3 Common Japanese Health Practices (That Aren’t Hard To Follow)

Easy Tips To Supplement Your Health Goals

By Katheryn Gronauer
January 15, 2018
Health & Beauty

Made a resolution to get healthy in 2018? Take advantage of these effect-proven health tips from Japan.

In a previous article, I shared with you three health tips I learned in Japan that helped me lose 40 pounds, which included insight into why eating seasonally is important, how taking a bath can help your body burn as many calories as taking a half-hour walk, and how to rethink exercise intensity.

Before I moved to Japan, I always felt like getting healthy was a chore. I’d have to have the willpower to avoid foods I loved, and I spent more time at the gym instead of with my friends. I constantly felt like I had to make a choice between being healthy with a boring social life, or engaging with people and not make the best food decisions.

But there are some really easy things you can do to improve your health without making it feel like a chore. Here are three basic and easily achievable ideas from Japan to supplement your health journey.   

1. Add fermented foods to your daily diet

One of the leading causes of any health issue (from weight issues and digestive discomforts to skin problems and chronic diseases) is poor gut function. No matter what your health goal is, any nutritionist would most likely tell you to start with your gut.

Our guts are the home to trillions (yes, trillions!) of bacteria. Most of the bacteria are essential to helping us break down and absorb nutrients from the foods we consume. But when there is an imbalance of good bacteria to bad bacteria due to stress or eating foods that don’t agree with your body, it can be difficult for our bodies to absorb the nutrition we need, creating a domino effect of other health issues depending on your unique condition.

[Before coming to Japan,] I constantly felt like I had to make a choice between being healthy with a boring social life, or engaging with people and not make the best food decisions.

One way to help our bodies digest foods smoothly is to eat healthy bacteria, which you can find in fermented foods. Luckily, Japan is where you’ll find fermented food galore. Head to your supermarket and pick up some fermented foods of your choice, like pickles (tsukemono), miso, natto, shiokoji for seasonings, amazake, kombucha and or kimchi.

The recently opened fermented food specialized store Noren Muro just outside Iidabashi station is a great place to familiarize yourself with key Japanese fermented food ingredients. Plus they are also great as souvenirs — if you want to send the gift of good health to a loved one.

You’ll find a great selection of fermented food and ingredients at Noren Muro Kagurazaka, a recently opened fermented food specialized store just outside Iidabashi station in Tokyo.

Keep in mind that you only need a few bites per meal to get a great boost of healthy bacteria. If you get too excited and consume too much, you might wind up feeling bloated.

What to buy: Miso, shiokoji paste, amazake, kombucha tea, Japanese pickles, natto
Where to get it: Local supermarkets, Noren Muro (Iidabashi)

2. Go for a lymph massage

If you’ve ever opened up a Japanese fashion or beauty magazine, you’ve probably seen diagrams of women massaging their face and body in a strategic motion. If you’ve wondered what that is all about, it’s for the purpose of helping our lymph system move out wastes which helps prevent bloating and poor skin conditions.

Our lymph system is located just under our skin and is designed to move out wastes through our armpit and groin area. However, there’s one caveat: the lymph only moves when you move.

Most people who sit at a desk all day long (yes, we’re all victims of that) notice that they have shoulder tension and swollen calves by the end of the day, which means that there could be stagnation in your lymph system from lack of movement. It’s really important in this case to make sure to rub your body or go for a massage to help with your body’s overall circulation.

Luckily, in Japan, it’s very common in most oil massage or facial spas to find lymph massages on the menu — just Google リンパマッサージ and you’ll get hundreds of recommendations in your area. 

Where to get it: Elana Jade, Azabu Juban (for first-time customers, use this special free massage offer), Ricetta, Azabu Juban; Esperanza, Shinjuku, Ginza, Nakameguro; Slow Life, Ebisu, and your local massage spa. Or have a DIY lymphatic massage at home using your oil or body cream of preference and a solid object to assure firm pressure to your legs and other lymphatic points.

3. Have more macrobiotic desserts

Macrobiotics is an eastern philosophy that talks about balancing our foods based on yin and yang properties. The Japanese teishoku (set menus), is a great example of this — it is organized well based on these concepts, and macrobiotics teaches you additional benefits behind eating according to seasons and with whole foods. Think of it as the eastern philosophical way of “clean eating.”

Traditional Japanese desserts are made with wholesome ingredients that are less stressful on the body while still satisfying your sweet tooth. You’ll find macrobiotic desserts in healthy grocery stores like Natural House, or in vegetarian cafes that use alternative ingredients. Some Natural Lawson convenience stores also carry macrobiotic cookies in their snack section.

I’m recommending desserts because they’re a great way to get excited about improving your health. If you’re looking to take it one step further, you can look into Macrobiotic cooking classes. An excellent English-speaking teacher is Kushi Macrobiotic School’s Patricio Garcia de Paredes who is located in Yoyogi Uehara.

What to buy: Sweets that have the words “macrobiotic” (macrobi, マクロビ)on their packages.
Where to buy: Chaya Macrobiotics, Hibiya; Natural Lawson convenience stores, Natural House, Bio C’Bon, most health-conscious supermarkets. 

Getting healthy doesn’t have to be about restriction or finding extra time in your day to exercise. Instead, it’s much easier to start with foods and body care that help your body aid its natural process more smoothly. Making these simple adjustments will have a positive impact on your overall health.