Introduction

Staying Healthy while Abroad

Staying Healthy while Abroad

Many of the other bloggers have offered strategies for staying physically and mentally healthy while at U of T. School is tough no matter where you are. When life gets busy, sleep, proper nutrition, and exercise tend to be the first things we push aside in order to better handle our work. In this post, I’ll be chatting about how studying abroad can pose an extra dietary challenge to personal health, and how I’ve dealt with that challenge.

Depending on the host country, studying abroad can force students to relearn how to eat nutritiously; certain foods that are common in Canada are obviously scarce elsewhere. In Japan, for instance, whole grain bread and pasta are nearly impossible to find. Moreover, the prices of many fruits and vegetables are exorbitant by Canadian standards. These were staples in my diet in Canada, but they are not viable options here. In this way, coming to Japan has forced me to relearn how to take care of myself.

So, how have I dealt with this change in diet? I started by searching for a healthy grain. Rice is the most common carbohydrate here, but grocery stores tend to only sell it in its white, starchy form. I went to a specialty rice store to get brown rice. Fortunately it’s affordable (approx. $5/kg) despite its scarcity.

This image shows a building made of wood on an urban street at night time. It is a rice shop. Bags of rice can be seen inside.
My local rice shop. Source: http://www.kanai-come.com/IMG_2753.jpg

There are fewer options as far as fruits and vegetables go. For instance, apples and pears here can cost five dollars each. Bananas and mikan (Japanese oranges) are more affordable options. For vegetables, Spinach is pricy, so I opt for Japanese eggplant, squash, lettuce, and cabbage.

There a number of sources of protein. Soy products, e.g. Tofu, are cheap and available everywhere, even at convenience stores. Natto (fermented soy beans) is a personal favourite, but many people find it hard to stomach. Chicken and fish are great sources of lean protein that happen to also be cheap here. Lastly, dairy products are also easy to find.

This image shows collection of milk cartons at a grocery store.
Grocery shopping is also a great opportunity to practice reading.

Aside from relearning how to eat healthy, staying fit here hasn’t been difficult. Athletic facilities in Japan are similar to those in Canada; gyms and sports centres are common.

This image shows a gym at the University of Tokyo, Komaba Campus. It features weight machines, rowing machines, and dumbbells and barbells.
University of Tokyo, Komaba Campus’ Gym

Tokyo is also a surprisingly easy city to run in. Popular media often represents the city as a concrete labyrinth packed with people, suggesting that there is little nature or places to run. In my past posts, I’ve also emphasized how hectic urban Tokyo can be. However, there are actually a number of sizeable parks in the city. Here’s the one I run in:

This image shows a a wooden boardwalk surrounded by trees. It was taken in Nokawa Park, Tokyo, Japan
Nokawa Park (野川公園)
This image shows a concrete path running past a wooden signpost. The signpost features Japanese text that reads, 'natural viewpoint ahead' (shizenkansatsuen).
自然観察園 – ‘Nature-viewing Park’
This image shows Nokawa Park in the fall. Brown leafs can be seen on the grass. There are trees in the background. A concrete path can be seen running through the park in the right side of the image.
Nokawa Park (野川公園)

It also features a small outdoor gym:

This image shows a collection of fitness apparatus on a grassy section in Nokawa Park, Tokyo, Japan. Trees can be seen in the background.

This is how I’ve been staying physically healthy while abroad. If any prospective exchange students have general questions about life abroad or changes in diet, feel free to post them in the comments below. Until next week, here’s the opening track from Katsuhiro Otomo’s classic film, Akira.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFp8F-qZmmw

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