Sunday, September 29, 2013

Local hike

Today was a pretty great day!  I got back last night and felt like relaxing today.  I had a small urge to go into work and see what emails transpired on Friday in regards to my housing debacle.  But I squelched that urge and decided to stay away from work.  Then I was super lazy and decided I had to get out of the house.  I decided to go for a run/hike.  I ran to the hiking trail in Zushi that is opposite the Jimmuji train station.  I was a little lost and ran for about 40 minutes (it's really not that far).

I went on the hike.  I would have run but my knee has been a little twinge-y since I hyper-extended it a few weeks ago so I played it safe.  I came upon a pretty awesome shrine but didn't find the rock climbing wall that is pretty popular.  Next time, next time.

Above, I included some photos including a sign stating that the area is a Wildlife Preserve.  Apparently, Seamus Squirrel's Japanese cousins are well-liked around here.  Gross.


One of the foods that the Hiroshima Prefecture is known for is Okonomiyaki.  It is amazing.  There is a thin wafer/tortilla of flour and water, tons of cabbage and sprouts, pork, egg and the most amazingly delicious, addictive sauce ever.  I had one at Miyajima and one in Hiroshima proper.  I'm fairly certain that both places were the ones that Mom and I went to in 2008.  It was so tasty and awesome!  Whoever visits, even if we don't make it down to hiroshima, I will find a okonomiyaki place locally just so you can try it!

Friday, September 27, 2013


We arrived in Hiroshima and walked along the Peace Promenade and went to Atomic Peace Park.  I went twice in two days: once on Friday afternoon and once on Saturday morning before leaving.  I skipped the museum this time but the park itself is very solemn and hopeful at the same time.  There are many memorials and signs with multiple translations.  

 I just finished “Unbroken” and they talk about riding through that countryside and witnessing the destruction.  That first, the trees had no leaves, then there were no trees and then there was nothing.  It was horrific but at the same time, the reason why the POWs were free, rather than dead.  The Japanese knew they were losing the war and had issued an “All-Kill order” for all POWs later that August.

It’s amazing how the city rebuilt.  And now the hope is that no city or place on earth has to go through that destruction again.  One new sight I saw this time was the marker that indicates the hypocenter, the location where the bomb exploded, 600 m above the ground.  It’s outside the park on a street that is otherwise completely modernized and contains several parking structures.  

On Saturday, as I was walking to the Peace Park, I took a different route and it was completely jarring to me that all of a sudden, there was the “A-bomb dome.”  It was a striking reminder that it can be so easy to be involved in our daily lives and forget to pay homage and witness to the past.


Next up...Sasebo!  The clinic went well although there were fewer patients then Iwakuni.  Sasebo is a beautiful place with rolling green hills that meet the water and gorgeous sunsets.  The base is pretty small.  We had a mini-adventure getting there since I thought Nagasaki and Sasebo were on the same train line.  They’re not!  

Also, I am confused about the Shinkansen to JR transfer.  When we arrived at Hakata, we were able to transfer directly to the JR limited express without any other ticket.  But then on the train, the conductor wanted our JR tickets, which we didn’t have.  Eventually, we worked out that we would pay when we arrived at the station but there has to be some way to pay for JR tickets at the beginning.  Currently, it’s an awkward experience that I'd like to avoid.  Also, a side note to this experience- always have extra money on me in Japan.  Yikes!  The transfer station did not have ANY foreign ATMs.  The main tourist/international ATMs are at the 7-11 and when there’s no 7-11,'s no bueno.  Fortunately, I didn’t need the money since we got picked up by the duty driver but it was still pretty stressful.

So, in Sasebo, I went out with a former medical school classmate who’s a GP right now.  He and his friend Edgar took me out to the most delicious yakitori place, followed by a karaoke bar where they had bottle service.  The bottle service concept confused me at first.  I thought, “Wait, we’re about to spend $250 on a bottle in a random bar on a Thursday night?”  No, thank goodness!  They frequent this bar and they buy a bottle of alcohol at wholesale cost.  Then, each time they go, they pay a flat fee of 800Y and they can drink as much as they want from their bottle.  We stayed out until midnight, which was later than I was expecting but a lot of fun.  To finish off the evening, we went to “Ra-ra ramen,” which was so good!  I can't wait to take SMS and see if he thinks it's better than his L.A. spot!  Then I took a cab back to the hotel while Edgar and Scott walked back to their apartments off-base.

The next morning, I was sleepy but I had one patient and then we were off.  The corpsman and I went off to Hiroshima for the evening before heading back on Saturday.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Miyajima and Itsukushima

In between Sasebo and Iwakuni, we stopped at Miyajima for the afternoon.  We had several strokes of luck.  First, there were two ferries to choose from and we bought the tickets for the JR ferry.  This was awesome because the JR ferry has the sea lane that actually makes a wide swing right in front of the floating tori.  It was an awesome vantage point!  Also, it was high-tide so the tori looked particularly magnificent.  Last time I was there, it was low tide and the pilings were visible, which was a little less cool looking. 

The shrine was established in the time of Empress Suiko.  It is one of the famous "Three views of Japan (日本三景 Nihon Sankei)."  These were set forth by Hayashi Gaho in 1643 and include the pine-clad islands of Matushima in Miyagi Prefecture; the pine-clad sandbar of Amanohashidate in Kyoto Prefecture; and Itsukushima Shrine in Hiroshima Prefecture. 
Disgustingly, the deer is drinking from the water fountain.  Just like this sign, I bet it would try and eat my
face if I got close enough!

There were also deer on the island.  I called them “rats with long legs.”  As my Dad says, he and Mom really raised a bunch of animal lovers.  The corpsman thought they were super-cute and took lots of pictures.

There was also a Shinto ceremony happening.  It seemed solemn and may have been a funeral. The women were wearing some beautiful kimonos and some elaborate headpieces.  But right outside the recessed area of the shrine were swarms of people watching and/or taking pictures.  As cool as it would have been to take a picture, something just didn’t seem right so I refrained.  I did continue my taking pictures of me behind the photo-op boards with face-holes cut out.  I think they’re so funny!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Official Travel!

Navy Medicine, Travel Edition!

On Sunday after the board, I started my traveling doctor week!  There are two clinics that most of the specialists travel for quarterly rounds.  I didn’t want to go so soon after boards but next week, the new fiscal year starts so it was this week or nothing.  So, off I went!

The first clinic I went to is on the Iwakuni Marine Air Base.  I saw a total of 19 patients and it was a pretty good group of consults.  It was nice to take care of local patients and prevent the inconvenience of them going to Yokosuka.  People have lives and it’s nice to just have a doctor’s appointment in the local area, rather than take at least two days out of their lives to make the trip.  There are a few people who will end up traveling to Yokosuka for further care but the majority were taken care of here.

What’s even cooler (wait, what could be cooler than medical care!?!) is that I’m able to arrange some local sight-seeing!  My corpsman and I went to Kikko Park, the location of the awesome 5-arch Kintai bridge, Iwakuni castle and some pretty amazing grounds.  On the grounds are various statues, shrines and gardens.  While the place is beautiful, it’s supposed to be incredible during Sakura (Cherry blossom season).
Kintai Bridge

We took a taxi from the main base (~1800 yen) and bought our “package ticket” for 930Y.  This included the tickets to walk over the bridge, take the cable car to the top of the mountain and entrance to the castle.  The bridge is pretty amazing.  It’s composed of 5 wooden arches and was originally built in 1673.  It’s been rebuilt over the years as floods and typhoons washed it away.  The last major rebuild was in 1950 after typhoon Kijia and there was a 2004 restoration.  

CW from top left: fountain, guardian statue, river, tori arch, water fountain, shrine, grounds map

Then we walked over to the cable car and rode to the top of the mountain.  There was a well-marked paved walkway/road to the castle 900 meters away.  The views were pretty awesome.  I loved the castle.  The inside had lots of samurai knife displays but the highlight for me was the fourth floor observation deck.  There were windows that were open along the top 1/3.  There were a few metered telescopes.  The breeze felt wonderful up there!

New Castle, views, old castle foundation

The castle is a reconstruction slightly south of the original castle in order to maximize the views.  The original foundation is up there and I took a picture of a sign that, if SMS were there, he would find hard to obey the instruction!  
Japanese Warning Signs

The castle was from the Edo period and is located on Mt. Yokoyama.  It was torn down in 1620, 7 years after it was built because there was an edict of only “one castle per province” by the Tokugawa Shogunate.  The new castle was built in 1962.  (The Cottages in Newport, RI never got this memo!)

After the castle, I walked down the hill along a path with a pretty severe sign marking the trail.  I decided the trail looked well-maintained enough to take.  I only fell once and ran into a swarm of mosquitos at the bottom so I think it was a success!  I met up with the traveling corpsman and we headed back to base.

Tomorrow is our travel day to Sasebo.  We’re going to meet at 10 and head over to the train station.  I originally suggested 9 and while she didn’t say anything, she perked up when I suggested 10 instead!  I don’t really sleep in but I knew she wanted to so that’s that.  We’re going to Miyajima to see the Itsukshima Shrine and eat okonomiyaki for lunch!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Boards are over!  Hooray!  The questions were pretty crazy.  I never believed people when they said the boards were a whole other level above the inservice.  I thought, “How could that be?  There has to be some sort of ceiling effect on how ridiculous, difficult and ridiculously difficult a group of questions can be?”  Oh, naive me.  I think I passed but I will let you know in approximately 9 weeks.  If you don’t hear from me, it is because I will be pretending that the whole thing never happened. did I celebrate?  Well, Jenn and I went out to the Honch, tried to find the old chu-hi stand (fail), went to a rug auction and then went out for Thai food along with Dave.  The food was good, the company better and it was so nice to be out!

The next day, Jenn and I celebrated by trying to walk our feet off all over Yokohama.  We went to Queen Anne’s Tower, walked by the Ferris wheel, had Chinese steam buns for lunch, went to the Red Brick Warehouse and walked along the water to Motomachi/Chinatown.  In Motomachi, we walked along the super crowded streets.  There was a “Charming Sale” going on in all the stores.  We also walked up the huge hill to the Foreigners’ Cemetery.  It was a gorgeous day and I had my sunscreen on.  We sort of crashed in the late afternoon but it was so nice to be outside, exploring Japan.

And as promised, here’s my first foray into Picture Collage Maker!  
CW from top left: Red Brick Warehouse, a horse end piece only Karen could love, a
cat bench b/c why not, a dragon mural in Chinatown, and a flower by a foreigner's grave

Monday, September 16, 2013

When studying...

Sometimes I look like this...

But feel like THIS!!!!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Weekend Update!

This weekend was more of the same except that a typhoon is coming.  Whoa.  It's a little hard to take seriously since this afternoon was actually pretty nice apart from being humid as all get out.  I went for a run and it was slow going.  Although I started listening to "Where'd You Go Bernadette?" and it really made the run go by quickly.  The only problem is that the time elapsed for reading let me know just how slow I was going!

Man-yi is coming!  I can't wait for "Sunny and Nice!"
I am also excited about a new app I downloaded: Picture Collage Maker Lite.  I think it'll be pretty awesome for my travel pictures.  Its blog debut will have to wait since, currently, I'm not doing that many fun things but soon, my friends, soon.

Alright, off to study.  I'm feeling ok about the test coming up and it's time to transition from gloom and doom to some motivating pep talk!  I will pass this and then get to stress about the orals!  I can do it!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Driver's Ed

So, I'm on lunch break during the seemingly interminable orientation week. But at least I'm getting paid to listen to all the Powerpoint presentations! After lunch, I get to take my written driver's test. I thought I was 16 again but then I remembered I had to take a written test when I got my California license so I guess I still feel my age. This morning was the second-weirdest Navy brief I've ever sat through. Lots of driver safety slides interspersed with simulated (I think) clips of pedestrians getting hit by cars. In case you're wondering, the weirdest brief I ever sat through was a ship electrical safety brief that ended with a real video of a guy getting electrocuted on a train's overhead wire. That was weird.
I can't wait for the concert!!! (
On one of the breaks today, I went over to the ITT office to inquire about purchasing tickets to The Killers concert in Tokyo. I had tried to do it on my own, but Google translate was only taking me so far. The woman was super helpful and I am now the proud owner of a voucher to take to 7-11 so I can purchase and get my ticket anytime before the 15th. I'm so excited. I love that band!

 In case you were wondering, I'm still stressed about the boards. Whah, whah. But in continuing education news, I'm going to try and use tuition assistance to fund a biostatistics certificate through UCSD. I think it should work although I have to move quickly since the online course starts 23 Sept. Taking the course will be useful since there's such an emphasis on evidence-based medicine.

In other exciting news in my life, I've started putting my Magic Bullet to work making delicious blueberry, pineapple, spinach, almond milk and vanilla protein smoothies. If my Mom is reading this, I can pretty much guarantee that she just threw up in her mouth a little bit. I also am using it to grind Love Potion coffee beans that SMS sent me from Cafe Calabria, my favorite coffee roaster/shop in San Diego. Bonus on the coffee front: I bought a single serve coffee machine yesterday and it was $8 down from $20. Why? I have no idea but gift horse, I don't need to look in your mouth! I'm trying to cut back on buying outside coffee. It's expensive! Over $3 for a Starbucks and $2.25 at work. That seems crazy to me, although I remember in Denmark it was $8/cup.

 Finally, weird jet lag symptoms are back. My body loves the 4 a.m. wake-up right now. But again, maybe it's stress insomnia. If it continues after 20 Sept, I'll be mad!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Oh happy day!

Lots of sunshine and look what I got!!!!!!
Flowers!  Although, yes, I agree, my double screens are PRET-ty awesome!
SMS is the best!  I'm so happy and it was so cute of him to do!  I'm so ridiculously smile-y right now, it's borderline nauseating.

So, I placed out of the Wednesday and Thursday orientation classes because I'm so culturally sensitive. Or maybe it's just because I was stationed here within the last 5 years.  Today, people were talking about the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of living in Japan.  I wanted to stand up and say, "Lies!  You think so until they tell you to move back!"  But really, I'm not that bitter.  I am excited to be here and I'm meeting a lot of cool people that I'm secretly hoping will be awesome couple friends.  Of course, SMS has to be out here in order to be official couple friends, but I'll just stockpile them away and then come May 2014, be in couple friend heaven!

So, I'll go to work, study, see a little bit of clinic and then go to Driver's Education on Friday.  I'm still studying/cramming for the boards.  One more week and then it's over, for better or worse.  The next week, I'll be heading to Sasebo and Iwakuni, which I'm pretty excited about.  I'm staying until Saturday so my corpsman and I are going to take the opportunity to sightsee in Hiroshima a little bit and eat okonomayaki!!!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Cohi at the office

Hey-o!  Kind of boring in Nipon since I'm working and studying.  Not a lot of fun time yet but don't worry, it's coming!

First, an overview of vending coffee drinks.  There are lovely vending machines EVERYWHERE with various beverages, including coffee.  Lots of coffee.  The offerings are seasonal in that the Summer has cool coffee and the Winter has hot/warm coffee.  I think there's a temperature limit as the aluminum can would not tickle if it were, say, the temperature of the Seattle's Best Coffee that I spilled all over my hand the other day.  That was very hot and un-ticklish.

So, below I show you some of my various coffees over the last few days.  Seattle's Best is the hottest and not as bad as I remember.  That is not saying much since I've had some pretty horrific Seattle's Best in the past.  Next, there is blue can European, which has a touch of strong but is overall a tad sweet.  The ORIGINAL is very sweet.  The black European is my favorite- strong, chilled black coffee.  Finally, Emerald Mountain is somewhere between blue European and ORIGINAL in terms of sweetness.  I will upload a picture of the awesome coffee vending machine on the 5th floor of the hospital soon- I promise!

Next, my office which is where all the magic happens.  I can pretty much guarantee that this will be the nicest office of my career.  Amenities include a 5th floor, window with water view, my own bathroom(with a shower!!) and nice furniture/lots of space.  This could seriously serve as an apartment if I just ponied up the cash for a hot plate- which I might!
Welcome!   Please come in.  The bathroom is on your left!

My desk.  Clean-ish.

The view, I kid you not.

Work has been going pretty well.  This was my first week of clinic.  Exciting!  I booked a few surgeries out of clinic, which is also great.  

 My schedule is in a lot of flux over the next few weeks.  Next week, I go to the mandatory base orientation M-F.  Friday is the Japanese auto license day which is exciting since I bought a car this week from Mr. Auto.  Unfortunately, I need a car since I'm living in Ikego and I need wheels for middle-of-the-night calls during my call weeks on.  Fortunately, I got a good deal on a small, functional car which SMS cruelly pointed out is probably in a lot better shape than Bluey was.  Although this is cruel, it's true.   For one, there are no double cracks in the windshield.  

So, yes.  I have a car and no license so clearly that situation has to change.  The whole car-buying thing was a little bit of an adventure.  First, I went off-base to meet him and was waiting for him rather impatiently.  Rather than storm off and write the whole thing off as shady, I called him and politely asked him if our meeting was still on.  It was.  He just thought we were meeting at 1:30 while I thought it was 1:00.   So, eventually he showed up.  Question for you: if there was a guy named "Mr. Auto" in Japan who targeted his used car market operation to military members overseas, what type of guy would you picture?  Would you picture a morbidly obese African-American?  Yeah, me neither.  But Louis was really nice and we test-drove the car together.  He told me about his venous insufficiency, Japan and the car.  Then the ride was done.  I liked the car and the price was really reasonable but I didn't just want to pay face value for a car.  Car buying = negotiating.  But I wanted to be clever about it.  So, I asked if he offered a military discount.  I am so hilarious.  I got a small amount knocked off the price.  I paid the deposit and I'll see him in a week once I have my license and I can register the car.  The guy's been around for awhile so there is some online reviews to vouch for him so overall, I feel pretty secure in the whole transaction working out.

So, anyway, back to my schedule.  After a week of orientation, I'll see clinic the next week but have Thursday and Friday off since the 20th is my boards.  Dun dun dun.  After the boards, I'll have fun on Saturday and then head out for a week of TDY to two Southern clinics near Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Then I'll come back, see 1.5 days of clinic and then maybe, just maybe, have an extended weekend trip to see SMS in San Diego!!!!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Three Day Weekend!

Things I have done this weekend.
1. Studied
2. Googled things that were OMGsoimportanttofindoutrightaway rather than do #1
3. Ate Indian food with the Cragins and Liz

Boring!  Almost as boring as a blog with no pictures so here are some assorted screen shots of things I looked up on the Internet.
Uniform shoes!  Of course!  Why not?  Please note the upper right corner where it states "Relevance."  Relevance to board studying?  LOW!
This is cool.  And a time suck

But don't worry, it wasn't just about shoes.  I did use Google for work.
Clearly, the bottom one is in case my aversion to studying becomes a full-on allergy. I also can't spell Pradaxa but that just shows I don't sell out to Big Pharm.