Tag Archives: Japan

I’ve Always Been a Little Goofy

Silly Me

Silly Me

Yep, goofy should have been my middle name instead of what I ended up with. But, I’m not complaining. My mom had to name 6 kids. I was the first, so I figure she was just practicing names when I was born.

My son’s dad sent me a few photos recently. These were taken way back when we were in our late 20s traveling in japan together. We did end up breaking up in the end, but mostly I remember the good parts. And there were many of those. Love is still love, even when people go off the rails.

We zipped around Japan on the bullet train and ate all kinds of strange foods. We even took a trip through a Japanese emergency room when our little guy pitched a fit so hard over a diaper change that his eyes rolled up in his head and he went into convulsions. The first doctor that approached us knew very little English. The only thing he said was “epilepsy” and “grand mall seizure.” I wasn’t buying it.

My Baby Boy

My Baby Boy

Finally an English-speaking doctor was trotted out and he explained that it was nothing to worry about. Babies can have tantrums so intense that they actually knock themselves out and come to in a few minutes, none the worse for wear. This is much more common in boy infants than girl infants. Why am I not surprised?

My son was in interesting little critter when he was a baby. He’s the only baby I ever heard that didn’t cry when was he was born, instead he giggled. I remember thinking “now this is a kid after my own heart.” I taught him how to swim in a hot tub when he was 6 months old. He loved it and would slither around and play like a like a fur-less sea otter.

Japan was where I discovered, by a rather circuitous method, that I had no wisdom teeth. What I did have was a horrendous pain in my jaw and was convinced that it was my wisdom teeth trying to come in. After looking at an X-ray, the dentist told me that they were already removed. I insisted that they had not because I would the first to know if they had been removed.

Japan on a sunny day

Japan on a sunny day

With me being in incredible pain and the dentist being disgusted with an uncooperative patient, the encounter escalated into a shouting match. The nurse panicked and called the American Embassy in Tokyo to ask for help in translation. So with the assistance of an Embassy translator, we ascertained that I had a cavity in a molar that needed filling and the dentist pretended to believe that I never had wisdom teeth inthe first place.

I asked the translator to apologize to the dentist for my rude behavior. The translator said that the dentist wished to apologize as well. Nothing about the look on his face conveyed regret, but I let it slide because he was the one with the drills and the pain meds. Years later I found out that having no wisdom teeth is not all that uncommon. Maybe that explains a lot?

Don’t Eat the Water

Japan Sewer Cover

25 years ago in Japan there were still towns with open sewers. Oh the covers were pretty, some had very interesting grill work. They were all neat and tidy but rather odoriferous. Traveling is always an eye opener. Whether you stay at the Hilton or the YMCA. Some of the things that seem to be basic comforts of home are just not there. And you never know what it’s going to be. The best thing to take with you is a flexible attitude. It’s light weight and doesn’t take up much room in your luggage. In Japan it was towels. The rooms provided a robe but no towels. In Warsaw, Poland it’s making change, if you ask for change for a Zloty, they look at you as if you have done something completely horrible, and suddenly forget how to speak English. But, that’s a story for another day.

I didn’t go to Japan with a tour group. I just wandered around from city to city. Some the places were rather rustic. One hotel I stayed in made the Motel Six look like the Four Seasons in comparison. At one place I stayed there was a sign in the washroom that read “please don’t eat the water.” I could pretty much guess what that meant. Later one woman who could speak a little bit of English, pointed to the drain, held her nose and said “No drinky watah.” OK, bottled water or sake it is.

Bath houses were not a luxury in Japan 25 years ago for the average Joe. It was that or take a cold shower literally in an ally from a nozzle sticking out of the side of the building. If you were lucky it was not in plain view from the street. I learned how to shower in the dark. An apartment building I stayed in had 1 room for toilets on each floor, not per apartment. It was not segregated by gender. Lingering in the john was was not a neighborly thing to do. There was no bathing facilities. The bath houses were usually open from about 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm so you couldn’t just cruise in there whenever you felt like it.

A friendly Japanese lady took me there the first time to show me the ropes. Woman were not so westernized at this time and some had elaborate make up rituals. They even shaved their eyebrows off and them painted them back on. This may seem like no big deal, but looking through a cloud of steam in the bathhouse was sort of scary the first time. My escort wandered off and I couldn’t tell which one she was. Saying they all look alike seems rather rude, but you try picking a particular woman out of a sea of black haired women all in the nude, not even eyebrows. It’s not as easy as you think it would be. She finally started waving her towel and called me over.

The bath houses were segregated, theoretically. You walk in there, park your clothes (all of them) in a locker and head into the bath area. There is a wall down the center of the room about chest high, for a woman about 5 foot tall, not me. That is what separated the female side from the male side. So basically unless you crawled around on you hands and knees, which is rather undignified, you may as well let go of being shy. It was one big happy family in there. People talked and laughed across the wall and passed children back and forth.

Everyone sat on little stools and showered before getting in the tub. You did not get in communal tub without this step. The first time I stuck my toe in the tub, I thought, “oh my God, I’m going to boil alive.” But I didn’t. After a while I turned into a wet noodle of happiness. Bath house where have you been all my life?

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