A Simple Opinel Sheath

I made this handy little sheath with a few simple hand tools last Sunday. It took me a few hours.


Kusatsu Onsen

This past weekend, Ana and I drove up to Kusatsu Onsen. At this time of year, it's a wonderful, snowy, cozy and relaxing town. What did we do? We ate, drank, and took baths. How many baths? Too many to count.  Good times!
Simple and Delicious!

Hot drinks and Yubatake!

One of the many little bath houses. Just hop in!


2014 Review: it was okay

I'm thinking 2014 was a pretty good year. Let's see if I can remember some of the stuff I did, in no particular order.

-Witnessed the first sunrise of the year from the top of Jō Yama.
-Watched fireworks from beaches in Japan, Ecuador and Canada. This included carefully sequenced underwater fireworks in Shizunami, unregulated chaos, and a private show, respectively. In total, I probably watched fireworks about a dozen times.
-Ate a borderline irresponsible amount of crabs in both Guayaquil and Dương Đông.
-Replaced my passport twice.
-Bought a car and a motorcycle.
-Drove a rickety open-top 4x4 up a mountain in Quito to the Swing at the End of the World.
-Built many many things out of wood. Multiple tables, boxes, etc.
-Acquired a 5L sausage stuffing machine; stuffed sausages.
-Spit-roasted a suckling pig in my backyard with a homemade contraption.
-Celebrated the 3rd anniversary of the Izu Running Club. And I ran another 1/2 marathon.
-Hung a pre-owned sea turtle on my apartment wall.
-Rick and Morty.
-Made ginger beer and yogurt from scratch (separately).
-Didn't ride a bicycle. Not even once. Weird.
-Rode in boats into a cave in Dogashima, down an Amazonian river in a wood canoe, and around Georgian Bay near a town called Tiny.
-Likely more.



Another thing I built

I found this nice board of wood (albeit with a perfect defect) at the wood shop, and I found the legs in a forest while hiking. I attached them with threaded inserts (ムラコシオニメ...demon eye?).
Other stuff I built


Suckling Pig Roast

We made a suckling pig from the meat guy, and it was delicious. One and a half days to thaw, and exactly 4 hours to cook. I can't wait until next time!


1/2 Marathon

I just ran a 1/2 marathon in ketosis, and it was fantastic. It works!


4 Life Changing Principles in 297 minutes

Here are four incredibly excellent videos that have personally produced nothing but positive results. They are profound because they go directly against the conventional wisdom.

Eat whole wheat bread and cereal (and rice, grains, etc.)? Wrong.
Eat "natural sugars" and fruits (and drink their juice)? Wrong.
Eat margarine, low-fat yogurt, lean meats and canola oil? Wrong.
Stay covered and coated with sunscreen in the shade year-round? Wrong.

You could read their various books; I'm a nerd, so I have. But just watch these videos and you can be on your way to never being sleepy, hungry, moody, rash-ridden, forgetful, stressed, irritable, fidgety, nor depressed, as well as minimizing the risks of all sorts of things such as cancers, dementia, osteoporosis, obesity, autoimmune diseases, inflammation, allergies, arthritis, digestive problems, skin conditions, and so on.

Here they are:

1. Avoid wheat (and gluten, grains, and "gluten-free" high-glycemic-index substitutes)

2. Avoid fruit (and other obvious sugars like Oreos and Starbucks thingies)

3. Embrace fat* (bacon, lard, butter, ghee, avocado, coconut oil, animal and fish fats)

4. Embrace the sun (full exposure, mid-day, as often as possible for vitamin D)

*with the small caveat of avoiding vegetable oil, corn oil, crisco, and seed oils.

My Previous Health Posts

And don't worry, I'll keep posting random stuff I make, do, and take pictures of that aren't directly health-related.


First Sunrise 2014

Happy 2014! This year we hiked up my favorite mountain to watch the sunrise, then we jumped in the ocean. After that we ate osechi and went to Mishima Taisha. Good times were had by all!

Previous first sunrises: 2012, 2013


2013 Review: it was okay

Because plagiarism is flattery, and consistency is next to godliness, I'm doing the same thing that I did in 2012 and 2011. Here's my list of bullet points generally starting with verbs from this past year:

-Watched the first sunrise from my favorite mountain top
-Moved into a new apartment with a garden
-Relaxed in hammocks
-Embraced all things good about the sun
-Became passionate about my health (more so than ever)
-Kept up with my running club (though completely stopped running other than that)
-Did my fastest half-marathon (with six months of zero running beforehand)
-Visited Kyushu and soaked in sulfur baths before taking a ferry to a volcano and climbing on dinosaurs
-Cut my own hair
-Read some books
-Hosted my brother and his wife as well as my dad and his wife for Japan adventures
-Probably other things...

In terms of actual things done in typical list format, I didn't do too many quote-unquote epic things this year, but it was a truly excellent year. All good times with good people.

I had an awesome year. My goals for next year are similar to Woody Guthrie's.


Be careful not to speed!

A few times a month, there's a municipal "pedestrian awareness" or "traffic rules" or "check you speed" day. Volunteers and city workers will stand by the side of the road and wave flags while wearing bright sashes and uniforms reminding everybody to be safe on (and around) the roads. Driving through several municipalities every day, I see this often. Today was a little special, though.

On my motorcycle, I was coming up to a stale green light, and it turned yellow. Usually, about a half dozen cars will get through before it turns red, and even then about 2 more will make it through the red light. But because there were about 2 dozen uniformed volunteers on the street's corners, the first car slammed his brakes on, skidding. Which meant both I -in the cold slippery street- and the car behind me had to skid our tires a little bit. Just as I was reflecting -not for the first time- on the distractions and possible anxiety that these "safety days" cause, a lady volunteer (maybe 60 years old) came up to me. As I was stopped in the intersection on my motorcycle, listening to music with the face-shield down (and kinda shivering in the 2°C weather), she handed me this:
It's a hand-sewn little doll with a suction cup on a string to hang on your window. It says "Take care not to speed!"

She put it into my hands, smiled and essentially repeated what it says on the doll. How cool is that?


Some Stuff I Built

In the spirit of building things (my older sister's blog mostly about her kids), I figured I'd post pictures of some recent things that I built around the home.
Homemade backyard pull-up bar

Kitchen side table (with a broken ST250 crank shaft on the toaster oven)

Standing table where all our meals get eaten.


Kitchen-town Christmas

Because christmas is about giving presents, getting presents, and hanging out with people you like, this year we made the opportunity to have a bit of an early xmas (or maybe pre-xmas) in November. Six of us went to a magical place in Tokyo called "kappabashi-dori" in Asakusa. Another name for this street is "Kitchen Town*." I call it "the happiest place in Tokyo." We went with a plan.

Our plan was this: everyone had to buy something for each other person. There were some basic limits, so no one went overboard. And if you and someone else want to "team up" and buy a larger gift for someone, that was cool, too.

It worked out perfectly.

Here are, respectively, the bounties of Brian, Claire, Marc & Ana, and Misha & Zoe:

We also drank some very festive beer at Delirium in Shinjuku. The day after, we opened our gifts in Ueno park. 'Twas a very merry christmas indeed!

*Kitchen-town is a no-b.s. place free of noisy flashy lights and blind consumerism. It caters to professional chefs, mom & pop restaurants, humble home kitchens and everything in between. I've been there twice, and I can't wait to go again.

Misha did a nice write-up about it over on his pmk, too.


Making Soup (Bone Broth!)

Step 1: Get pig parts (foot, tail and femur in this case)
Step 2: Boil for a few hours with other good things
Step 3: Soup (for a week or more)


Primal or Paleo in Japan

I wrote 10 posts about my own health living here in Japan. Feel free to email me, ask questions, add (or correct) information, etc. Enjoy!

#1 - Health: Introduction
#2 - Health: Food
#3 - Health: Exercise
#4 - Health: Information Sources
#5 - Health: Side-Effects
#6 - Health: Specific to Japan
#7 - Health: About Ketosis
#8 - Health: Book Recommendations
#9 - Health: Extra Thoughts
#10 - Health: "S" is for Success (Summary)

I wrote these posts for a few reasons. Mostly because I'm currently passionate about this, and it's been quite successful for me so far. So it'll be interesting for me to read sometime in the future. But I also wrote it because I want my family and friends (generally the only people who read my blog) to live as long as possible and thrive happily.

Low-Carb High-Fat diet quickly explained in my notebook to a curious friend of mine.
Edit (Dec. 2013):
Get full body exposed sun as often as possible with no coverings or sunglasses
Avoid (in this order) wheat, fructose, gluten, glucose, high glycemic glucose free substitutes, trans fat oils, soy, corn, other grains
Eat high animal and fish fats. Don't fear butter, oils, lard, bacon, that nice white fatty strip on your steak, etc.


My Health: Extra Thoughts

Don't Rely on Accountability.
The Inefficacy of So-called Accountability to Others
The idea of accountability in health management (exercising, losing weight, etc.) is worthy in concept. "Keep a blog, twitter, facebook, dailymile, etc." is advice that I think was perhaps worthy in the past. Unfortunately, the "market" of  "I'm putting myself out there so people will hold me accountable" is over-saturated. There are so many updates from people we know (let-alone people we don't) that our level of caring has decreased. This allows the "wanna-be-fit person" to blame lack of attention, comments or pageviews on their decreased motivation. Does the encouragement of others enhance your motivation (thus chances of progress)? Absolutely. But conversely it's dangerous, because you can put the information out there (your time and effort) and get nothing in return. This is demotivating. Hold yourself accountable with something as simple as a calendar with check-marks.

Don't Use Willpower.
The Non-existence of Willpower and The Chemical Addiction, Dependency and Powerlessness of Sugar Consumption
Firstly, sugar is addictive. This is not even debatable. Knowing that it's a chemical reaction in your body telling your brain that it needs more is actually kind of freeing. If I can't stop myself from eating that bagel (sugar), it's not because I'm not a strong person. It's the same reason a heroin addict needs heroin. So admit it. You have no control. Then, as a friend of mine put it, make a choice; say, "Am I the kind of person who does or doesn't [insert behavioral change here]?" If you want to be the type of person who "never-says-no-to-ice-cream," then guess what? You'll have a flabby little baby belly until you change. Pro-tip: that was me.

Note: The National Geographic August 2013 issue had a great (yet heartbreaking) write-up about the history of sugar and mankind. Click that link to read it. Excerpt: "Africans, in other words, were not enslaved because they were seen as inferior; they were seen as inferior to justify the enslavement required for the prosperity of the early sugar trade."

Don't Get Caught-Up in Details.
So there's this thing called melatonin. In the morning, waking up and crawling out from your cave, or driving to work under the nice blue sky, our brain gets signaled to stop making melatonin. This tells your brain to "wake up." This is good. At night, when the sun is down and we don't see any blue light, our brain is signaled to start releasing melatonin. This makes for a much better (and beneficial) sleep.
Computers, smartphones and TVs produce blue light. This doesn't allow for melatonin to be produced before sleep, thus ruining (or at least lowering the efficiency) of our sleep. Significantly.
What can you do? Well, there's programsapps, products (that block blue light), products (that produce blue light), and then there's just being careful about not using screens before bed and making sure to see the sky in the morning.
But guess what? None of that matters if you're eating whole-wheat toast with margarine in the morning. None of that matters if you're sedentary. None of that matters if you are full of pills, sugar and other toxins. So don't worry about details like blue light and melatonin production. Not yet, anyway.

Don't put anything on your skin with more than 2 ingredients.
The only thing I put on my skin is either aloe or coconut oil. This includes soap, shampoo, lotions, creams, sunscreen, bug-spray and anti-antiperspirant, none of which I use.

Don't buy food with more than 2 ingredients.
This saves all the problems with reading labels (in whatever language). I actually opened my fridge to rack my brain for foodstuffs I buy with more than one ingredient (i.e. avocado, coconut oil, meat only has one ingredient). In my entire kitchen (which is fully stocked), I couldn't find any.

Think about it. Your body has 4 main barriers. Lungs, blood brain barrier, digestive tract and skin. Take care of them. And if you want to nerd out, there tons of fantastic new research always being done about the blood brain barrier.

Don't stress.
Get a hammock. Go out (park, backyard, riverside) and hang with a good book (or nothing). I've done this alone and with friends. Do it overnight for bonus points!
Jump in rivers, oceans, lakes, even pools and your own bath. Relax. Often.

Don't Cheap-Out.
Cost of Health
Ipod Touch - 230$ (24000 yen)
Yayog App - 2$
Yayog book - 13$
The Primal Blueprint - 15$
Food (the money you save on junk will be more than the money you spend on better groceries) - 0$
Cast iron frying pan (for bacon and eggs) - 25$
Hand mixer for awesome coffee - 5$ (They're in the 100 Yen shops here in Japan)

Guess what? All of the above are together only 290$. And you probably have a smartphone. And the books are not completely unnecessary (as most of the info is online). Living everyday feeling, looking and performing healthy is not expensive.

Don't be Impatient.
Give it 10 weeks. Do "You Are Your Own Gym" (or something like it) while eating high fat and low-carb (with no grains, gluten or processed food.) You will look, feel and perform better than you ever have before. I promise.

#1 - Health: Introduction
#2 - Health: Food
#3 - Health: Exercise
#4 - Health: Information Sources
#5 - Health: Side-Effects
#6 - Health: Specific to Japan
#7 - Health: About Ketosis
#8 - Health: Book Recommendations
#9 - Health: Extra Thoughts
#10 - Health: "S" is for Success (Summary)


My Health: Book Recommendations

Primal Blueprint
If you only read one book, read this one. It most definitely set me on the path of re-evaluating conventional wisdom.

The Paleo Solution
The thing I remember most about this book is that it not only went into depth about how our hormones and diet play with each other, but that I actually enjoyed reading it. It gave me an excellent foundation of understanding without being above-my-head scientific. This book is a must, too.

You are your own Gym
Y'know, exercise beyond just being generally active isn't so much necessary if you're eating right. However, if you want to be strong, flexible, energetic and look good naked, this book is your key. The reason? No equipment and no going to gyms (I've never been to a gym.) It's a sustainable program (not 12 hours a week or anything) at about 25 minutes, 4 times a week. It's also clear "this is what you should do now" instructions. And most importantly, it's got an amazing app.
There's also "Body By You" which is aimed toward women.

Paleo Manifesto
This fairly new book is a nice smattering without technical details of modern day human versus not modern day. I definitely enjoyed reading it, and I learned some stuff along the way. I highly suggest reading it.

Warrior Diet
I don't follow this diet (eating a bunch only once a day), but I remember getting some extremely good information from this book. Plus the guy has an awesome accent if you hear him in a podcast or something.

Disaster Diaries
My wife fell in love with this book. The basic premise is this: being prepared (practiced and educated) for disasters of any kind/scale can be useful and fun. The author goes through about a dozen different skill courses (from stunt-driving to fire-making to weight-lifting) and writes about his experiences with each one. It's message: make yourself more useful.

There are tons of paleo/primal/real-food/wild/HFLC diet/lifestyle books out there. Honestly, pick one with a pretty cover, and it'll be a good choice.

Other books I love that aren't particularly in this category, but I want to recommend regardless because I personally have grabbed many lessons from each one: Papillon, One More Day Everywhere, Alive, Red Tape and White Knuckles, and Don Don.

What books have you learned from and are important in your life?
#1 - Health: Introduction
#2 - Health: Food
#3 - Health: Exercise
#4 - Health: Information Sources
#5 - Health: Side-Effects
#6 - Health: Specific to Japan
#7 - Health: About Ketosis
#8 - Health: Book Recommendations
#9 - Health: Extra Thoughts
#10 - Health: "S" is for Success (Summary)


My Health: About Ketosis

Ketosis = State of being fueled by Ketones

When people ask me, this is how I describe ketosis:

Your body can only use one fuel source at a time.

Most people use glucose. Thus, your body is in "glucose burning mode."

Wheat (and other grains) become glucose as soon as they enter your body.  Anything sugary has glucose. Fruits, too. Carbohydrates are sugar.

I use fat. Thus, my body is in "fat burning mode."

So, I burn fat, regardless of what I've eaten and what exercise I have (or haven't) done.

You can't burn fat if you are burning carbohydrates.

One more time: You can't burn fat if you are burning carbohydrates.

Digging a little deeper, it's not actually just fat that I'm using for energy. Because of low carbohydrates (less than 30g/day), my liver is magically producing ketones. I am fueled by ketones.

What is a ketone?

Anecdote time:

Imagine your body is a bonfire. It needs to keep burning.

Sure, you can throw plastic bags, crumpled-up newspapers, twigs, paint-chips, gasoline, and old clothes on the fire. It'll burn. But it'll burn big hot unpredictable flames, then die out quickly. Okay, quick throw something else on it, we gotta keep it going!

This is your body being fueled by carbohydrates. Mood and energy swings. Ugly looking fire.

Or, you can plan a little bit ahead of time. Build a nice foundation of proper charcoal and dried wood. It'll burn nice and warm. Leave it be for a while? The fire stays the same. Place some new charcoal on the hot coals, it slowly fuels the fire.

This is your body being fueled by fats. Consistent energy and mood. Looks perfect.

Bonus: If you throw the occasional plastic bag on the charcoal fire, it simply lights up briefly and disappears, barely affecting the overall fire (though it's still not so healthy for the fire.)

Ketosis Explained in a simple video.
Further reading: http://www.ketogenic-diet-resource.com/ketosis.html

Bonus: Think about this: your body is anywhere from 8 to 30 percent body fat. If you weight 170 pounds, that's 5 to 17 pounds of fat. That's a lot of stored energy, which is why (in my case) fasting for short periods of time is not only easy, but actually good for me.

#1 - Health: Introduction
#2 - Health: Food
#3 - Health: Exercise
#4 - Health: Information Sources
#5 - Health: Side-Effects
#6 - Health: Specific to Japan
#7 - Health: About Ketosis
#8 - Health: Book Recommendations
#9 - Health: Extra Thoughts
#10 - Health: "S" is for Success (Summary)


My Health: Japan Specific

In no specifically formatted way, here's some perhaps helpful stuff related to being here in Japan.

脂肪 [しぼう] fat
たんぱく質 [たんぱくしつ] protein
炭水化物 [たんすいかぶつ] carbohydrate
砂糖 [さとう] sugar
甘い [あまい] sweet-tasting, sweet, sugary, sugared
植物油, 食物油 [しょくぶつゆ] vegetable oil
乳固形分 [にゅうこけいぶん] milk solid
無脂肪 [むしぼう] fat-free, no fat
脱脂粉乳 [だっしふんにゅう] powdered skim (nonfat) milk
香料 [こうりょう] flavoring
麩質 [ふしつ] gluten
癌 [がん] cancer
糖尿病 [とうにょうびょう] diabetes
体操 [たいそう] physical exercises, calisthenics

豚バラ Pork Belly

*Just like reading English labels. If it seems like a complex series of characters, it's probably best to avoid it.

Almond Flour (アーモンドプードル or アーモンドパウダー)
I use this sometimes for weird baking things. Mix to thicken stuff, though it doesn't always work.

Almond Butter (アーモンドペースト orアーモンドバター)
I haven't had this for a while, but usually it gets consumed straight from the spoon.

Coconut Oil (ココナッツオイル)
Every morning in coffee. Many uses. Ambika Japan's smells and tastes the most like coconut (awesome!) and cocowell is the only Japanese company I know of selling it (I bought a flat from them).

Coconut flakes etc. (ココナッツファイン)
Lazy finger food. Awesome toasted and added to stuff. I mix almond powder, ground coconut, cocoa powder and a bit of real whole cream in a bowl for a tasty weird snacky thing. Coconut flakes, vanilla and whole cream, make a nice sugar free ice cream. Just put it in a bowl and freeze for a few hours.

Ghee (澄ましバター or 精製バター or ギー)
I usually buy it from Ambikajapan; there's cow and buffalo. Ghee is amazing. Cook with it, put it in coffee, eat a spoonful, make killer soup. It doesn't even need to be refrigerated. You can also make it at home.

Lard (ラード)
This'll come in a white squeeze tube in the refrigerated section of your supermarket near the ramen noodles. Most local butchers will have it, too. I cook with it often.

Celery (セロリ) and Avocado (アボカド)
Easy: the celery is necessary only for bacon curing. It seems all the avocado's around me come from USA or Mexico. They're worth always having in your house.

Butter and Cream
I buy only the butter and whole cream from Hokkaido. It's a bit more expensive, but not really. I can't confirm whether or not the cows are grass fed (my Hokkaido friends seem to think they, in fact, are grass fed). Regardless, it's not something I can stress about too much as it seems that these are the highest quality options available. I regularly consume both.

Online Shops:
The Meat Guy is awesome. We'll get pork fat, beef tallow, sausage casings and lamb from him. Highy recommend him.
Ambika Japan is awesome. Spices, ghee, coconut oil and pickles.
Cocowell is awesome. A flat of coconut oil rules!
Amazon.co.jp has pretty much everything (including all of the above... themeatguy is on Amazon.co.jp!)

Fast food/Convenience stores:
I used to go think Sukiya was a safe bet for a quick lazy meal. I'd get the "gyudon light" which was shaved beef on lettuce and tofu. But tofu is not terribly healthy. And their beef has sugary syrup on it, so it's likely not super friendly. I've heard that Yoshinoya beef is all grassfed (from a reliable source) though I haven't found any more info. Sukiya allows orders of side dishes only so you can get a piece of fish, an egg or two, some kimchee if you really must. Moss Burger sometimes has burgers wrapped in a lettuce leaf instead of a bun, but I doubt they're grain/gluten/sugar free.

In a conbini, the only stuff I touch are the boiled eggs and occasionally (if I must) cheese, beef jerky, nuts, oden or sausage on a stick (at the front counter). My favorite choice is a stick of butter and a coffee. A 400 yen tide-me-over meal with 90 percent of the butter left over.

Some kaiten sushi places now have sashimi. All higher end places do. So, if you have to go out with some cheap friends, go to Hamazushi. Eat their sashimi and maybe a salad. Skip the soy sauce.

Popular Eating:
In any good izakaya, there are countless friendly options. Liver or hearts on a stick? Heck yes. Salty chicken or pork on a stick? Perfect. Fish (prepared almost any way) or any seafood for that matter's gonna be safe. Just don't eat anything battered and fried.

In ramen shops I ask for a side dish of meat (usually pork). I've been known to order "めんなし" or "no noodles" ramen. They're always happy to do it (though this doesn't ensure no gluten, just low carbs.)

Want a for sure safe bet? Find a Korean restaurant (not a chain) near you. They always have tons of delicious grilled meats and soups that have nothing bad in them. And as a bonus, they'll often have homemade kimchee.

Not that these have anything to do with food, but they absolutely are a big part of Japan. I think they tons have of health benefits from the science of cold/hot water and minerals in the water to the psychological benefits of just relaxing and doing nothing. Find an onsen or sentou near you, and go when you can! Find one with a rotenburo (outdoor bath), a mizuburo (cold bath) or  maybe a konyokuburo (mixed bath). One (slightly vain?) thing I've noticed about the onsen is that I'm more aware of my body composition than previously. I think this is good as perhaps not enough people think about their appearance whilst naked. I'm not sure how to put this, but if more people saw each other naked, maybe they'd more clearly see what is and isn't a healthy and natural body. Does that make sense?

Anyway, there's a few paleo, gluten free, ketosis, low carb blogs and what not floating around in Japan. This is just my one post about it. Questions? Comments? Errors?

#1 - Health: Introduction
#2 - Health: Food
#3 - Health: Exercise
#4 - Health: Information Sources
#5 - Health: Side-Effects
#6 - Health: Specific to Japan
#7 - Health: About Ketosis
#8 - Health: Book Recommendations
#9 - Health: Extra Thoughts
#10 - Health: "S" is for Success (Summary)