Japanese Bread. Read on to find out what’s up…
Limping back to my house (a myriad of other bruises would come to make themselves known over the course of the next few days, including a rather pretty one on my thigh), it quickly became apparent that I may have actually injured myself – besides the not-so-nice-looking scraped off flesh on my palm, my wrist steadfastly refused to move without sending shudders of pain shooting up my right arm and carrying any sort of weight was impossible.
In true manly fashion, I tried to ignore it at first and hoped that it would magically get better over night, but come Sunday, it became clear that a hospital trip was going to be in order, and after trying three different hospitals, only to find that they were closed on the weekends (go figure), I finally found myself in the emergency room of one of the newer hospitals in town, where apparently a grand total of 7 people appeared to be working – a “doctor”, 2 nurses, 2 security guards (who apparently also had to act as receptionists, cashiers and nursing assistants in addition to their “guard” duties), the hungry x-ray tech with the cavelier attitude towards his job I mentioned in the last post, and of course, in true Japanese fashion, the gift shop attendant.
A few x-rays later (conducted sans protective lead apron, which I’m sure really can’t have been all that healthy for me…) the “doctor” on duty advised me that she “wasn’t qualified to deal with this” and could I please come back on Monday? Which of course begs the question of why she would be employed to work as the sole medical professional in an emergency room, but this being Japan, the populace isn’t encouraged to reflect on such things, and so, briefly wondering what cute prefecture-specific Hello Kitty cell phone straps they might have for sale in the gift shop, I nodded my assent, and returned the next day (skipping work in the process, since, inexplicably, the orthopedic doctors only appear to work Mondays and Thursdays from 8:30am-11:30am).
Slowly opening the bag…. what lurks inside?!
Sitting patiently in the waiting room (no pun intended), I noticed a few things.
1. Patients in Japanese hospitals all tend to be quite old. In fact, I was the youngest one there by far, save a 5 year old kid who appeared to have swallowed a battery, if the snippets of the mother’s hushed conversation I overheard were any indication. I would hazard a guess and say that probably well over 80% of the patients in the waiting room were over the age of 68.
2. Japanese senior citizens tend to be in far superior health to American senior citizens. In a nursing home I used to work at back in the States, virtually all the residents were in poor health – more than half were in wheel chairs, many were diabetic, several dozen carted around oxygen tanks wherever they went, all were on countless medications. By contrast, despite being much older, the senior citizens in the waiting room seemed to be in excellent health – all were fully mobile, spritely and alert, chatting with each other and friends in loud, strong voices, mentally sound and lucid – in strikingly good condition overall. I think this probably holds true for the society at large – in all my time here, I have only ever seen one or two Japanese senior citizens in wheelchairs – contrast that with America, where informercials touting the latest and greatest motorized “scooter wheelchairs” designed to cart around fat, immobile diabetics who can’t rouse themselves to move from one room to another are a ubiquitous sight on late night and occasionally even mid-day television. It is stunning to see the divergence in the average quality of life between any two citizens of the respective countries – our obesity and poor health in America really is starting to have a significant impact on us, I think.
3. Then again, thinking of quality of life, I remember that we have trees and grass and nature, insulation in our houses, central heating and cooling, properly paved level streets, access to fresh fruits and vegetables and don’t suffer from a compulsive need to cover each and every square inch of our country with concrete, blue tarps, power lines, industrial waste and shitty, ugly mismatched architectural disasters and I wonder if sometimes the decline in quality of life late in our lives isn’t in some way compensated for by the fact that we don’t have to spend our younger years in the bleak, miserably concrete craphole of grayness that the Japanese do.
4. American hospitals seem to have a lot more seriously injured people than Japanese hospitals. I may be biased from having lived in “the hood”, as it were, but still, as I recall, it’s pretty rare to spend any significant amount of time in an American hospital without seeing at least one person come in either shot, stabbed, beaten, or else suffering from some other sort of trauma that would result in bleeding, noticeably bruising or broken bones (i.e. skateboarding accidents, car crashes, occupational accidents, etc.) By comparison, during the couple of hours I spent at the hospital on Monday the worst I saw was the little kid who had swallowed the battery (and to be fair, he hardly seemed any the worse for the wear for it, jumping around as he was) and a guy with a really bad and phlegmy cough. Weird.
5. One thing that doesn’t seem to change regardless of the country: hospitals still take foreeeeevvvveerrrrrr to get around to seeing you. My ass sat in that waiting room for a good 2.5 hours waiting for them to call my name. *sigh*
Anyway, my little boring memories of the hospital waiting room aside, a rather nice young doctor with an unnerving habit of dropping bits of technical english (“triangular fibrocartilage complex”, “arthroscopic debridement of the ulnolunate ligament”, etc…) examined me for a while and then pronounced me to be suffering from a tear of some ligament or other, and possibly other things, the complex technical sounding Japanese of which eluded me, but which apparently neccessitate my reporting for an MRI this Saturday. As an interesting aside, one of the benefits to living and working in Japan is the standardized national health care – an MRI in the States runs close to $1500 or so, which you’ll be lucky if your health insurance covers even part of, whereas in Japan the very same test runs aproximately $50 (US), a savings of some $1450, which in the interest of fairness, I should probably mention is about how much a bag of apples costs in these parts. At any rate, it seems likely I’ll survive, albiet with my hand wrapped up in pads, gauze and a splint for the next couple of weeks.
Whew! Looks like it was just bread! But what’s that ominous music?
I just looked in the mirror and realized that I really, really need a haircut badly. Scary!
I discovered that one of the benefits of having your arm in a splint is that the checkout girls at the grocery stores will bag your purchases for you, something which may seem like a weird thing to get worked up about for readers back in the States, where having a bagboy or baggirl (I refuse to say “bagperson”) at the end of each checkout lane to handle this duty for you is common place. However, in Japan, ostensibly the land of service, where gas station attendants not only still clean your dash and windshield for you, but also empty your trash while you’re waiting, this basic curteousy is nowhere to be found, and in its stead, one is presented with a few flimsy plastic bags rudely thrown into the basket for self bagging, the number of which is invariably far too few for the amount of purchases to be contained. The magical ways by which I am to fit a week’s worth of food into the equivelant of two small ziplock bags continuing to elude me, I consider it a major coup to get the checkout girls to pack my stuff for me, their small, nimble hands deftly cramming blocks of tofu and containers of yogurt into impossibly tiny spaces between cartons of milk and bags of rice in such a way as to avoid tearing the fragile vinyl with sharp corners and spilling the contents of the bag all over the sidewalk on the way home, the bane of any do-it-yourself gaijin grocery packer.
Coming home earlier today sporting two expertly packed bags of groceries, I set about the task of cleaning my rather smelly kitchen which had been due for a cleanup last week, something that got postponed due to my unexpected appointment with the pavement. As I cleaned, I started putting my groceries away, starting with the bread that I had just purchased. Reaching up on the shelf, I noticed a bag of bread already on there.
“Hmmm…” I though to myself. “I’d better use this one up first!”
And thus, thoughts of “waste not want not” flitting through my head, I popped open the bag and laid out two slices on a plate, intending to turn them into a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. As I bent down to retrieve some peanut butter from the cabinet, however, a thought struck me.
“That’s odd… I don’t remember having bought any bread recently! I wonder how old this bread is?”
Now as you can plainly see from the pictures thus far, the bread appears to be quite edible. It’s white, has a good consistency, mould free, doesn’t smell bad or appear stale or stiff in anyway. Your average, run-of-the-mill couple of slices of bread.
Imagine my suprise then, when I turned over the package to look for the expiration date, and found this:
Yes, that’s right, this particular loaf of bread – which still looks tasty and delicious – is almost three weeks past it’s expiration date….! Staggering!!
I debated what to do with my eterna-bread. On the one hand, being a rather destitute panda, I was reluctant to throw away anything that looks like it might be edible – especially in light of the fact that as far as I could tell, there was nothing wrong with the bread itself. On the other hand, however, common sense and basic logic should set off red lights and warning bells when confronted with an immortal food substance that apparently fails to heed the universal strictures of time and refuses to age despite being significantly past its preprinted date of expirey. I mean, what on earth is this stuff MADE OF…!!??
In the end I decided to play it safe and put the pieces of eterna-bread back in the bag and set it aside, partially out of fear that a) the immortal perma-essence of the eterna-bread would prove immune to the actions of my digestive enzymes, resulting in an embarassing trip to the E.R. to remove still-recognizable chunks of unchanged, insolent bread slice from my body and out of wonder b) at the properties which allowed this bread – normally fertile breeding grounds for mould and bacterial colonies – to resist all forms of micro-organism invasion. Who knows? Alexander Fleming discovered Penicillin by examining non-mouldy spots on his dirty dishes. Just imagine what types of diseases my wunder-bread could potentially cure!!!
My man Yongfook wrote a great entry on the marvels of the mysterious, slightly frightening substance that is Japanese bread.
His picture of bread on the front page kicks my crappy bread pictures’ asses. I’m jealous of his camera and its awesome focal depth.
Anyway, that’s about it for now. I was going to write a big thing about the Kyushu trip and all that, but I’m tired and my right arm and its stupid torn ligament is killing me. So maybe save that for another day? In the meantime, enjoy the following random and utterly uncaptioned pictures.
I apologize for the dumb way they’re presented on the page (stuck in a table that’s probably pretty small for your screen resolution and stupidly centered in the middle of the page). I was originally going to set them all to float against each other so they could dynamically adjust to the width of the screen and increase/decrease the number of rows and columsn as needed, but of course Internet Explorer decided to make what should be a straight forward and easy task into a f-ing nightmare with its proprietary bullshit and idiotic css rendering errors and after messing around with escaping float bugs, peekaboo bugs and guillotine rendering errors for an hour or so, I finally said “screw it all” and just stuck it in a table. My apologies.
..nando mo onaji ayamachi / kurikaeshite shimau “10W40″ / imasara namida mo denai / yakitsuita futari zaratsuita OIL / tomerarenai ONE WAY