Tatami, Ichiba, Matsuri, Onsen

October 26

After about a full week of being dreadfully sick from a flu virus, I finally decide to request some help and get myself to a doctor’s office here in Japan. I had been reluctant to do so, being fearful of similar prices that we have in America. I have insurance coverage, but it is a reimbursement system for international claims, so I was a bit apprehensive since insurance claims are always a hassle. But, enough is enough, and I wanted to get better sooner rather than later, so I begin to test my options for transportation to a doctor’s office or hospital.

The first stumbling block I came to was the fact that the vocabulary I had for hospital was apparently what they also use for private doctor practices or clinics. So I thought I had been saying that I don’t want to go to the hospital, but really I was saying the opposite of what I wanted, unknowingly. Finally with that misunderstanding out of the way, the helpful staff at the student services office at the engineering campus locate a clinic near the campus there. Now for the transportation issue. Biking of course was out of the question, as that trip is tough when you’re healthy, let alone too weak to walk up to your 4th floor room. I called my host mother to see if she was available to come pick me up and drive me. Unfortunately, Friday was the only day that week that she was indeed busy, and she was “angry” that I didn’t call her earlier in the week when I got sick. Finally, things work out and we are able to get my tutor, Sone-san to come and pick me up. He came to pick me up and take me to engineering, then once we were there, I am escorted by Nakamura-san from the office, down the street to the clinic. After being seen, paying an unexpectedly low cost, receiving medication on-site, and being sent on my way, Nakamura-san and her boss give me a ride back to my dormitory. When I get back, I get a call from my host father telling me that Chiharu-san is going to come pick me up from the dorm so that I can spend the weekend with them and recover. I have to say, that was easily the best news I had heard all week! By 3:00 pm I was at the Oki’s house, relaxing and recovering.

Back at the Oki’s, October 27 & 28

Saturday morning was busy as usual. Takao-san was going on a tour of the Seto Inland Sea. I was invited, but it seemed to be a bit of a stretch since I was still recovering. Instead, I stayed home and was able to see a rare sight at their neighbor’s house. One which even most native Japanese people have not seen. Traditional Japanese style tatami mats being made by hand. It was very cool and meant a lot to me since I love tatami. They provide a warm, earthy feel. Better than any hardwood floor or rug in my opinion. After that, together with Ryunosuke, Chiharu, and two of their friends (another mother and son pair) we returned to the fish market, Ochiba, because there was a festival being held there that day.

After returning from the festival, we relaxed for a bit until Takao returned home. After that, we went to the onsen, what the Japanese call a hot spring. Families go to them fairly often as a retreat to bathe and relax. First you shower and get clean. Then we soaked in the indoor bath for a bit before moving to the courtyard where there were three more baths to choose from, all having differing temperatures and aspects to them. One was the hottest, being close to 105 degrees. I avoided that one and got into one which was slightly cooler, clocking in at around 103 degrees. All of these pools had natural oils or soaps in them that left your skin feeling very soft and smooth. Last, but certainly my favorite of the bunch, was a bath that was closer to body temperature and was infused with CO2. The combined effect left you feeling like you were floating in a figurative cloud. (Not an actual cloud, because we all know those are actually very cold and probably unpleasant.) I stayed in that one the longest. By the time I finally decided to move, my body had accumulated small little bubble all over.

I went to go dry off and re-dress, then rendezvoused with the rest of the family in the non-hot spring area. This area is used to relax after your relaxation time in the relaxing hot springs. It’s a tad bit redundant, but awesome! Especially while enjoying a beer… which I did. All in all, I’d say the onsen is the best remedy for an ailing mind, body, or soul. All feeling very refreshed, we returned home and had dinner, then retired for a nice rest.

The next day was taken very slowly to finish my recovery and to gear up for my return to my classes and research on Monday. That night I experienced one of my new favorite Japanese foods, okonomiaki. After food and an english lesson for the kids, they returned me to my dorm, healthy and ready to begin what was going to be a long and exciting week of life in Japan. Here are some pictures…

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