North Korea and their Recent Hostilities

Over the last few weeks I have received a variety of e-mails from various people asking if it is safe living in Tokyo due to the all craziness associated with North Korea. I guess my answer is more or less. Sure, if North Korea decides to attack, Japan is probably as good of a target as any where else; not only does North Korea hate the Japanese, but Japan is also the home of a number of United States military bases. It makes my new home a logical target.  And ever since North Korea tested a nuclear device on February 8, 2013 and started threatening South Korea, Japan, and United States with imminent destruction, the U.S. media has been analyzing and assessing the possible threat on daily basis. So I completely understand and appreciate your concern, but here in Japan and South Korea—a country that I traveled to for a long weekend on February 20th, only 12 days after the test; a decision which drove my mother a little insane because she thought I was going to be killed or captured–life seems to be going on as normal.

Taking a Break in the DMZ

Taking a Break in the DMZ

No one here is overly concerned because this has more or less been going on since the Armistice agreement was signed in 1953. North Korea threatens violence or invasion or destruction and South Korea and company negotiate. North Korea normally gets some sort of aid or concession from South Korea and their allies and then North Korea goes quiet for a year or so and then they repeat. To give you an idea of how commonplace this has become, listen to the following joke from one of my Korean students.

Student: Mr. Stovall do you want to hear a good April Fools joke?

Me: Sure.

Student: North Korea is going to either invade or destroy South Korea today (student smiles and goes back to work.).

Now, maybe a joke from a high school student isn’t enough evidence for you; how about the reaction from a United States soldier stationed at the demilitarized zone? On February 21st I decided to go on the USO tour of the DMZ. That’s right, I went to the DMZ and even stood in North Korean space for roughly five minutes. During that time, I was most likely videotaped by the North Korean government and observed by the North Korean military. Did I feel safe? Well, sort of. The fact that I had to sign a release saying that if I was killed or captured by North Korea during the tour I would not hold the USO, the United States military, or the Republic of Korea responsible for my untimely demise or capture was a little intimidating, but the simple fact is this, if they thought North Korea was serious, we wouldn’t be going on this tour. Along with that, when we talked to our tour guide, a United States soldier stationed at the DMZ, he basically communicated that this was standard North Korean behavior.

Standing in North Korea Taking a Picture of an American and South Korea Soldier

Standing in North Korea Taking a Picture of an American and South Korea Soldier

So why is it such a big story in the States? Well, to begin, for the first time, North Korea has become a legitimate threat. Before now, they were a country across the Pacific Ocean that did crazy things, but for those living in the United States, it was no big deal because North Korea couldn’t do anything to them. The fact that North Korea is able to detonate a nuclear weapon and that they are working on a means of delivering such a weapon means that they can theoretically bomb the United States. Is it likely? Probably not, because if North Korea would attempt any such action they would be wiped off the face of the Earth and I’m pretty sure the North Korean leadership is cognizant of that. But even though they probably won’t do anything, it does change the game because North Korea’s temper tantrums are now more of a global concern than ever before.

An Up Close View of North Korea

An Up Close View of North Korea

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Christmas in Thailand

An Ocean View of the Spa on Christmas Eve

An Ocean View of the Spa on Christmas Eve

Christmas morning in Thailand!! Until this point in time, I have only missed one Christmas with my family—luckily, I was able to be with them just a few days later—so it is weird being on the other side of the world on this special day. The sensation is enough to make one slightly melancholic; however, if I’m going to be homesick for family and friends, I might as well as miss them in beautiful Thailand. And the view from The Spa this morning was stunning. The day began with me meandering out to the beach to wish my travel companions a Merry Christmas. Then we sat together listening to the waves and watching the rising sun, a beautiful start to the day.

Christmas Morning on the Beach

Christmas Morning on the Beach

A Tangent from the Author: This was written months ago and as a fairly distracted individual, it was never posted. But as I edit it now, I realize a very interesting thing. Though I know logically speaking that day in Thailand was Christmas, it doesn’t feel like Christmas actually happened this year. It seems skipped. Yes, I saw makeshift Christmas trees in Thailand and was surrounded by people that care about me and even had a religious experience of sorts, but for me, Christmas is family. I didn’t get to attend a Christmas Eve service with my parents or see my nieces open their gifts or hug my family and wish them a Merry Christmas or lounge around all day playing games with those I love. None of that of that happened. I don’t regret going to Thailand, but I’m still sad that I missed celebrating Christmas with my family. For whatever reason, it seemed important to share that.

A Christmas Tree in Thailand . . . well, sort of.

A Christmas Tree in Thailand . . . well, sort of.


The Fast

“I know what you’re thinking, ’cause right now I’m thinking the same thing. Actually, I’ve been thinking it ever since I got here: Why oh why didn’t I take the BLUE pill?”

– The Wachowski Brothers, The Matrix (1999)

Since I started fasting today, it should be fairly obvious that I chose to experience holistic living. Heh, heh. If I would have to relive this decision over and over again, I cannot guarantee that I would make the same decision each and every time, but at this moment, I am at peace. And for those of you who know me well and are starting to question what has happened to their beloved friend and family member, trust me when I say that I am in complete control of my faculties and I have not been kidnapped by a new age cult.

My Pre-fast Meal -- I broke the rules by drinking that beer, but it was so worth it!!

My Pre-fast Meal — I broke the rules by drinking that beer, but it was so worth it!!

With that being said, the rest of this article is dedicated recollection of the fasting experience. Let the adventures begin . . .

A Typical Day during the Fast

Now, one would believe that a fast is fairly cut and dry process, but at The Spa it is a fairly demanding process. With that being said, a typical day looks something like this:

7:00 AM         Detox drink followed by an hour-long meditation session

8:30 AM         Herbal supplements

Between 8:30 and 10:30 AM the faster has their morning colema. Yippeeee???

10:00 AM       Detox drink

11:00 AM       Yoga

11:30 AM       Break in Yoga to take Herbal supplements

1:00 PM         Detox drink

2:30 PM         Herbal supplements

4:00 PM         Detox drink

Between 4:30 and 6:00 PM the faster has their afternoon/early evening colema.

5:30 PM         Herbal supplements

7:00 PM         Detox drinks

8:30 PM         Herbal supplements

10:00 PM       Take “flora grow” probiotic capsule

A Typical Detox Meal -- Water and Supplements

A Typical Detox Meal — Water and Supplements

Observations on Day One

The first day of the fast is complete and surprisingly, it was fairly easy. A key concern with the fast was that I would have to overcome bouts of extreme hunger, but the detox cocktails are quite filling–since the drinks consist of psyllium husks and bentonite clay which expand to twenty times their size when mixed with water, my lack of hunger seems logical.

Funny side note about our detox beverage, on the night before starting our detox, we met with a detox manager who described the procedure. During this description, he mentioned that bentonite clay was one of the ingredients of the drink. At that moment I noticed that Sasha, Terri’s daughter who is finishing her final year of art school with an emphasis on functional ceramics, gave the manager a very perplexed look. Slowly raising her hand, Sasha asked for him to clarify the ingredients. Upon his confirmation that bentonite clay was one of the key ingredients, she sort of grimaced in disgust. Since I am overly curious and just happened to be siting next to her, I was like “what’s up?” She proceeded to tell me in a whisper that bentonite is one of the major clays used by ceramists because it works nicely as filler. Heh, heh. Apparently the idea of eating a material that she normally works with on a daily basis to create ceramic art was not very appetizing. Hee, hee.

All right, as mentioned in run-down of the program, the program involves 14 self-administered colemas. I’m not going provide any detail on this process other than to say it is very, VERY awkward. Now, the detox managers swear that the process will get easier, but as of right now . . . awkward.

Oh, one last thing. A person might believe that fasting is a very boring process, but I have found it to be quite busy. With all of the detox drinks combined with the colemas and the yoga and the meditations one finds their day consumed with activity. It’s somewhat unexpected, but worthwhile.

My First Detox Beverage: Bentonite Clay with Pineapple Juice -- Delicious!!!

My First Detox Beverage: Bentonite Clay with Pineapple Juice — Delicious!!!

Observations on Day Two through Five

By all accounts, if a faster is going to have a problem, such intense sensations of weakness or sickness, this is where it occurs. For the most part, I’ve been good to go. On day three I was a little out of sorts in the afternoon, tired and low energy; in fact, I would almost define myself as being downright cranky, but I rebounded quickly. During yoga on day five, I had issues with the balancing poses, not due to my lack of balance, which the typical reason I have issues with balancing, but because of a small bout of dizziness. Otherwise, I’ve felt surprising good.

The aspect that is a little annoying in the process is that there is always this slight sensation of hunger. The drinks fill you, but only to a point. So whenever you see or smell food there is always this desire to eat. The stomach begins to grumble and there is always that moment of contemplation where you consider breaking the fast right then and there. As of now, I’ve adhered to the fast, but I’m sure people wonder about me from time to time. For example, I have a tendency to be talking with one of my fasting comrades drinking our coconut water—one of the few dinning pleasure still available to me and my fellow fasters—at the beach front dining area and then in mid conversation we’ll just stop talking and stare at an entrée on a nearby table. We will just sit there, staring and salivating over someone else’s food. Then one of us will have the strength to break from its intoxicating pull and the conversation will resume. Of course, the topic of conversation will normally change to how badly we want to eat or how delicious that entrée looked. And this inevitably triggers other food-based conversations about our favorite foods, what we are craving at that moment, and the specific entrees we will eat once the fast is over. All in all, self torture.

Otherwise, the process has been quite easy. My mornings are dedicated to daily meditation and yoga. In the afternoons, I tend to soak in some sun, play in the pool or ocean, do a little reading, and more often than not, I spend hours talking to people about their lives. It’s a demanding existence, but I’ll struggle through it all. Hee, hee.

Observations on Day Six

An important decision was made today. I’ve decided to end my fast one day earlier than originally planned. Therefore, today will be my last day of fasting. Now, I know what you might be thinking; thoughts like I could not hack it or I am weak willed, but I believe my decision to be sound. The simple truth of the matter is that I am on vacation in Thailand for the first time in my life and I would like to eat Thai food on my final day in Thailand. And a fast just doesn’t end because you decide to start eating. Part of the process for a successful fast is slowly introducing food back to your system. You start slow. Allow your body to adjust to the digestive process and give your metabolism time to reestablish itself. By making today my last day, I allow myself three days of eating vegetables and raw foods before diving into Thai food on my last day. It seems like a sound plan to me; and if you disagree, because you think I’m a wimp, you are probably right, but please keep it to yourself. Hee, hee!!!

My First Meal out of the Fast: Papaya and Mango

My First Meal out of the Fast: Papaya and Mango

A Tangent from the Author: This post was originally written and edited around the end of December.  It was recently reedited right before being posted significantly late. Sorry for the delay.

Sasha and Terri -- Dear Friends and Fellow Fasters -- Toasting their First Meal Post-Fast

Sasha and Terri — Dear Friends and Fellow Fasters — Toasting their First Meal Post-Fast


Thailand–A Self Divided

“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”

— The Wachowski Brothers, The Matrix (1999)

“Paradigm shift: noun: a fundamental change in approach or assumptions”

— Dictionary Definition

My experiences in Thailand over the first three days are slightly askew. On the surface, Thailand is everything I envisioned: beaches, beautiful islands, tropical terrain, waterfalls, temples, tourists, adventurers, whispers of corruption, a fascinating people with an engaging culture, third world desperation side by side with overly indulgent first world capitalism. I have witnessed all of those things, or at least I know I will witness them before I leave. However, it still does not feel right. In some unfathomable way, it is different than expected. Strange. Off-kilter. Confusing.

In order to be fair to Thailand, let me stress that this sensation has nothing to do with the country itself.  And by no means, do I dislike my experiences here. In fact, I for see myself visiting here often. What this sensation of difference, of the world being askew, communicates is the slight unease one experiences when faced with a choice that creates change.

View of Lamai Beach

View of Lamai Beach

Normally, when I visit a new locale, especially when that new locale is a country, it is a no-holds barred, adventurous invasion where I try to squeeze a wide spectrum of experiences—art, history, drinking, food, high adventure, cultural exploration–into a short period of time. During that process, I am normally with other like-minded individuals who are also dedicated to absorbing as many differed experiences as possible. This trip alters that formula. Instead of constantly being on the move in search of satisfying every random whim or interest, I find myself staying for the next two weeks at a resort called The Spa which is dedicated to helping its guests achieve a healthier lifestyle through meditation, yoga, proper nutrition, and fasting. My compatriots, all of whom I adore, came for a very focused, specific purpose; they are here to be healthier, physically and spiritually.

View of the Spa from the Ocean Side of the Resort

View of the Spa from the Deck of my Bungalow

So I am faced with a choice: do I explore Koh Samui and the neighboring islands by myself, which is a legitimate option since my traveling companions would not begrudge me going off on my own? Or do I attempt a different type of exploration, one that involves learning how to live holistically through yoga, meditation, proper nutrition, and fasting?

View of The Spa from the Ocean Side

View of The Spa from the Ocean Side

A Tangent from the Author: This post was originally written and edited on December 21st, 2012. It was suppose to be posted on my return from Thailand, but I got, sort of, distracted. Sorry for the delay.

Inside my Bungalow at The Spa

Inside my Bungalow at The Spa


Read the Signs

Let it be known that I love the Japanese and have nothing but respect for them as a people and a culture. However, their signs and advertisements often make me giggle. Here are random signs that bring me joy!!

You know, when I think of dogs that I would never want to see off leash, I know the first one that always comes to mind is the ferocious . . . Scottie? Really? The Scottie? Hmmm.

Beware of Scotties!!!

1. You know, when I think of dogs that I would never want to see off leash, I know the first one that always comes to mind is the ferocious . . . Scottie? Really? The Scottie? Hmmm.

Original

Original Foods

2. Ohhhhh, my favorite, Original Foods!! Lets eat there because they are so much better than unoriginal foods!!

Precious Coffee Moments

Precious Coffee Moments

3. A store for those who want more from their coffee drinking experience; it also just happens to be Gollum’s favorite coffee shop because it is so precious!!

...and people...

…and people

4. I’m still not quite sure what this sign is communicating. I realize there is a cafe and a place to dine, but the people tag line is confusing. Are they trying to tell me that the establishment has people? And if so, are they trying to communicate its popularity? Or do they serve people? Confused . . . entertained, but confused.

Cookie Monster

Cookie Monster

5. The kanji translates to mean “we love Cookie Monster!!”

Soft Bank and Boss

Soft Bank and Boss

6. I’m not really sure what Tommy Lee Jones and the dog are looking at in this joint add for cell phones and coffee, but it must be thought provoking. In fact, it so thought provoking that I want to drink coffee while talking on my phone. Yes.

Bond, James Bond . . . and

Bond, James Bond

7. What does 007 do when he retires? Sells Schweppes British Lemon Tonic to the Japanese, OF COURSE!!

Clean Up

Clean Up

8. HEE, HEE, HEE!!!!

ACNE Studios

ACNE Studios

9. Wow, a studio dedicated towards ACNE!!! Nothing is more artistic than pictures of people and their pimples. Sounds like a popping success!!

Creepy Christmas Image

Christmas

10. And nothing says Christmas like a beautiful woman surrounded by eight guys wearing tuxes and bone-white animal masks!! That’s right, it is a Stanley Kubrick Christmas!!! Yeah!!! Tis the season to be creepy as hell!!!


Popopure Animation Studio and Maid Café in Akihabara

Are you ready to hear the tale of my most recent cultural experience? It’s a good one.

Saturday afternoon my dear friend Girish led a small expeditionary force consisting of my buddy Brit and myself to Akihabara, also known as “Electronic Town”. Akihabara is where one goes when they are in need of cell phones, computers, top of the line headphones, etc. If you are shopping for electronics, this is where you want to be. Now, I was not in the market for new electronics, but Girish had an extensive shopping list and I was in the mood to explore some new areas in Tokyo.

As we were wondering in and out of various electronic stores, I saw a sign for an establishment called Popopure Animation Studio and Maid Café; this just happened to trigger a memory from earlier this week when one of the other teachers at my school was telling me that there are cafes in Akihabara where all the servers wear French maid outfits. Apparently, these cafes were fairly famous and had received a certain amount of media attention on morning and afternoon television news programs; these programs are somewhat comparable or similar to Good Morning America in the States. I know what you are thinking; cafes where the servers wear French maid outfits? Fascinating, right!!!

The Sign

Anyhow, after shopping for electronics for a few hours, we were running low on energy and decided that some coffee or tea–you know, a little caffeine—was in order. And what is a better place to purchase tea or coffee than a café? (Just for the record, I feel a little like Barney, a key character from the fantastically hilarious sitcom How I Met Your Mother, in the telling of this story. But, alas, I digress . . .)

So, we were in search of the café and my buddy Brit was just saying that he didn’t think we were going to find it, when I happened to look up at this second story balcony to behold a Japanese woman with a smile on her face, pigtails in her hair, hands shaped in the sign of a heart wearing a French maid outfit. We made eye contact and I instantly thought this is where I can get a good cup of coffee. However, before I was able to ask her how to enter the café, she posed for a picture!! Trust me here, she asked me to take her picture, not the other way around.

The Siren Call of a French Maid

Anyhow, as I lowered my camera and she thanked me for taking her picture—I wouldn’t lie to you about this; I might stretch the truth, but I wouldn’t lie—another French maid showed up at my side asking me if we were interested in going to the café. Since I . . . I mean we were thirsty men in need of caffeine, I said yes.

Now, I’m sure many of you might be having negative, slanderous thoughts about this café, but trust me, and I mean actually trust me, when I say it was one of the most innocent of places.  It was actually a café that just happened to be dedicated to animation and French maids. A weird combination, I grant you, but that’s what it was. The walls were covered with various framed pictures of animation and the placemats also consisted of animated scenes. And if you were really interested in animation and could read Japanese, you could voice your own animated episode or program. They had this giant plasma TV where they would run a short animated episode involving rabbits that wore clothes and they would record you speaking the dialogue and sync it with the episode. Then they would record your voiced-over episode on a DVD and wallah, you own anime where you are the voice of one of the animated characters!! Pretty cool!!

The Anime Video Characters Frolicking on My Placemat!!

And, just for the record, I did purchase a cappuccino that just happened to have a cat engraved in the froth. If I would have ordered an omelet, a French maid would have created an animated image–right there at the table–on my plate with ketchup. I saw it done; I was fairly impressed.

There’s a Kitty in My Cappuccino!!

Oh, I nearly forgot to mention that before you were allowed to drink your beverage, you had to repeat after your maid some sort of Japanese saying that was suppose to give it magical powers, or something to that effect. I do not really recall the words, but the gestures involved shaping my hands into a heart and then going left to right over my chest and then quickly dropping the heart into the beverage. Seriously folks, I’m telling truth here; I couldn’t make this up.

Now, there were a few creepy things about French maid café, such as the fact that all of the patrons were men and you could pay 500 yen to have your picture with one of the maids, but lets not ruin a fascinating experience by theorizing upon the intentions of these men. Who knows, maybe they really like animation . . . or they might be French . . . or maybe, just like me, they wanted a cup of coffee.

Two of the Brave Adventurers!!!


The Japanese Medical Apparatus

Heh, heh. Sometimes I don’t remember that FACEBOOK relays information very quickly and if that information is not explained, people may be concerned. Well, that is what happened today when I told the FACEBOOK universe that I had an MRI  [please note that since this post is going out much later than expected the beginning is not exactly accurate. Oops.] Let’s begin with this, I am perfectly healthy and there are no concerns; however, in the immortal words of Desi Arnaz, “Matthew [in place of Lucy, of course] you got some explaining to do!!”

Well, since roughly my second week in Japan, I have been poked and prodded as a Japanese medical mystery. I did not know I was mystery; I thought I was a fully normal, healthy, slightly overweight American, but the day before my first day of teaching at St. Mary’s I was given a physical which opened the proverbial can and plunged me into an in depth exploration of the Japanese medical apparatus.

Let’s begin with the physical, which was within itself a very unique and foreign process.  At the beginning of every school year, St. Mary’s brings in a team of doctors and nurses to examine every individual on staff. Now, staff members do not have to receive the physical, but most do because it is free and it eliminates the need to get a physical later in the year. The process is quite impressive. The staff forms a line in the hallway and then in the order in which you arrived, you go through the exam. The nurses in the first room check all of your standard information (weight, height, heart rate, pulse, eyes and peripheral vision, etc.) and take blood and urine samples. In the second room, you receive an electro-cardiogram and then you meet a doctor in the third room to discuss the results of your electro-cardiogram and initial examination—my doctor just pointed at my stomach and shook his head no, which I’m guessing was his way of telling me to lose weight. After that chat, you journey to the parking lot where they have a medical RV that contains a x-ray machine. After the x-rays, you are done and they’ll send the results of your tests a week or two later.

This happened on Tuesday, August 21st. And truth be told, I did not think much about it; it was a standard physical and I had other concerns, like adjusting to a new school, learning to pronounce a series of student names that I have never heard before, purchasing items for my new apartment, etc. So, at the end of the day on Friday, the physical was a distant memory and the only thing I wanted was a good stiff drink. Luckily, the teacher’s association was serving appetizers, beer, and wine in the school cafeteria in order to celebrate the completion of week one. Unfortunately, before I had the chance to have my first drink, I was intercepted by the school’s nurse who seemed very concerned about my well-being. She immediately started asking questions about whether I had been experiencing any pain or discomforts that week. Truth be told, I had been unbelievably sore all week, but that was because I had just started lifting again for the first time in four years on Monday; therefore, all of my muscles were in a state of active rebellion, but that seemed perfectly normal.

Anyhow, the nurse—and let me say this about Jennifer, I would trust this women with my life. Seriously, I have never met a more capable nurse in my entire existence which is probably the bi-product of her being a military nurse for twenty or so years, but this woman knows her stuff—explained that one of my blood tests came back extremely questionable. Apparently, my CPK–an abbreviation for creatine phosphokinase–levels were extremely high which either signifies that my muscles had recently undergone some form of strenuous exertion or they were deteriorating because of some unknown illness or my heart was near the point of collapse due to an undiagnosed pulmonary infarction.  Option number one is good and the second/third is really, REALLY bad.

After a quick discussion, she diagnosed that it was probably the lifting which had tweaked the results, but to be safe, she arranged another blood test for the next Wednesday or Thursday. On the appointed day, I went back in for my blood test and ended up spiking the results to such a high level that the local doctor freaked out and demanded that I see a specialist. Now, I won’t tell you the level, but to provide some sort of comparison, please realize that my levels were hirer than what might be found in professional triathletes/marathon runners after completing a race and people dying of terminal diseases, apparently when you die from a terminal disease your body releases high levels of CPK. Pleasant, huh?

The school nurse and high school secretary quickly arranged an appointment with a specialist at one of the premier medical clinics in all of Tokyo, apparently they work in conjunction with Johns Hopkins Hospital in the states. A quick statement about the Japanese medical process–in order to get into one of these clinics, the client, me, needs a doctor of status to write a fairly convincing letter saying that I require their services. Luckily, St. Mary’s had connections to such a doctor and with in a day or so I had an appointment for the next week.

Over the next week I found myself wondering if I really needed this appointment because I felt perfectly healthy and I was pretty sure it was exercise related, but everyone who was in the know kept telling me that I needed to see the specialist. What a hassle, but on the appointed day, I journeyed to the clinic in Rappongi. I chatted with the specialist, they ran some more blood tests, and then he theorized that I probably had overly sensitive muscles—all of my dear readers who are now laughing at my diagnosis can kindly STOP!!! IT IS A SERIOUS MEDICAL CONDITION!! JERKS!!! Heh, heh. Okay, it isn’t . . .

Anyhow, after my slightly embarrassing, but extremely funny diagnosis, the specialist told me he was going to research my results and as long as he did not find anything abnormal, I was done and could resume all normal activities. With a spring in my step, I left the clinic with hopes of never returning again; alas, that was not to be the case. Two or three weeks later the specialist contacted me and he said couldn’t find any research to support his diagnosis so he was sending me to an even higher-ranking specialist, a neurologist, for further consultation.

Funny enough, and to the absolute amazement of the school nurse who must have been wondering whether I had connections to the yakuza, I now had an appointment at one of the top hospitals in Tokyo!! On the appointed day I adventured into the hospital, got established as an accepted patient, and then met with my neurologist. We chatted about the specialist’s concerns; talked about his theories on what was going on with my physical condition; completed a physical examination that involved the doctor checking my reflexes with a very hard and swift blow from a tomahawk-shaped mallet—I always saw that done in old movies and television shows but ever recall it happening in real life—and arranged a return visit so I could get a MRI.

Two weeks later I arrive for my MRI. The initial part of the process was quick, minimal waiting and no paper work. Apparently, once you are an established member of a clinic or hospital, things tend to move very quickly, amazingly efficient people my Japanese hosts!! Even though it was quite efficient there were two entertaining, but slightly disturbing, moments during the actual MRI process. The first involved a horribly confusing, albeit humorous, discussion on clothing. Upon arriving in section of the hospital where MRIs are completed, a very Japanese nurse, which translates to mean one who speaks little English, tried to explain what items of clothing needed to come off and what needed to be put on. I’m still not sure to this day if boxer shorts, socks, and the provided hospital robe were the correct items, but they seemed like a better first choice than just my birthday suit. Secondly, I do not like MRI machines. I discovered roughly two years ago that I am somewhat claustrophobic. This claustrophobia doesn’t just involve crawling through tight spaces wearing fire fighter gear, but also includes being placed into the tube that is the MRI machine. It was not an amusing experience; I was seriously close to freaking out and if they would have ever tried to place my head in the tube, there would have been words. However, what aided me in keeping it all together is the entertaining thoughts of what would happen if I did freak out, half naked surrounded by only Japanese speaking lab techs. It did not seem like a positive scenario for Japanese-American relations. Hee, hee.

After the MRI, I headed up to the lobby where my doctor’s personal assistant/nurse was waiting to escort me to the doctor’s office so we could discuss the results of my MRI.  It was during this discussion, while peering at a cross section of my leg, that the Doctor gave me a clean bill of health by explaining that my “muscles, like those of a pig or cow, are good enough to eat.” Heh, heh. I started to worry a little bit about my doctor’s cannibalistic tendencies and whether I should be concerned that lunch time was quickly approaching but luckily for me and my Of course, he offered to do further tests but since one involved electrocuting my muscles and the other involved a biopsy, I decided we were done with this process.

So, in the end, I am as healthy as I thought and the CPK test was due to either lifting for the first time in a very long time or overly sensitive muscles. Hee, hee.

End results or conclusions about the Japanese Medical Apparatus are as follows:

  • Compared to the U.S., medical treatment is far less expensive. I would never say it was cheap, but my MRI ran around $500 while in the States it could go anywhere from $500 to $5000.
  • Language can make any uncomfortable moments more uncomfortable and awkwardly hilarious. I recently realized that I absolutely love awkward funny!!
  • Japanese doctors tend to be overly cautious which is both good and bad and their bedside manner is somewhat outrageous which is both bad and entertaining!!
  • I am surrounded by some wonderfully good people in Japan—Thank you Jennifer and Fumi. I love the fact that you were here to keep me safe.
  • I’m somewhat glad this whole experience happened because getting entered into the system takes some time, but once you are in the system, things are amazingly fast. Now, if something would ever go wrong, I am in the system and everything will be streamlined.