6 February 2008

I'm No Sciencetician, But...

I've been told Japanese people get sick all the time in winter. I've heard this relaying my own experience of getting sick once every two weeks -- one persistent virus, actually -- and have seen it. Japanese people tend to wear what appear to be white surgical masks when they're sick. I've heard that they help you get better, which I won't comment on here, but they are in the very least a clear stay-away warning. Also, an easy way to tally up who's who of the virally/bacterially infested. Upwards of 50% of the staff at my school!

Average Toronto temperature for February is -4.5℃ -- indoor temperature, at least in whatever apartment I'm living in, is 25℃. Median temperature, of course, is 20.5℃ and skin-peelingly dry.

Meanwhile in Japan -- the average temperature for neighbouring Fukuoka is about 6.5℃. A generous (it's not supposed to steam up when you pee) estimate for the average indoor temperature is around 10℃. Median being 8.25℃ and humid.

Scientists, I've heard, don't blame winter colds on their namesake -- the frigid terrible godless cold -- but, rather because people stay huddled together inside. This makes sense, but the truth is your immune system is significantly effected by your mental state. Comfort and happiness and relaxation and exercise and other things can make or break you no matter what season it is, and in Japan it's difficult to feel comfortable and relaxed in the winter. There's a whole industry surrounding this fact (insulation or central heating companies need not apply) that sell heated coffee tables called kotatsu or heated drinks in vending machines (including corn soup!) and all sorts of blankets and jackets and weird puffy elasticy bits of sweater that you put around your arms or torso. As a foreigner, I also have to deal with immunoglobulins which are apparently not well suited for this environment, and I have classes full of literally snot-nosed kids (ha-hah). Of course, traffic between East Asia and Southern Ontario is constant and diseases tend to pass both ways too (remember SARS?) and before standing in front of classes of 40 students, I was sitting in lecture halls of sometimes ten times that and I got sick once or twice a year at most. I'd get more sick, but it wasn't a chronic thing. Not only that, but I don't remember international students from Japan getting sick with Canadian germs every two weeks. So what's the deal?

I don't have an answer. The entire reason I'm writing this, is I've been at home for two days with some sort of stomach virus, and I'm still on medication for another illness. All I can think of is George Carlin talking about his own immune system saying, "You know when I wash my hands? When I get shit on them!"


Kozo said...

People don't just wear the mask when they're sick. As I understand it many people wear them to prevent catching colds during cold season, even if they aren't sick.

stereoheads said...

woo a new post.

It's an amazing thing, this season of sickness. I have gotten the flu twice in a one month period. Back in Canada I used to get sick only once a year or so. It's weird though, because Im eating healthier than I did back in Canada AND Im very aware of hygiene because of these sick kids.

Are you feeling better now?

Michael said...

To be honest, I worry about the hygiene in Japan sometimes. Hospital bathroom... in the hospital bathroom... no soap. None! A hospital!!