gwen for webBy GWEN MURANAKA

When I worked in Tokyo, there was a dreaded yearly ritual for every employee: the physical exam. A large medical van would pull up in front of the building in Tamachi and we would all dutifully line up to be poked, prodded and even X-rayed. It was a little comical to see all of us standing there — Japanese and gaijin alike — trying to suck in our guts, as we waited to be weighed and take an ear exam.

In a few weeks, we’d receive an individual report, giving common-sense advice: don’t eat so much, stop smoking, get some exercise, which it seemed like folks mostly ignored. As a “young invincible” back then, I didn’t give it much thought, but now as I enter middle age those medical tips seem more and more important.

With the final push for people to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act finally over, it’s encouraging that more people will be covered than ever before — even if it is an imperfect system.

Living in Japan showed me how differently countries approach health care. In Japan, people casually mention that they are checking into the hospital in the same way we say we’re heading out of town for a few days or taking our car for a tune-up. The first time somebody told me they were going to the hospital, my first impulse was to shudder and exclaim, “What’s wrong?” It turned out to be a routine ailment, something I think most of us would not run to the hospital for here.

Even though I hadn’t signed up for health care, I was covered under the Japan’s national health care system. When I had an accident on the train, my co-worker helped me get to a nearby hospital, where I was quickly treated. I can’t remember these days, but I don’t think I paid anything out of pocket, for medicines or the treatment.

I used to think the Japanese health care system was quaint compared to the modern advances of American medicine. The hospital I went to looked a bit worn down and shabby, not the huge modern facilities we have here, but I received the proper care and soon was on the mend.

As we marvel at the life expectancies in Japan, the healthy diet and active lifestyles are often seen as reasons. Could access to health care, regardless of employment status, also be a determinant?

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Looking forward to joining Cindy and Ron Dyo at their Kids Gone Fishin’ event this Saturday at Jess Ranch in Apple Valley. Eric and I got ready for the fishing derby with a quick trip down to the Fred Hall Fishing Show down in Del Mar.

It’s amazing how much different equipment there is to catch a silvery fish on the hook. If guys complain about how much women love to shop for shoes or purses (personally I’m really not into those things), they have their sports equipment and hardware.

Roaming the aisles, it struck me just how many Japanese Americans are avid fishermen here in SoCal. Almost every booth had a Nikkei angler who was either working or browsing. Norm Fujimoto of IzorLine International patiently tried to teach me how to tie a “San Diego knot.” It actually was easy to learn and quite strong, but we’ll see if I’ll be able to replicate it.

The first knot I ever learned was from my grandmother, who loved to fish and reportedly was better at it than my grandfather. She used to go surf fishing locally for perch and also seemed to be able to tease a trout out of the most unlikely streams up in the Sierras.

The strongest memories I have are of early mornings being dragged out of bed by my dad to go to Lake Mary or Convict Lake up near Mammoth. This Saturday will be the same. An early morning wake-up to get our lines into the water.

It’s great that the Dyos created this event to introduce fishing to kids. That thrill when you first catch a fish is something I think every kid remembers. I’m sure after a full day of fishing, many of these small fry will be “hooked.”

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The L.A. Times reported on Tuesday that KFC is testing a Vietnamese sandwich shop, called Banh Shop, in the Dallas area, no doubt to cater to the large Vietnamese American population.

Japanese food, particularly ramen, has gotten so popular lately, will it be long before the corporate giants try to give it a fast-food spin? Judging by the hours-long lines at the recent ramen festival at Santa Anita racetrack, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Gwen Muranaka is the English editor of The Rafu Shimpo and can be reached at Ochazuke is a staff-written column. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

Childhood memories of early-morning fishing trips. (Small Kid Time by Gwen Muranaka)
Childhood memories of early-morning fishing trips. (“Small Kid Time” by Gwen Muranaka)

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