This Is What I Went Through Physically When I Moved to Japan
One of our editors from Japan shares the changes one could experience once they make a move and how they can cope with them.
As the famous saying goes, change is inevitable. And it will come, especially when you put yourself in a different environment with contrasting cultural paradigms, leaving you like a fish out of the water. You are often forced to adjust your lifestyle in order to survive.
Moving to Japan, you’ll encounter a lot of changes—emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and even physical. Physical change is the most obvious as it is something that most people living abroad notice when returning to their home country. Environment, food, and climate all have huge effects on one’s physical state. Although one’s experience of physical change varies per person, we will try to give you an idea of how a non-Japanese person might experience change once they start living in Japan.
In this article, our editor from Japan tackles the kinds of changes one would experience physically when moving to Japan and how one can cope with them moving forward.
Japanese food is well-known and loved by a lot of people around the world. It is one of the most sought-after cuisines, and many countries enjoy recreating Japanese dishes using their own methods and ways. Eating Japanese food every day for long periods of time equates to a change in lifestyle and a change in the ecosystem of one’s stomach.
These are the most common changes you can experience through food:
Weight - This can go both ways, depending on the person. In my case, the change in diet affected my sugar intake and my fat intake as well. So much, that every time I go back to my home country, I get overwhelmed by how sweet and fatty some food can be. The change in eating habits and preferences also had a huge effect on my weight. However, don’t go putting your hopes up just yet, because this is not the case for all. Without self-control, indulging in Japanese food every day can cause one to gain weight.
Clean food - Food in Japan, when prepared properly by professionals and certified locations (which is almost everywhere, if you ask me!), is very clean. In fact, it is so clean that my body and my stomach would fail me each time I go back home and eat local food. I would often find myself drinking from PET bottles and avoiding street food, lest I upset my stomach.
Surrounded by a lot of greenery and a developed transport system, the metropolitan areas of Japan do not only have a cleaner air index than most countries, but they’re also made to be conducive for walking. The environment allows you to kick the sedentary lifestyle to the curb and welcome a fitter and stronger you.
Walking - Aside from promoting weight loss, walking also helped me increase my stamina. Friends and family who visit me in Japan would often point out how my endurance for walking has improved. (Also translated as: “We can’t keep up!”) I find myself getting tired less easily, which helps a lot during my travels.
Sensitivity to clean air - The clean air of Japan does great wonders for your health. So much, that when you go home, you’ll immediately notice the difference. Although the air in Japan is not the cleanest and is still vulnerable to air pollution, allergens, and PM 2.5, comparatively speaking, it is still better than most countries.
When talking about the climate in Japan, one should also consider the seasonal change. As most people know, Japan has four seasons, all with varying temperatures and humidity. During my first year in Japan, I was in my honeymoon phase with everything and was oblivious to how the change in climate would affect me.
Skin sensitivity - Naturally, I have sensitive skin. The change in humidity—from hot to cold—took a huge toll on my skin. At first, I wasn’t sure what was happening. But according to my doctors, it was because of the change in weather. Luckily, there are several ways of dealing with this predicament. Do note that it would have to be a conscious effort on your part. Doing so basically means a change in lifestyle from how you lived in your home country. But, as most things go, this will help you live your best life!
Temperature - Your body will be sensitive to temperature. Most of the time, it goes two ways—you’re either sensitive to the heat or the cold. Personally, I love the summer season and prefer warmer temperatures, which makes it hard for me to adapt to colder seasons. I am more sluggish during winter, whereas I tend to be more active during the warmer seasons. The change in seasons can really affect you physically, especially if you come from a tropical country.
Coping with Changes
Personally, coping with these changes took time and a lot of effort on my part to consciously change my lifestyle for the better. My outlook on life and my overall health have drastically improved despite the many changes I experienced physically.
Word of advice: Instead of coping, I believe that it’s better to embrace these changes and simply adapt. Of course, it’s going to be difficult at first. Just imagine the shock I felt after knowing that my body had gone against my own country’s food and had started becoming sensitive to everything I consume.
My first few months living in Japan was not easy and even left me wanting to go home. But looking back, I can say with confidence that it helped me become a better and more awesome version of myself. No matter the case (even if it means cutting on street food), I wouldn’t have it any other way.
(25 September 2019)