Doctors, dentists and plum blossoms

Before Alex, hospitals we only visited hospitals to see other patients, and that rarely. Now we have seen one in Japan.

To see a doctor in Japan you generally have to visit a hospital. We woke early and walked a couple of blocks down to Eiju Hospital, where we discovered that registrations began at 8:30 am. The level of English was very basic, but we got by.

After another half an hour we found ourselves upstairs and waiting for the paediatrician. She reassured us that Alex only had the common cold and prescribed a cough mixture for him.

The visit cost us 5800 Yen, which was quite reasonable and not worth chasing up with the travel insurance.

One aspect of Eiju Hospital that I found quite astounding was the number of support staff. There were so many employees whose tasks appeared to be quite limited in comparison with the duties of medical staff in Australia.

A pharmacist across the road from the hospital mixed Alex’s medication and we were provided with pinted instructions in English. Satisfied that Alex would survive more holiday activites we crossed back over to Ueno Station and caught the Fresh Hitachi towards Mito, to see Kairakuen, the last of the three top Japanese gardens that we were yet to see, the other two being Korakuen in Okayama and Kenrokuen in Kanazawa.

The Fresh Hitachi (love that name!) was clean, modern and fast. Alex was quietly playing on my lap. Finally things were looking up and we were going to have a chance to enjoy the holiday.

In the rush to see the doctor and board the train we had not eaten breakfast. Hungry, we bought a packet of french fry style chips from the train’s trolley lady. I was crunching on a chip when I suddenly felt something hard between my teeth. It looked like a piece of plastic.

Then my tounge felt the rough gap in my left molar where that piece of enamel used to be. Not again!

Though it didn’t hurt, I went into shock, curling up on an empty row of seats until I recovered.

There was no way this was waiting until I returned home. I had to see a dentist. But I was in the middle of a train ride. Last time this had happened I had survived the day, so I resolved to try to enjoy Mito and deal with the problem back in Tokyo.

Mito’s station and its surrounds is quite attractive with a good range of shops. We bought return tickets on the wooden floored Number 10 bus and, along with many others, headed off to Kairakuen.

A few of Mito’s high rise shops along the main road had murals painted on their higher surfaces. I particularly liked Century 21’s anime inspired mural which made you think they were a hostess bar rather than a real estate agent!

Kairakuen celebrates the Ume (Japanese plum) blossom festival from February through to early March. The temple grounds in front of the park’s entrance were filled with colourful stores selling yakisoba, okonomiyaki, grilled fish and many other delights. I was too frightened of my tooth to eat much.

We watched a monkey perform high jump in front of one temple, bought an ume flavoured soft serve ice cream, then walked through the gate and into the park proper. There we were greeted by fields of endless pink, red and white ume blossoms. Sadly they were coming to the end of their flowering season and the garden must have been unbelievable during their height.

In contrast to the other Japanese gardens that we have visited Kairakuen featured very little water. There were pleasant viewing spots for a nearby lake.

The Kobuntei tea house is worth exploring for the painted screens and outlooks from the rooms. Sadly, we never had an opportunity to actually drink any tea inside.

While we were meandering around the gardens Alex was fast asleep, making for a very peaceful and relaxed outing. While I prefer the Kenrokuen and Ritsurinen gardens overall, Mito is a very pleasant city.

The Super Hitachi returned us to Ueno, but it wasn’t as nice as the Fresh Hitachi. We immediately walked back to the hotel, where I attempted to find a dentist. The Tokyo Metropolitan Health and Medical Information Centre (Himawari – 03 5285 8181) was fantastic, actually locating and organising an appointment nearby for that same evening, then following up about billing.

I had to race off down to Okachimachi to a dentist at the Matsuzakaya Department Store. With the help of a basic pictures and English book he managed to give me a temporary filling. Despite the Lonely Planet’s warning about Japanese dental costs the procedure only cost me about 7500 Yen, or about A$100. My normal dentist would barely even look at my teeth for that amount.

I returned to B and Alex, then the three of us went back the way I came to Ameyoko to find a shabu-shabu restaurant. After a 10 minute wait we decide to splurge a little on a good meal of pork and beef shabu-shabu. We boiled the thin strips of meat and vegetables in either the soy milk or suki stock in the pot at the centre of the table then dipped them in the sauces before eating. Very filling meal, even without the extras.

Exhausted when we returned, hence the length of time it took to post this. I really hope that is the end of the medical emergencies and the rest of our trip will be without incident.

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