Adventures in Nagasaki

[Note: If you’re really squeamish about injury details and the like, read with caution. I tried to be graceful with the details, but still. Proceed with caution.]

The air was filled with the sounds of crowds and explosions, thick with fog and smoke, and smelled like a wonderful mix of ocean and sulphur. As I was lying on the cold, uncomfortable emergency room bed, trying to put what was going on out of my mind, I caught myself thinking, “You know, I probably deserve this.”

But lets go back to the beginning, shall we?

I’m getting pretty close to the end of my trip to Japan, and there are a lot of articles sitting in the drafts queue on my site. But this one is more important, so it gets bumped up. Anyways, this morning I had to check out of Hiroshima, and knew that I eventually had to get to Hakata, which is in Fukuoka. But there’s a whole lot of nothing to do in Fukuoka, according to most travel sites I checked. Since I have my Japan rail pass though, I figured I could take a quick day trip down to Nagasaki, and have hit both the A-Bomb memorial sites in 24 hours. That would be pretty cool, right?

So I headed off nice and early, and made it to the island of Kyushu by noon, and was on a train down to Nagasaki by 1pm. Turns out, Kyushu is one of the prettiest places I’ve ever seen, ever. So the train ride was really nice, watching it fly by. Eventually, I made it to Nagasaki, and it was raining. Faaaail.

I wasn’t going to let a little rain discourage me. I stowed away my luggage in a coin locker, hopped on a tram, and headed over to the memorial park.

Now, the Peace Park in Nagasaki isn’t quite so glaringly obvious as the one in Hiroshima. The tram won’t take you right to the dome. There’s a bit of a walk. So I got off at a station and grumbled as I walked down the road without an umbrella in the rain, telling myself I’d been through much worse in Korea, rain wise.

I was pretty close to the park, I think, when I stepped on a tiled water grate. Wet + tiling = Bad. I usually have really good balance, but I went down on one knee. Normally, that’s it, and I can recover and stand up before it becomes a full wipe out. But something was different this time. I couldn’t get the strength in my knee and went right down, completely. Surprisingly, I wasn’t very scratched up, nothing on my hands or anything.

And then I tried to walk. And I noticed my knee was getting wet.


I hobbled over to a combini, and began to roll up my pant leg. I should have know before I even saw my knee that it was going to be bad, because I had bits of… something down my leg. I’ll let you guess what it ended up being.

When I saw my knee, I nearly keeled over. It wasn’t very wide, maybe only two centimetres across, but it was deep. Like, really deep. Scary deep. (Still guessing what the bits were? It was bits of MY KNEE.) It wasn’t bleeding really bad, but it was bleeding pretty seriously.

Now, I’m not the type that likes to ask for help. I don’t admit to really being hurt, or needing anyone. I’m a strong, independent woman, damn it, and a little bump on my knee was not going to stop this power house! So I went into the combini, bought a few bandaids, and asked if they had any wet wipes. They had no idea what I was asking for though, so I left and sat outside.

Only problem was: I was seriously going into shock. I was dizzy and my heart was racing and my head was spinning, and I’m pretty sure everyone else on earth could realize I wasn’t doing well, even if I was being as stubborn as a mule. The boy working at the counter came out to check on me, took one look at my knee, and said the Japanese equivalent of “HOLY CRAP” and made me sit down and tried to help me. I continued to be stubborn, but despite my protests, the manager of the store ended up calling an ambulance for me. When I say it was a bad cut… it was a bad cut.

I protested pretty much until the last second. The ambulance came, the guys looked at my knee, and tried to tell me to go to the hospital with them. I kept going on about how I didn’t have health insurance, I needed to get back to Hakata, and Korea in the morning. Everyone just seemed to nod, smile, and ignore what I said, making me go in the ambulance. The paramedics must be used to stubborn people going through shock.

The people at the convenience store were so amazing, I don’t even know what I would have done without them. They kept taking things right off the shelf to use on my knee, and wouldn’t let me give them money for it. I am ridiculously grateful for their amazing help, and wish I could thank them again.

Anyways, we rushed off to the hospital, and I started worrying about the cost. This isn’t Canada, stuff isn’t free. Amazingly, the ambulance was free, apparently, so I at least let them take me there.

The staff at the emergency room were wonderful people. There was one nurse there who did her best with English, which was really sweet. Here’s where the amazing thing happened though. I’ve been studying Japanese on and off for years. And I’ve always felt like I’m terrible at it. But, when push comes to shove, and I’m in a hospital where I need to say what I need to say, the Japanese began to flow like never before. It was MAGICAL.

The doctor was really nice and understanding. I explained to him, as best I could, that I had no health insurance in Japan, and was almost out of Japanese money. I had a credit card, but the hospital didn’t take that, and I had Korean won, which also didn’t help. But I didn’t have much for medical care, and was afraid of how much everything would cost. He said he would work within my means. At first, he was just going to clean the wound, because I said I would go to a hospital in Seoul to get it properly looked at. The longer I lay there though, with my knee wide open, the more worried I got. Big open wounds shouldn’t stay open. And despite my insane fear of pain, I knew that it needed stitches. It OBVIOUSLY needed stitches. After talking it over with the awesome nurse, we finally compromised. I had about 6000 yen that I could spare, if they could do it for that much, then I’d really liked to get it fixed up then.

I won’t lie: It might have been decades since the A-Bomb hit Nagasaki, but some serious F-bombs were dropped today in the hospital as they began to poke around at my knee before the anaesthetic kicked in.

Like I said, my doctor and nurse were amazing. They had a really fun sense of humour, and teased me for whining over things like needles. I hate needles, and despite the fact there was a GIANT GAPING HOLE in my knee that HURT LIKE HELL, I was squirming at the thought of needles. The doctor told me “I got the finest needle for you! It’s for babies!”

Me: That’s mean. Jerk.

And then the nurse told me that “It’s okay, we’ve had lots of kids cry in here!”

Me: D:!!! 子どもじゃない〜! (I’m not a kid! ToT)

Nurse: We’ve had lots of adults cry too.

Me: …Thank you.

BUT I DIDN’T CRY!!! Instead, the nurse talked to me about how okonomiyaki is the greatest food ever, and the romantic appeal of travelling by train and boat versus car and plane. all the while, doctor awesome was stitching up my knee. After, he told me I had a very pretty cut. I think that was his was of saying “LOOK, I  MADE IT LOOK PRETTY!” He should have cross-stitched something in there, that would have been more funny. But he did it so it would have a very minimal scar, so much thanks to him for that.

While all of this was going on, there was a festival going on outside. I was really excited because it was the final day of obon, so it was the finale of the Shoroh Float Festival. Companies and families were bringing their floats down to the water front to set out to sea to guide the spirits of their loved ones back to the afterworld (I’m going to write up more about obon and why I love it in the coming days, so look forward to that.) Along with setting off their floats and lanterns to sea, people set off fireworks. Lots of fireworks. I could hear the bangs of the smaller ones being set off in the streets, and the air smelled heavy with the smell of a million fireworks having been set off already. I could only get a small idea of it, but that was the first time where I was really upset over the whole situation, because I was MISSING the FESTIVAL. And as soon as I was finished, I’d have to head back to Hakata and miss it completely. But other than that, things weren’t going too bad. It could have been worse, right?

And then we went to the counter. And I got the bill.

It was 8700 yen.

I mentioned before that I only had 6000 I could spare, right? I had 8000 altogether, so even if they took every penny I had, I didn’t have enough. And they didn’t take credit cards, or any other form of money.

After everything that had happened that day, and after being a big, tough girl through FIVE stitches and cleaning and a lot of poking that was no fun, I did what any grown woman would do in this situation.

I started to cry.

Yup. I cried. A slow, sad, rather girly cry where I didn’t really make a sound but there were tears and I was using my most apologetic Japanese and was bowing and all this other good stuff. And the poor man working the counter did as and old man would when dealing with a crying girl.

“…Oh, 8000 will be fine! Can you make it home okay? Do you have any money for food? Will you be able to get home safely?”

I sniffled and nodded and said I had my train pass and could get home fine and everything else was paid for. I just didn’t have the cash. So they took my 8000, and then kindly walked me to the train station to make sure I didn’t set my other leg on fire from a stray firework. Knowing my luck.

I made it back to the station fine, retrieved my things, found an ATM, took out more money so I could eat, got KFC, and got on the train. I would have collapsed right into my seat, but some girl was there. We had a strange conversation where I had to tell her “No, these are assigned, I want my seat.” She wanted me to take her aisle seat. To which I said hells no, and shuffled into my spot once she moved. I was confused as to why she was asking, most Japanese people wouldn’t sit somewhere they shouldn’t, it’s just not in their nature.

Then I saw their passport. Oh, right, Koreans do that though.

And I have to go back tomorrow.

I love Korea, don’t get me wrong, but I am so back in love with Japan right now, I don’t want to leave. Stitches and all. But you know what would make leaving a lot better? If people left me comments here telling my knee to get better soon. :DDD

(I hope you all understand the lack of photos in this post. ^^;;)