Friday, January 25, 2013


Japanese have a strange relationship with disease. Anyone who has been to Japan will notice many people wearing surgical masks. During healthy months I would estimate about 1/10 people wear a mask, during the flu season (now) I would say about 1/3 people wears a mask.
Unfortunately, the Japanese have rendered the masks little more than a security blanket. Now that it’s winter, I never see people washing their hands, whether after the bathroom, after a nasty sneeze, or any other activity. Schools do not have hot water, and most people were reluctant to wash their hands before the cold set in. 
Sleep is essential for good health. Japanese beds are terrible. Futons should be reserved for the nights your drunk friend needs to crash. Ben and I have a good futon, but it’s still a futon. Regardless of the quality of their beds, Japanese people get less sleep on average then Americans.
My parents ran a preschool in their house. Every day, a dozen kids, between the ages of 2-4, trumbled through my home, and at pick up and drop of time I generally ran into at least one pregnant mother. I went to school every day. I felt like the ultimate conduit for disease, so I got every immunization the doctors could throw at me. I feel that it is every able persons ethical obligation to get immunized, firstly because the more people that get immunized, the more effective the immunization is on a population, secondly, not everyone can get a shot it’s not fair to compromise their health (especially if the reason they cannot get immunized due to health reasons). Most of the teachers I have talked to have not gotten a flu shot, which makes me nervous.
Why is disease on my mind?
Flu season is in full swing here in Uenohara, and a huge number of people have been hit. Today out of my 115 students I was suppose to teach, 21 were home with the flu. The small elementary school that Ben teaches at had 7 students out of 15 missing. All of my schools have instituted a mandatory mask rule, (English classes are significantly less effective with masks). Any teacher that gets the flu is required to get a note from a doctor clearing them for work. Any student is required to wait 3 symptom free days before returning to school. The teachers tell me we have not yet hit the peak of this flu season, which makes me nervous.

Ben tells me that when too many kids in a class get the flu, the whole class gets sent home.
So far 4 of his classes have been sent home out of 12 at the middle school.

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