Japan, dreams, advice needed!

Hi :slight_smile: I’m Alyssa and I just would like to hear what others have to say, I’ve always wanted to go to Japan or even live there but I have type 1 diabetes I often worry a lot about it and overthink about what if’s a lot but I just want to know if I could still do it even if I’m a diabetic:) what do I do to stop worrying about it ?

Hi @Kiwigirll. Wow, an opportunity to go to Japan - that’s exciting! I have not traveled outside the US much and then only for a short time, but if you type “travel” in the forum search box you’ll find posts from people who can give you tips and shares their experiences. I don’t know about Japan specifically but I believe a lot of people in from countries know more English than we know their language so you should research that. The State Department publishes travel advisories, which I believe are related to safety; but I would think they have health related info as well or could point you in the right direction; and they would have information on protocol for where you are considering going so you make a good impression. That sounds like the logical place to start at least.
Not to throw a wrench into your exciting plans but I imagine with COVID you may not be able to go for a while - again State Department would have details - but this gives you some time to plan.
I’m tagging @szewee who wrote to the forum a while ago. He’s in Singapore, not Japan, but may be able to give you some insight into life in Asia for those with diabetes.

Hi @Kiwigirll. I travel a lot. (Though not recently due to the covid thing) I also do “what if” as part of my job. What are you worried about?

thank you for responding @joe :slight_smile: i often worry about if something will happen to me and also how do i count carbs and stuff if i do not understand that language, i will be very far from home and might not have anyone with me it’s out of the country so that’s mostly what i worry about what are some tips to stop my worries and get out of my comfort zone ?

@wadawabbit Hello :slight_smile: thank you for responding, yes it is a very scary but i really love the fact that you are giving me information and giving me ways to stop worrying thank you also for tagging someone! do you know anymore ways to stop worrying and any personal advice ?

ok so from eating at restaurants: all restaurants are difficult to impossible. I ate a plain burger at a US restaurant, and somehow there were 40 grams carbs (based on correcting my highs for 3 hours) in a PLAIN MEAT PATTY. crazy how they can hide sugar at restaurants. Anything breaded, or fried, or and ESPECIALLY sauces, will have high fat, and sugar contents. India and China the menu items were hard to identify, but you point and smile and they “know”.

with diabetes, there are always multiple situations where you don’t have enough data. could be food, could be a new activity, new stressors, etc. all I do is test more, and have carbs on me… that’s all.

I was in Tokyo for only a few hours as as a stop over going to China. fabulous city from what I could see, very “Manhattan-ish”. I then landed in Shanghai and then made my way to a industrial area about 2-1/2 hours away. I ate things I could not identify and in retrospect, things I probably didn’t want to identify either - don’t get me the wrong way, the food and my experience there was GREAT.

so - with any new thing, test more and you’ll be fine. Japan is built up and is equivalent to the US.

go to the CDC Traveler Health site here: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list

go to the US State Department site for travel warnings here https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html

Don’t underestimate your vaccinations and travel health advisories for mundane stuff like tetanus, or the more serious stuff like hepatitis, malaria, etc.

cheers. good luck. safe travels

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As @joe suggested, imagine the “What ifs” and have a plan and a backup plan for each of them. If I were going to a new place where I didn’t know anyone or speak the language I would want someone to go with me even if I did not have diabetes. Sometimes another set of eyes/hands/feet/lips can help figure things out. But I commend you if you do it on your own. I’m very cautious - perhaps overly so - so some initial thoughts are: have documentation translated explaining your medical equipment and that you have diabetes. Some countries have very severe laws when it comes to drugs and paraphernalia so if you use syringes you’ll need to be very careful. In Europe they measure BG in mmol rather than the MG we are familiar with so you’ll need to be able to convert if you’re going to live there or need to seek medical care.
I think determining and figuring out the “What ifs” will take care of a lot of what happens when you get there. Advance work like contacting an embassy, or checking with an organization such as Youth for Understanding can help you with things to consider before you leave. Another option could be faith based organizations - my church does mission trips each summer (at least until COVID) - some for youth, some for families - and they should have checklists of things to do to prepare.

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@Kiwigirll Hi Alyssa, and welcome to the JDRF TypeOneNation Forum!

I have NOT traveled to, nor have I lived in Japan. I’m assuming that you are still relatively young [at least in comparison to me], and that you have many years yet to experience life. A decision I made, at least in my mindset, about 55 or 60 years ago is to live my life fully and find some way to manage my diabetes to accommodate my ambition. I have diabetes, I am not a diabetic; I don’t let diabetes dictate.

That said, know what you are doing, make diabetes management your science project and live life fully. You have wonderful “diabetes tools” to help your management.

As fpr your very specific concerns about counting carbohydrates, and communicating with the people of Japan, I will say that your experience will vary from place to place in Japan - city as opposed to the extreme rural. A Japaneses man worked [computer programmer] in my Company and I can tell you that his spoken American was clearer and better than many of the folks who lived in this country their entire lives. I have known other people who lived in Japan for extended periods [none with diabetes] and found their surroundings very accommodating. Everyone I’ve known lived near big cities or US military bases. You will need to assure a supply of insulin, and find a Medical Doctor.

Go for it!!!

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Thank you very much for all the help I highly appreciate it :slight_smile: !!! @joe

I will definitely prepare and be ready when the time comes :slight_smile: thank you so much for helping me !! @wadawabbit

@Dennis thank you so much I will definitely go for it and stop being scared and just be prepared I really need to live my life and just accept that I have diabetes but it definitely won’t stop me thank you for helping me :slight_smile: !!!

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Hi Alyssa,

My daughter also wants to go to Japan. She gets boxes of Japanese foods (similar to Loot Crate). While she is not a diabetic, I am, and I often try the foods she gets in these boxes. She has found a translator online where she can check the carbs for me. She’s at work right now, but I’ll ask her to either post the info here, or give me the info on the site she uses and I will post it for you.

As others have noted, still keep supplies on hand in case of highs/lows. Never leave it to chance. Check your blood sugar frequently. Even with the carb translation, they could be off and/or your body may react in an unexpected way to the new foods - - IE: Some foods list carbs even here in the USA which don’t seem to correspond to how my blood sugars react when I eat them. You have to get to know your body and how different foods affect you…

Just remember, “Where there is a will, there is a way!” (something my mother has always told me! :smiley:

Pam K.
T1D 56+ years and counting!

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Hi again,

My daughter uses the Google Translate app on her phone. It has a camera function with an instant translation or a ‘scan from picture’ translation. Both work well. She uses the instant to check carbs and the scan to check larger sets of info like the ingredient list. With the scan function the image comes up with boxes for each item listed and she swipes her finger across to see the list in English. Thus, she can choose what she wants/needs to see.

Hope this helps, and that your wish comes true!

Pam K…

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Hey, I lived in Japan for a year and a half. Feel free to ask me any questions you may have. I’d be happy to help.

@pamcklein hello !!! Thank you so much for responding and giving me advice and also helping I so much appreciate everything you said I will definitely download the app thank you and tell her I said thank you as well :slight_smile: have a great day and stay safe !!

@TeenageCyborg you have diabetes as well ? Well my question is what is it like ? How do you manage? :slight_smile: is it scary ? And what are some ways to enjoy the time being there ? :slight_smile:

I have T1D. I manage my diabetes with an omnipod and a dexcom. I didn’t find it scary, but I am used to living overseas. Where in Japan are you going and for how long?

I have been lucky enough to travel, and my initial thoughts were the same. However, being type 1 we have all learnt to handle things as they come, so remember you have the skills to handle anything that comes your way!


Go for it.

Funny thing, I was diagnosed in Japan. I was in the USMC at the time.

I lived and ate mostly on the base. But did get out often. Ate in local restaurants etc. Japan is a very interesting/cool place.

This was a long time ago though and I didn’t even have a blood tester. They weren’t invented yet.

I have also traveled alone in Europe. As long as you test often and are prepared you should do just fine.

I would recommend what the others have said. Test often. Always carry snacks. You can do this.

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Hello @Kiwigirll and @wadawabbit, apologies i have been incredibly swamped with work lately. My girlfriend and I can probably give a little bit of advice regarding meals in Japan.

I live in Singapore and we’re about 9 hours away from Japan. Asian cuisines have a huge variety, most of them were carb and sugar heavy! So you have to really be quite careful. One thing about Japanese cuisines though - in most of their meals - rice are served separately.

My girlfriend (who has T1D) have travelled to Japan 3 times within the last 5 years, each time staying for about a little more than a week! It is definitely possible to enjoy your time there - as with all cuisines around the world, there are also Japanese food that are low in carbs/ sugar, so again - there are options. :slight_smile:

If you are planning to live there, I feel like there’s a good chance that you will be cooking a lot for yourself - that way you are able to also control the kind of food you take in.

As with all things, I think the key to taking away your worry is to get more knowledgeable about things - in this case, ingredients which are common in Japan food etc. I think your main concern is perhaps the language barrier, identifying the food. Because once you know the food type/ name, you can always google to see what goings into the cooking process.

My girlfriend and I both love japan, and we do indulge in Japanese cuisines in Singapore fairly often. We would just go a little heavier on the proteins, while I would take more of the carbs etc. Being a T1D has not given my girlfriend any fear of going to Japan - I believe that with sufficient preparation and knowledge, you will be able to visit and enjoy your time in Japan too!

Give me a day or so, I have found some resources that might help you in Japan - including how and where to procure supplies. I will be able to get back to you with a more helpful post! I’ve been to Japan several times myself so feel free to reach out about the types of cuisines you can have there!

Cheers and stay safe! I hope this helps! :slight_smile: