Thursday, January 31, 2013

Horse Oil for My Skin

I have eczema since when I was in 20s. On top of that, excruciating patch test recently confirmed that my skin is allergic to nickel and fragrance, and possibly foaming agent of detergent or soap. I was prescribed steroid cream, and I must use it when the condition worsened, but I am scared to use it often.

I took off all of of my metallic accessories, including watch and the wedding band. I changed my soap and moisturizer. I ordered fragrance-free shampoo and conditioner, because all hair care products I found at neighborhood drug stores and health stores are scented in one way or another. Prevention is the best way to fight eczema and allergy.

I noticed a jar of horse oil, which I brought back from Japan. Horse oil is horse fat, which is produced from a small number of farmed horses for meat in Japan. Horse meat is not widely eaten, but considered delicacy there.

Pure horse oil and horse oil products are sold as skin care products. It has been Chinese home remedy from ancient times to cure burn, rash, or insect bites. The fat is purified and deodorized, so that products don't smell disgusting.

Even in the United States, some people use animal fat, such as pork lard or tallow on their skin. They praise for the wonderful effects. According to website of one horse oil maker, the ratio of saturated fat and unsaturated fat of horse oil and human oil are the same, therefore it's absorbed quickly and don't feel greasy at all.

I gave it a try on my itch, as I don't want to keep using steroid cream repeatedly. It seems to work, if I use it before scratching the area. I can also use it as lip balm, as I shouldn't use minty lip balm as well.

I will keep using it until it lasts, but one problem is that I can't buy it in the United States. No cosmetic company is selling something remotely close to it. If I finish the jar, I probably will use vegetable shortening or coconut oil in my pantry, until next time I visit Japan.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Food and Japanese

I saw a Japanese news report that among developed countries, Japanese calorie intake have been constantly low. On average, Americans take in 3688cal, Western Europeans take in over 3500cal, Koreans take in 3200cal, and even the Chinese take in 3000 cal. But the Japanese average is 2723cal.

I always knew this from experience. Many Japanese women who lament,"I have to lose weight." are actually thin as a pencil by American standards. They are thin because they watch what they eat.

Many foreigners complain about the amount of food served at restaurants in Japan. On the other hand, the Japanese are amazed by the huge amount of food served in the United States. One portion of Chinese delivery food in the U.S. can easily fill up three Japanese girls.

I remember that when I was in a high school, one of the girls in my class said, "I did really badly yesterday. I ate 10 potato chips!" I thought to myself, "Wow! I often eat a bag of potato chips."

I admit that I have a hearty appetite for a Japanese, and it's showing now. I still don't seem fat in New York, but I feel obese by Japanese standards.

This same news report further noted that Japan has a very low rate of wasted food. Every single Japanese are taught from the time they are young not to waste food, because farmers made great efforts to raise their crop. My grandmother said to me, "You will be blinded if you leave any grains of rice in your rice bowl." In Japan, food is served in a small portion, and people are expected to finish it.

When I walk over rice on the sidewalk in front of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in my neighborhood after it had a wedding ceremony, I cannot help feeling guilty when stepping on rice, because throwing rice is a cardinal sin in Japan. For Japanese, rice is sacred.

Recently, the Washington Post wrote an article about Japanese school lunch system. In each public primary and middle schools, lunch is made from scratch on the premises every day. Japanese children are eating delicious nutritious hot meal at school.

I often hear a word "shokuiku", which means food education. They believe that nutritious food educates children from the inside, so they will be able to make correct food choices when they become adults.

Japanese children eat vegetables, but rarely take sugary drinks, junk and pre-packaged food. But in order to make it possible, someone has to make the sacrifice to cook food from scratch every day. That burden of cooking is usually on women. 

It was more than 60 years ago when Japan was deprived of food. My parents generation in 70s remember the experience of starvation vividly, but the rest of the population including myself grew up in abundance.

In a way it is amazing that a country of gourmet and charismatic chefs eats healthy and maintains a decent calorie intake. I think it is due to the Japanese attitude towards food.

Almost all Japanese say a short word, "itadakimasu" before eating, and "gochisosama" after eating. They roughly translate, "I am going to eat now," and "Thank you for the wonderful meal," respectively.

But they are also an expression of the gratitude to all the people who made it possible to put the food on the table, including farmers, fishermen, food preparers, and the ones who earn money to buy food. Because of the efforts and sacrifices people make, the food must not be wasted.

A big challenge for Japan is to increase food sustainability in the country. Japanese food sustainability rate is extremely low. People consider grown and made in Japan food as safer than imported counterparts, and they command a premium price. People are willing to spend extra for those products, particularly for children.

Currently, produce are locally grown, but the ingredients of processed food is largely imported. Government has to answer people's demand, rather than answering to foreign trade pressures.

Here is one actual example from a Japanese restaurant in a northern island. The restaurant fines customers for not finishing meal, to honor the fishermen who brave dangerous conditions to provide the delicious food. The story was reported in Yahoo! News. My grandmother would deeply agree.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Oral Hygiene and Cosmetic Double Canine Teeth

Since I'm a 5-feet-tall petite Japanese, I seem to have a problem with American tooth brushes. The heads are gigantic and bristles too hard. Even when I buy tooth brushes labeled as "compact head" or "soft", they are still large and hard.

Big tooth brushes prevent me from brushing my molars. There are many similar size Asian women and Latinas in the United States. I doubt my jaw size is smaller than theirs.

Every time I go to a dental appointment, the dentist tells me "Don't brush your teeth so hard. Your gum line is receding." I bought a tooth brush labeled "soft" at a drug store, but the bristles weren't really soft.

Americans are known to spend money on their teeth. I wonder why they are using tooth brushes which are so harsh on their teeth and gums.

For a while I was ordering particular expensive tooth brushes with soft bristles on-line, but soon I started to buy tooth brushes in bulk every time I went back Japan. There are a wider variety of tooth brushes in Japan at a good price, from big and stiff to small and soft.

However, it doesn't mean that Japan is the progressive country of oral hygiene. They spend less money on teeth than Americans, and fewer people floss every day.

After the cosmetic correction
And as strange as it may seem to Americans, many Japanese men like girls with doubled canine teeth. Some girls even attach cosmetic doubled canine teeth. I assume that doubled canine teeth caused by small jaws, which are one of the signs of immaturity, appear attractive to Japanese men. One example of different aesthetics or psychology in different cultures.