AWOL

Yes, I know I haven’t posted in a long time.  Due to a series of unfortunate events – mostly waiting two months to get internet hooked up, being busy writing papers, and running errands, I have had precious little time to think about this place.

Be assured that I am still in one piece and will be posting more regularly now that my feet are firmly on the ground.

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Hiking in Okutama

Back in March, I went hiking with some friends in Okutama.  Some of you may be surprised to know that this is actually part of Tokyo.  Tokyo Metropolis itself is absolutely huge, stretching some 90 or so kilometres across, and many hundreds still from top to bottom if you include the Ogasawara islands.  Tokyo Metropolis is not to be confused with what is sometimes referred to as Greater Tokyo, which includes huge chunks of the surrounding prefectures (kind of like a state in the US or county in Britain).

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Umm…

…good for you!

I snapped this at a training centre I was working at last week.

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Frog

I noticed this little fella as I was walking past the window at the training centre I’m currently at.

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Long time no see…catch up

Wow.  It’s been nearly a month and a half since I last posted.  Though a mixture of work schedule, procrastination, packing and cleaning, I have managed to not post anything here.

So, what’s new with me?  Well, in the intervening time since my last appearance, I have been away from home on business for many weeks, only coming home for weekends, and I’ve bought myself a plane ticket out of Japan.  That’s right.  It is with deep regret that I shall be leaving Japan, a place I have called home for over 10 years, next month.  With any luck, I will be doing a training program back in England over the summer, and after that, I may find myself in Singapore.  We shall see.

Well, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do here, and a ton of photos to share.  Time for a bit of photo editing now!

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Tax back!

I got a little postcard from the city office yesterday saying I got some money back from filing my taxes, and the total was in four figures!  Woo hoo.  Unfortunately, it’ll all go back to the same city office in a few months in the form of City Tax.  Boo!  Somehow, it just doesn’t seem right – giving me all that money, only to take it all back a few months later.

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Earthquake 2

We just had another large earthquake in Japan (7th April).  I’m currently at home in Sagamihara city, and although it wasn’t particularly powerful where I was (I’ve felt more powerful where I live), it did last a rather long time.  I didn’t time it, but it felt like a good minute and a half – a lot longer than the usual earthquakes I experience here.  No damage done here.  The earthquake hit around 11:35pm where I was.

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Radiation in the water in Japan

As I’m sure many of you have read or heard recently, the levels of radioactive iodine are a bit high in some parts of Japan, and at one time the Japanese government was advising parents not to let their children drink the water.  Now, I have to stress that this is only in a part of Japan, not the whole of Japan, and it was only for a day or two.  So, safe for adults to drink, not safe for children.  When I say safe for adults, I mean safe for adults unless they decide to drink it continuously for a year, or so I remember hearing somewhere.

For people worried about radioactive water, it’s not the water that’s radioactive, rather it’s particulates, minerals or elements in the water that make it radioactive.  In this particular case it’s a variant of iodine, or isotope of iodine to be more accurate.

Iodine is a naturally occurring element and can be found in everything from mangos to fish, and is usually nothing to worry about except when absorbed in massive quantities – an extremely unlikely occurrence unless you take iodine tablets, which themselves would be thousands of times higher in concentration than a whole mango would be, or unless you already have a sensitivity to iodine.

The radioactive isotope of iodine (131I) that’s in the water has a half-life of a little over eight days.  This means that after a period of eight days, the radioactive iodine that’s currently floating around in the tap water of parts of Japan will no longer be harmful.  So if it’s in your body, eight day’s and it’s nothing to worry about any more.  Same if you bottled the water and kept it for eight days.  Although if you did that, I’d recommend boiling it before consumption to kill off the bacteria.  I read someone say it was 30 days on a chat forum somewhere.  Not sure where that person got their number from.

The British Embassy here in Japan, and I have been told the US as well, has been handing out iodine tablets to their citizens in the Tokyo and affected areas.  Why and how does it work, you may ask yourselves.  Well, iodine likes to settle itself in the thyroid, which is a bit of a sponge for iodine.  The idea is that by taking the iodine tablets, you would saturate the thyroid with regular, harmless iodine, and there would be no room left for the more dangerous, radioactive iodine to be taken in (like trying to add water to a sponge that’s already been soaked in water).

So, what have we learnt?  Firstly, it’s not the water itself that’s radioactive, it’s the stuff in the water.  Secondly, depending on the concentrations of the radioactive iodine, it can be harmful to adults and/or children.  And thirdly, it’s no longer harmfully radiative after eight days.

Does this mean eating a lot of iodine rich food will help saturate my thyroid?  No, I don’t think so.  You would need a lot of iodine to fully saturate the thyroid, or a lot of mangos and a lot of time on the toilet.

If you want to reduce your intake of the radioactive iodine, you could get yourself a water filter with activated carbon (that’s fancy talk for charcoal that’s in itty bitty pieces) in it to help filter out some of the radioactive iodine, go out and by bottled water, or bottle the tap water and wait eight days before you used it.  I’ve been using a water filter (not the same on, mind) for years.

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Okonomiyaki

I went to see The King’s Speech with a friend at the cinema in Ropongi Hills yesterday. I thought it was a lovely film and I highly recommend it.  Afterwards, we went out for dinner at an okonomiyaki restaurant in Shibuya.

I had the Italian okonomiyaki off the special menu, which had tomatoes, salami, vegetables and cheese in it.

After that, we went to a cafe where I had ice cream for dessert.  Notice that it only has one scoop.  I’m still on my diet.

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Stuffed

Yesterday was a national holiday in Japan (Vernal Equinox Day/春分の日) and I met up with some friends to catch up over lunch.  Actually, it was the first meal of the day, so it was more of a breakfast.  We decided to get some lovely burgers from Village Vanguard Diner.  Mine had an egg, onion ring, bacon and cheese in it.

In the evening, a couple of us went to have dinner.  After having burgers for lunch/breakfast, we decided to have more beef!

A double patty with shredded potato and cheese on top, vegetables, and mashed potatoes.  The meal also came with rice, a small salad (don’t want to spoil your appetite!), and, because it was raining, free refills of consume soup!

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