Isolation in Japan, Ally McBeal, and Coffee Loving Co-Workers…the start of my caffeine addiction and my plan to quit it for good!

Let’s get one thing straight – I love my daily coffee and I’m sure most of you out there do too.  Let’s go back to the place where it all started.I returned to Japan in 2006 to teach English and was placed in a barren no man’s land called Mobara which is located in Chiba Prefecture.

Red marks the spot

My Western friends Natasha, Stephen, Paz, Sarah, and Martha affectionately refered to it as “NO”bara and shuddered dramatically whenever there was a mention of the tiny seaside town.

The Ladies of Japan: Natasha, Sarah, and Paz

The trainer that hired me told me it was close to Tokyo but having lived in Japan as a teenager I knew I was in for some serious isolation when pulling up a map and seeing its location.

How does this relate to coffee?  I’ll get there, bare with me.

So, upon arriving I had no friends and moved into a hot, dirty, cockroach invested apartment that was below the only train tracks in the town of Mobara.  Even though this town was crap and small, it had lots of trains that careened outside my door starting at about 4 am and continued till 12:30 am.  My first night in Mobara, I slept in that terrible apartment on someone else’s dirty futon (the school forgot to order me a new one) where I heard the pitter patter scattering of tiny little cockroach feet and was so freaked out that despite the heat I cocooned myself in a hot stain laden blanket all night.

Those first few months in Japan were hard and lonely.  My only friend was Season 1-3 of Ally McBeal (or as they refer to in Japan – Ally My Love) and delightful little chocolate covered pretzel sticks called Pocky.  It was depressing but I am glad I stuck it through because I met some of the greatest people there and it all started with my Japanese co-workers Yuki, Hiromi, and Ryusuke.  Besides being patient and fun teachers, they took me under their wing and kept me sane.  All three of them loved coffee and I started having daily cups of java with each of them where we discussed ridiculous students, staff members who couldn’t stop farting, world politics, and of course food and drinks.

I love these two ladies: Yuki and Hiromi

 Before I knew it, I had a coffee addiction and it continues to this day.  As a nutrition student, understanding the impact of coffee on the multiple systems of our body was eye opening.  In short, it puts our body into a fight or flight response which impacts our endocrine, circulatory, and nervous systems.  It causes a blood sugar reaction, cortisol levels to rise, and also impacts digestion.  It isn’t good for people with hypoglycemia and is super addictive.

I know all of this but I still don’t want to give up coffee.  As I type, I have a delicious coffee right next to me and it occurred to me today that it’s not necessarily the effect of coffee that I crave (alertness and of course it is tasty), but in fact the ritual.

Even though I love it, I’m ready to try to give up coffee.  No guarantees, but I’m committed to at least trying.  Here are the steps I am planning to follow – join me if you like!

1.)  Half the quantity you drink.  I am on day number two of this.  So far, so good.  If you are a  more than 1 cup a day right now, start to reduce the number of cups over the next week.

2.)  Let’s look at our diet.  If you are like me and rely on coffee to combat fatigue now is the time to start looking at what dietary factors may be contributing to your morning or afternoon low.  As a general rule, refined carbs, sugar, booze, and coffee (ironic I know) cause dips in blood sugar.    You can combat this by eating smaller more frequent meals that contain whole grains, lean proteins (try nuts and bean or bean dips), and most importantly water.  Stabilizing blood sugar combined with removing the Fight or Flight response inducing coffee will hopefully help us feel more alert.

3.)  Create a new ritual. I like the a hot morning drink so will be trying to have some herbal tea instead.  I have a box of Vanilla Honeybush tea on standby.  Some of the online sources I have been reading suggest that Stinging Nettle Tea is a good energy boosting alternative to coffee – it contains iron and adrenal gland supporting agents.

I will be updating you all on my progress over the next several weeks.  God Speed!



13 thoughts on “Isolation in Japan, Ally McBeal, and Coffee Loving Co-Workers…the start of my caffeine addiction and my plan to quit it for good!

  1. I cut back from 4 cups of coffee a day to about 1.5. I enjoy about a half cup with breakfast and then I take about a cup’s (plus a bit) worth to work in a thermos and savor it in the morning, having the rest around 2 pm with a small square of dark chocolate.

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