The first doctor I went to was a general practitioner within walking distance of the consulate. As it so happened, the ACS section was in the midst of updating its list of recommended clinics, so they were able to quickly suggest one nearby. I rushed out after work, Sara kindly accompanying me for moral and (worst case scenario) possible physical support. At this point I was bracing myself for a future of adult diapers and eating with the assistance of one of those trained service monkeys... but, you know, trying not to panic. The doctor that shuffled out into the waiting room had six teeth in his mouth, two on top and four on bottom, one for approximately every 20 years of his life. He spoke no English. After a few general questions and tapping -- literally tapping -- my chest and back with his stethoscope, he informed me in a jovial way, "I'll give you some medicine; after a week, you'll be fine." At the tiny front desk I asked the receptionist, "What kind of medicine is this, anyways?" "Vitamins," she answered, managing to sound simultaneously jaded and apologetic. "That'll be 3,362 yen." Alright-y then. I forked over the cash, and left gripping the vitamins in my insensate fingers. I don't think that clinic will be remaining on our list.
This morning the intensity of the symptoms had abated, but had far from disappeared. In fact, it seemed my middle fingers wanted in on the act as well -- it felt like a rubberband had been wrapped around each one's first joint. Mid-morning, Sara let me know she'd located a neurologist only a few train stops away, so I dropped everything and took off for this second clinic. I had rehearsed my explanation all the way there while fidgetting nervously with the magazine I was pretending to read (Yubi ya ude ya doutai ga shibireteimasu. Haisha no chuusha no eikyou to onaji kanji desu. Gen'in zenzen wakarimasen.); when it turned out the doctor had excellent English, I almost couldn't talk to him, I was so keyed up to speak Japanese. After a thorough check of all my reflexes, drawing of various fluids, discussion of any possible injuries, infections, family history and so forth, the verdict: he could find nothing neurologically wrong with me. "But," he continued, "I'm going to give you some vitamins, some B2." Ah, yes. Another 8,835 yen later, and I'm still numb -- though I've got enough little pills to open my own clinic.
And that's my story. Bottom line, don't get sick in Japan. Or if you do, just skip the doctor and go buy some Flintstone's Vitamins. If you never hear from me again, it's because I've lost all motor function, and my service monkey hasn't yet mastered typing on the keyboard.
In other news, this weekend I had the pleasure of attending the "Fighting Festival" in a small village near Himeji. Rather than just waking up numb, festival participants like to incur a similar state of being by stipping down to loincloths, forming teams to carry about heavy portable shrines, and ramming them into one another like a huge rugby skirmish. This goes on for hours. I took a video of the red team performing its rally cry, which you can see here:
Nice that I was able to go out and enjoy the Autumn weather one last time before being bedridden for life.