12 Rules While Visiting Japan

Some people may think that Japan has many β€œrules,” but I think it creates order and a sense of calm. I love rules and I love when people respect and follow rules. I was a Kindergarten teacher after all πŸ˜›. These were some of my observations from my one week vacationing in Japan last week:

1) Stay quiet in tight spaces like subways, buses, or elevators so as not to distract the sound space we all share. I remember boarding our first bus after getting off the plane and it was crowded. Like really crowded, standing-room only. And it was completely silent. I was in awe in the best way. Welcome to Japan!

2) Carry your own trash and dispose of it at home. Most people carry plastic bags to carry bigger trash like food containers. There are very few garbage cans. Definitely none are on the streets or in every corner like we are used to. This was my second realization because I was holding an empty water bottle from the airplane all around as we got our luggage, figured out the subway, and got to our hotel. The whole time I was thinking, “Why can’t I find a trash or recycling bin?”

3) Eat in designated areas like benches, tables, or picnic blankets, not while walking around and definitely not in indoor spaces like department stores. I am so used to eating on the go, especially if I buy a hot snack or something. Nope. Resist eating it right away and walk to the side of the road to find a more private spot. Goes along with probably why there is no trash (or crumbs) on the floor.

4) Line up in the order you arrive. Seems like a straightforward rule right? But where else in the world do you see clear, distinguished straight lines for getting on to the subway? Less than a handful of other places I would think. I personally LOVE this unspoken rule because it makes me so anxious in other Asian countries where a huge crowd just forms in front of the subway door and it’s a pushing game. Ugh.

5) Walk on the left, yield on the right. This is the opposite direction for me, but you get used to it. Even on the escalators, everyone lines up on the left side, generously leaving space on the right for anyone who is in a rush and wants to walk up the steps. No need to say “Excuse Me” to pass by. People are just always thinking about each other.

6) Keep your body to yourself. How does such a crowded city like Tokyo manage to walk by each other without pushing or shoving shoulders? Yes, during rush hour the subways will be completely jammed and you will be squished like never before (when this happened for the first time, I started getting a laugh attack because I had never been so tightly packed before, ever, but I kept it a silent laugh because, well, it’s silent on the subway, which made me start to cry and sweat profusely). Even so, it wasn’t creepy. Everyone just looked away, stood still and quiet, and stayed respectful.

7) Respect your elders, and each other. I saw 2 geishas walk by each other, and although they both bowed, the β€œyounger” one clearly bowed deeper. And when you start to observe two people saying goodbye, one bows, the other bows, then they continue bowing back and forth as they walk away. It was so interesting to watch. Ok more about bowing next.

8) Body attention. You know when you talk to someone and then you see their eyes looking somewhere else, or they look down at their phone, or they fidget, or they interrupt, or you generally feel like their attention is just not fully there? Well in Japan, when you greet someone, it is a full on eye contact and physical bow to acknowledge the other person. Somehow the β€œarigato gozaimasu” or thank you, combined with a full attention bow is much more powerful. For our last night we ate at Kikunoi, a 3 Michelin Star restaurant in Kyoto. At the end of dinner, we had a special tour by the chef. He brought us to the kitchen where all the workers were eating after a long night, and they all immediately stopped eating, stood up and froze looking at us. Complete stillness, complete respect, complete attention. Wow.

9) Bring hand sanitizer and a handkerchief – one thing I wish I had brought. To go along with the no trash rule in number 2, bathrooms have no paper towels to dry your hands with and many do not have soap either. Just a sink with water. I would keep Kleenex too just in case because some public tourist spots did not have toilet paper. Generally however, Japanese toilets are the best. They have warm seats and a million buttons to play with, like even a “music” button if you need more privacy going poop. Ha! And babies? Many bathrooms have built in booster seats for babies so you can go potty without figuring out to hold your baby at the same time! They think of everything!

10) Be prepared to walk. I averaged 12 miles a day just walking around Japan, and that includes a ton of stairs! What I noticed is that elderly Japanese people also walk. I mean, their food is already pretty healthy, so you combine that with the amount of walking they must do??? Easy recipe for a naturally healthy long life!

11) Be on time. My best example is the train system. It is so efficient and the trains are so precise, like 10:52 is your time? You can be sure your train will not wait until 10:53! Even if half of your party is on the train and the other half are trying to get on – those doors will close. Yes we learned that the hard way – I was left behind.

12) Finally, just be observant. When I visit another place, I am an ultra sensitive person to trying to fit in. Probably too much so. You don’t need to completely conform to that culture, however, we just have to remember to be respectful. To open up our eyes and our ears and be willing to change some of our old habits while we are visitors.

Of course there are exceptions to what I wrote above, and these were just my experiences. Yours may be different. But I do hope that you find the Japanese culture as one to admire. I really felt safe. I felt clean. I felt like they were doing something right. Want to know the unemployment rate? It is 2%. That’s something right.

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4 Ways I Balance Family, Fitness, and Fun!

 

Hiking in Yosemite with my daughters.

I would be lying if I told you it is easy to be the primary caretaker for my two girls, 4 and 1 years old, while working full time teaching 15 fitness and yoga classes a week, and serving as the Lead 200RYT Teacher Trainer and Director of Operations and TRX at Marin Power Yoga.    The struggle is real, but I am truly doing everything that I love!

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Here are some tips on how I try to balance it all:

1) Make Exercise A Priority

I have a hard time getting through a day without moving around, or stretching at the very least.  I feel restless, easily irritable, and end up having little to no energy.  I just feel bad.  When I do get to exercise, I feel like I am a battery that is fully charged and ready to go!  I have that much more energy (and patience) to give to my family.

Create a predictable and reasonable routine that you can follow every week.  Decide how many days per week and when is the best time of the day for you to exercise.  Perhaps it is at midnight like me after the kids have gone to sleep and finally all my work is done!  Set your routine, and make exercise a priority for your health, so that you can take care of your family.

2) Set Aside Quality Family Time Everyday

When I get home after a long day, I dread the endless list of chores I have to do – dishes, dinner, laundry, cleaning, lunches for the next day… I could easily spend the entire evening multi-tasking between these chores and spending time with my family.  Actually, up until recently, dinnertime looked like my kids eating at the table while I ran back and forth between the kitchen doing chores versus sitting down to have a meaningful meal together.

Now I am making a conscious effort to give my complete attention to my family especially during dinnertime as a priceless opportunity for conversation, as well as during bath time as a place for silliness and play, and during bedtime routines where we read stories together.  Set aside quality family time everyday with no multi-tasking, no interruptions, and no distractions (that includes the phone!).  It can be as short as 5 minutes one day, it can be an hour another day.  When you give your full attention to your family, they will notice and appreciate it.

3) Be Fit Together

When I started teaching at Marin Power Yoga, one of the open time slots was Saturday at 9:30am.  Right away I said no because I did not have childcare on the weekends.  Jamie, the owner of MPY, offered to open a concurrent kids yoga class so that my daughter would not only have childcare, but would also learn yoga too.  How could I say no to that?

We are role models for our kids, and when they see us leading active lifestyles, they will naturally too.  Everyday, my daughters take our dog out for walks with me even though we live on a big, steep hill.  I am often doing Yoga or TRX at home for my Instagram posts (@gracelingyu), and you see my kids playing around me or my older daughter trying some poses too.  What else is fun?  A DANCE PARTY of course!  Fitness and family time are not exclusive of one another.  We can be fit together.

4) Get Outside and Play

My most favorite way to balance family and fitness is to plan day trips or vacations together.  I literally go through my calendar and plan out these special family excursions or else it will simply not happen.

We just went to Yosemite with my sister’s family and my parents, and all of us from ages 1 to 70, went hiking for 3 days in a row.  We saw waterfalls, lakes, meadows, tunnels, and animals, and my daughter gained confidence climbing on logs, crossing bridges, and jumping off logs.  She learned to get back up after falling down, and most importantly, it was the best quality time with the ones I love, doing something active and healthy for all of us.  There are so many beautiful places right next door to you.  With the weather getting warmer, we have no excuse not to be outside in nature.

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I thank my parents for always being my role model when I was young.  I distinctly remember our evening bike rides after dinner, annual family trips to go skiing, and their support enrolling me in all my favorite fitness activities.  Even now, they wear pedometers and walk 10,000 steps daily.  I hope one day to be a role model to my daughters, and see them living healthy, active, fit lifestyles with their future families.

“Family, nature, and health all go together.”

~ Olivia Newton-John

15-Day Australia Itinerary (With a Toddler)

Sydney Bridge Australia

Enjoying dinner at the Opera House across from the Sydney Bridge.

A couple of months ago, my husband found out he was going to have a rare, extended vacation over the summer months of July and August, and we decided to take advantage of his time off and travel for 2-3 weeks internationally.Β  We could have gone anywhere, but when choosing a vacation spot, we realized that we were actually quite limited with the choices because we were going to be traveling with our then 22-month-old toddler.Β  Some factors that affected our decision included: avoiding extremely hot or humid places, cleanliness and ease of on-the-go diaper changes, safety walking around and using public transportation, friendliness to Americans or English-speakers, and lastly, plenty of child-friendly activities and destinations.

We ended up deciding to go to Australia, and although we had to endure a 15-hour flight from California, it turned out to be the best vacation for our family.Β  Australia was the perfect place because: our summer is their winter, which turned out to be perfect 75-degree weather in some areas, the city takes incredible care of the community by keeping the streets, parks, and all public areas extremely clean, it was very safe to be out walking in the streets even at nighttime, everyone was beyond friendly and helpful especially for lost tourists, and Australia’s activities – like seeing a koala or kangaroo – are must-do activities for a person of any age.

For anyone who is interested in traveling to Australia, especially if you have a child, or if you would just like to see what Australia has to offer, I would love to share our family’s 15-Day Australia Itinerary to Sydney, Cairns, and Hamilton Island.Β  Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like more details about any part of our trip!Β  Happy reading!

Zaydee to Australia

Kurunda Koala Gardens

Koalas are really as cuddly as they look!