded. The fact that we eat dessert after dinner is proof enough of that, as we are usually rewarding ourselves for eating a good, healthy meal. The Japanese eat dessert before dinner, often with their friends or peers to strengthen themselves as a group. If nothing else, this program works in Japan solely due to their overwhelming sense of wanting to belong and contribute to the group. As the Japanese proverb says, "the nail that sticks out, gets pounded in" or in this case, the belly.