I was at the dentist this week and she mentioned that my teeth have become worse since coming to Japan. When asked why she thinks that might be, she said I probably need more fluoride:
(me): But don’t you put fluoride in your water here?
(dds): No. It’s not like the US and other countries.
(me): But, it’s in toothpaste and other dental stuff, right? <hesitant stupid question>
(dds): No. It’s not in any over the counter Japanese products. There may be some things which say fluoride, but it’s such a nominal trace amount to be useless – just for marketing maybe. You need to go to the dentist … You could go to an import shop and buy American products.
I was shocked. A first world country with bad teeth partially due to lack of this controlled substance. I suppose it might relate to the prevalent protectionism of this country. They recently changed the law to allow you to buy such dangerous drugs as aspirin at convenience stores (drug stores must be protected), but after months and months and months I have never seen it for sale. I can certainly buy a fresh white business shirt at the conveni so the soiled one from yesterday doesn’t reveal I’ve been out all night, but a Tylenol would be going too far! So, don’t even think of holding out for fluoride; Just visit your friendly dentist for a smile.
A rather damning article on Japanese gullibility, vis-a-vis the natto diet fiasco from earlier this year. I recall that the whole incident arose when a tv show proclaimed that a twice-daily consumption of natto (a foul-smelling, slimy feeling, and generally unpalatable Japanese delicacy) would aid in weight loss. I personally thought that this would be true for gaijin living in Japan. Eating natto twice a day would certainly kill any remaining desire for other foods. Less food intake = weight loss!
I didn’t really know about natto until I came to Japan. Remember reading an article back in September or so describing the financial plight of 20-somethings who live on natto and rice (and occasionally spring onions on top) because they don’t have enough money for other more “ostentatious” foods after deducting rent and other bills from their meager salaries.
Anyway, someone had related to me anecdotal evidence of food wastage in Japan. Following up, a quick search on Google highlighted the following. One, Japan is the largest importer and disposer of food in the world. While 75 percent of its food, disposes of a good 30 percent (the latter statistic is from the World Food Program). Two (this according to just-food.com), each of Japan’s 40,000 convenience stores disposes of Y10,000 to Y15,000 worth of bento boxes daily, totaling Y220 billion per year! Three, according to Japan’s Shunkan magazine, the volume of expired food disposed by convenience stores is around 6 million tons per year, roughly equivalent to 80% of the food assistance being supplied to developing countries. This would feed 50 million people for a year. (Another interesting stat – the amount of food wastage is roughly equivalent to the total production by Japan’s agricultural and fisheries industries!)
This is something that Japanese people stare in the face everyday. The array of food available at convenience stores is staggering. At any given moment, you can choose from a variety of sandwiches, onigiri (triangular seaweed-wrapped rice balls), salads, bentos, spaghettis. It appears that these are replenished at regular intervals because most of the food cannot be kept beyond a few hours (or one would be confronted with customers falling sick from ingesting old sushi). I know that I would bemoan the lack of such conveniences at whichever country I next live in, but in a way, I’m glad it’s only Japan that such waste is taking place.