Pregnant in Japan: Diet, Nutrition and Weight Gain

This is part 3 of the "Pregnant in Japan" series. The first two parts cover pregnancy resources and how to find a doctor, midwife or hospital in Japan.

Yes, there are some differences between Japan and western countries (and likely, many countries in general) in diet, nutrition and weight gain during pregnancy. I am mostly familiar with common standards in the US (from research), so feel free to share what may be different or the same in your home country. The information here is what I've found both online and in the pile of pamphlets and information the health center gave to us when we registered my pregnancy.

The topics covered in this post include:

Nutrition/Diet "Balance" Guide
Caloric Intake
Foods to Avoid
Fish to Avoid/Limit
Limit Salt
Weight Gain
Prenatal Supplements

40 + 5 more ways to survive the rainy season in Japan

The rainy season (梅雨, つゆ) has arrived.

Bleak, gray, rainy season, or 梅雨
Apparently beginning 12 days earlier than last year in central Japan, according to, and also earlier than normal in southern Japan as well. Though it doesn’t feel all that humid yet. I typically associate the rainy season with tropical jungle-like humidity that makes you feel like you’re living in a sauna.

Don’t be fooled though - it will likely sneak up on us before we know it. For now, my pregnant self will enjoy the moderate temperatures and bearable humidity levels.

5 ways to survive working for an Eikaiwa (Conversation School)

For those who may come to Japan to work for an English conversation school, or "eikaiwa," here are some tips to be aware of from someone who worked for an eikaiwa for a few years. This guest post is written by Ali of Haikugirl's Japan - a fun, frequently updated blog covering all things Japan: travel, food, daily life, and much, much more. Definitely worth a browse! - Ashley

1. Learn some Japanese

When you apply for the job, they will most likely tell you that you don't need to know any Japanese at all. Indeed, the big companies will insist that you never speak Japanese while teaching or interacting with your students. However, what they will fail to mention is that your students will often speak Japanese to you. Sometimes your students just won't know how to express themselves in English (especially kids or low-level learners), and knowing a few key words in Japanese so that you can understand their question will really pay off. Learning a bit of Japanese will also help you build better business relationships with your co-workers and bosses. It's amazing how far an “otsukaresama desu” will go at the end of the day (“otsukaresama desu” is hard to translate, but it is commonly used as a sort of acknowledgment of someone's hard work, and can be said to your co-workers at the end of the day or after a class).

HOW TO: Find anti-itch, insect bite medicine in Japan

This post is a follow-up to A Survival Guide to Mosquito Repellent in Japan, for those who try in vain but perhaps still end up with itchy, annoying bites (I know the feeling...). My first apartment in Japan was constantly bombarded with mosquitoes, as it was next to this swampy water pool. Despite my best efforts, I couldn't keep them all away. (Although I'm convinced I seem especially attractive to them - they go after me far more than my husband!)

I visited a drug store in the first month after my arrival in hopes of discovering some anti-itch cream, the kind you use for mosquito bites, but without any idea of what exactly to look for or what it was called. After browsing the walls and aisles of various items, still unsure of what to get, I asked one of the store employees for help. I looked up mosquito in the Japanese-English dictionary on my phone, showed her the result, pointed to some of the red welts on my hand and arm, and asked if they had anything for that. Fortunately for me at the time, she understood right away and led me to the anti-itch/insect bite medicine, pulling out a box of ムヒ (Muhi), which is a common brand here in Japan.

So, to help you in your search for anti-itch/insect bite medicine, and perhaps save you some trouble of finding what you need at the store, I've included some necessary words to know, and some of the common ingredients you'll typically find in these types of medicine.

English Language Magazines in Japan - What's Your Favorite?

For those wondering if it's possible to find English language magazines in Japan, I've compiled a list of various publications, both print and online. If your favorite is missing, or you have some suggestions to add, let me know in the comments and I'll compile an additional list to run.

Print is suffering, but English readers have never had it so good via The Japan Times

(Thanks to those who have already provided suggestions! If you said something last week, you received a special mention in the article above.)

A Survival Guide to Mosquito Repellent in Japan

That wonderfully hot and humid time of year is upon us - summer. And of course, the rainy season and along with it, mosquito season. I still remember my first apartment in Japan, next to a large drainage pool area where I can only guess thousands of mosquito eggs were hatching every day. And then they show up at 3am - that high-pitched buzzing whine in my ear as I attempt to sleep.

Since being in Japan, I've struggled with the best ways to control them, and though not every solution is always 100% effective, hopefully some of these options may help you get through the summer with a few less uncomfortable, itching bites and restless nights.

HOW TO: Find a hair salon in Japan

A reader of Surviving in Japan wrote in asking how to go about finding hair salons in Japan and also if they offer services such as eyebrow waxing/plucking. Certainly a great question, especially for anyone planning to move to Japan and unsure if they'll be able to maintain their particular hairstyle (or color, but that's an entirely different issue...).

In my experience, and from what I’ve heard of others’ experiences, it’s usually not too hard to find great hair stylists in Japan. I’ve heard some people say that if you have very fine hair, or any type or texture different than “Japanese hair” (which is more or less a myth, as Japanese women have a range of hair types as well) you may have trouble, but I’ve never had problems, and my hair is very fine. Though, this may not be true for everyone, depending on what part of Japan you live in, what your hair type is, among other factors. This is just my experience, so would love to hear your experiences - both good and bad.

Before we look at some tools for finding hair salons, let’s go over some services (and their Japanese counterparts) so you can find what you’re looking for more easily (note, there are more services than these, but these are quite common):

Hair salon                  ヘアサロン
Cut                          カット
Coloring                     カラー
Perm                          パーマ
Straight perm          ストレートパーマ
Spiral perm                スパイラルパーマ
Digital perm            デジタルパーマ
Hair straightening      縮毛矯正  (しゅくもうきょうせい)
Extensions              エクステ or     エクステンション
Shampoo (Wash)    シャンプー
Blow dry (plus styling usually) ブロー
Treatment               トリートメント
Updo                          アップ

So how do you find a good hair salon? 

Pregnant in Japan: How to find a doctor, hospital or midwife

Finding a doctor, specifically an OBGYN or midwife, in Japan can be difficult at times, particularly if you don't speak Japanese. Of course, if you live in Tokyo, or another metropolis, you'll have a far easier time (and most likely, many fellow expats with recommendations). But if you're like me, and many others outside of the big cities, a little more searching is sometimes required... (Note: resources and words to know are listed towards the bottom of this post).

Finding a doctor or midwife is important to do early if you're planning to give birth in Japan, as women "reserve" spots far in advance at hospitals and clinics for their deliveries. And let me stress, from my own experience, some places fill up fast (depending on your location). My due date is late August, and I didn't think we needed to be that serious so soon about finding a place to give birth, until we started calling around in February and discovered that many ladies clinics were already full for August (though, supposedly August is a popular month to give birth in Japan).

Now, women in Japan typically either give birth in a) a hospital or b) a ladies clinic (or sometimes a midwife clinic). When I started my research for myself, I spent time looking for midwives that specialize in home births to see if it was an option here, just so I could weigh all the possibilities, but from what I was able to find, most independent midwives specialize in other things related to childbirth than the actual delivery itself (such as breastfeeding or infant bathing consultations). I think I had heard some statistic from the U.S. saying that most women in Japan use midwives to give birth, but I think that was taken out of context. Yes, midwives often do work in the ladies clinics and at hospitals along with the doctors for childbirth, and there are special midwife clinics that do deliveries around Japan as well.

HOW TO: Navigate the switch from analog to digital TV this summer

If you aren't aware already, Japan will be making the switch, completely, from analog to digital broadcasting on July 24, 2011. Though digital TV has already been introduced years ago in various parts of Japan, analog will be completely phased out this summer. Many of you likely already have digital TVs, but if not, or even if you do, here's what you need to know to prepare for the upcoming changeover (if you haven't already):

Leaping the digital TV divide (The Japan Times)

Yellow Sand in Japan - How does it affect you?

[Updated March 12, 2013]

Along with the prevalence of spring-time pollen, there's another annual annoyance that often affects Japan, known as "yellow sand", "Asian dust", "yellow dust", or a more official term, Aeolian Dust, and in Japanese as 黄砂 (こうさ, kousa). This dust is stirred up by the wind from deserts in Mongolia, northern China and Kazakhstan, and carried in clouds over China, North and South Korea, and Japan.

Seems relatively harmless, but this dust has also been found to carry a variety of toxic particles, such as heavy metals, sulfur, viruses and bacteria, asbestos, and other pollutants. As far as I've been able to find, Japan doesn't seem to have experienced many health problems due to this dust (please correct me if you know otherwise), though South Korea has reported adverse health effects, particularly in those with respiratory problems. The dust can also decrease visibility, stain laundry, and cause other problems.