Monday, September 18, 2017

Japan: Land of Carbs

In a couple days, I'm moving to Japan to begin working toward another degree at 北海道大学 (ほっかいどうだいがく - Hokkaidō Daigaku), Hokkaido University. With my studies of Japanese language, culture, and society--not to mention actually living in 札幌 (さっぽろ - Sapporo)--I'm hoping that translates to more frequent blog posts!

When in Japan, I'd like to keep up my healthy habits--sticking to my relatively low-calorie, low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet and continuing to work out--but it's not going to be easy. Not only does Japanese cooking use sugar in pretty much every dish (ever heard of 味醂 [ん - mirin]?), but I'm going to be an hour's walk from campus, which is where the (free) gym is. Thankfully, I'll be living across from a subway station, which will cut my commute by 3o to 40 minutes. (A big thank you to my dad for having the fatherly foresight to help me out with train fare, which will undoubtedly be a boon during Sapporo's cold, snowy winter.)

BAKE cheese tarts at Ikebukuro Station:
delicious carbs from Hokkaido
One of my favorite pastimes in Japan is eating carbs, whether in the form of rice, noodles, bread, donuts...whatever. The number of bakeries, noodle restaurants, and cafes in any big city is mind-boggling--and drool-inducing.

Recently, my daily carb average has been clocking in under 80 grams. Let's look at a few estimates of what I can expect:

1 cup steamed white rice
白飯 (はくはん - hakuhan)
55g carbs

2 oz. udon noodles 
饂飩 (うどん - udon)
40g carbs

1 slice Japanese bread
ン (しょくン - shokupan)
35g carbs

2 oz. ramen noodles 
拉麺 (ラーメン - ramen)
30g carbs

Mister Donut Pon de Ring
ポン・デ・リング (Misudo pon de ringu)
27g carbs

12 oz. Sapporo beer
(Sapporo biiru)
10 carbs

So basically, everything I've enjoyed during past visits to Japan is pretty much off limits. When I'm reading nutrition labels, the kanji I need to look out for is 炭水化物 (たんすいかぶつ - tansuikabutsu), the characters for "carbohydrate." I'm hoping that at the very least, I'll be able to find cheap cauliflower at a nearby grocery store so I can rice it for a decent rice substitute for my morning natto.

In a country where many believe a meal isn't complete without a bowl of rice, it's going to be a struggle. Wish me luck in the Land of Carbs!