Friday, July 22, 2016

My Tumble in Kyoto, and Down and Out in Osaka

I'm in Kyoto Station. I'm in a great mood; I've had a wonderful day. Actually, a wonderful past few days. Come to think of it, my week has been over the top.  I'm getting ready to go to Osaka, my next stop in Japan.

The only minor bummer to this exceptional week was that last night, before I went to bed, I went to feel in my pocket for my subway passes (I had two of them...I got one in Fukuoka and got another one in Tokyo before I realized that they were redundant because just about any that you get in any major city works all over the country), and they were gone. They had been there ever since I got them in Japan, and now they were just inexplicably not there.

My first reaction was to freak out. But I soon realized that it was not that big a deal, that I could just get another subway pass, and that I'd only lost $15 or so stored on it. So take it down a notch, be mellow. But it's not that easy. I had just been arranging some of my further travel plans before going to sleep, and I discovered the missing passes right before I turned off the light to go to sleep. I'm pretty sure I know what happened. I bought some rice snack crackers, and stuck them in the same pocket, and at one point when I pulled them out to munch on them, I probably pulled the cards out too, and they fell on the ground somewhere. But letting that go when you're falling shouldn't be that big a deal, right?

Anyway, I did manage to fall asleep after a period of unjustified, overemphasized worry about the stupid passes. And I woke up the next day just making a cursory search for them, realizing I had probably dropped them somewhere walking around the city, mourning slightly, and mostly letting it go. I walked around the city a little more, and finally made my way to Kyoto Station by taking a bus...this time I had to pay cash, because I couldn't use a subway pass (the pass works on the buses as well).

So. Back to Kyoto Station. I get off the bus, and I am walking to catch the train, when my left foot catches a pavement brick that is sticking up maybe a centimeter or two higher than the other bricks. I trip on it, and I start to stumble. My first thought is that I'll just easily right myself, and my body acts like that is just going to happen, because it should in this scenario. But I have my full pack on, and my center of gravity is totally altered in a fashion that I'm not prepared for. So instead of catching myself, I watch in horror as I just continue to tumble downward, down, down. My brain is catching up to the reality of what is happening, as compared to the initial perception of what it thinks should have happened, and comes to the sudden realization that this is going to be bad. I careen to the ground, trying to catch myself as best I can, but nothing is working as it should due to the changed center of gravity. I hit the ground in several places, the last of which is my face slamming into the ground right at my right cheekbone.

I'm lying on the ground, stunned. There is a huge rush of people just making their way by me. Nobody stops to see if I'm all right. In fact, they seem to speed up. I'm an uncomfortable obstacle to the next place they are going. I'm lying on the ground, groaning. People are passing by, like purposeful, congruent meteors, and I can't even gather my thoughts yet. There is just a rush of pedestrians going to the next vortex of their overburdened lives. It's as though I'm not even there, bleeding on the ground.

And, yes, I am bleeding. I'm bleeding profusely from my left toe, sticking out of my sandaled foot, and overflowing onto the ground. The skin is torn pretty badly, and there is a lot of blood dripping out. I slowly start to take stock as the constant rush of commuting gazelles flits by me. Both knees have abrasions of the type that go into the white stuff at the fatty layer. My left arm is abraded similarly in one spot, and has spotty abrasions down the forearm. But it's the left toe that is really throbbing and bleeding heavily. I manage to start to stagger to my feet as the pedestrian gazelles passing me part slightly in an acknowledgement to my slow but increasing verticality. I walk a few meters to get out of the pedestrian zoo and sit in a place under a map of the station. I remember I have a few band-aids in my pack and dig for them. I am overwhelmed at this point. I am starting to shiver, and my teeth are rattling, and I think to myself, I'm going into shock. I pull out the band-aids and first start to stem the blood flowing from my toe. The skin looks completely separated, but I'm not really looking at it, I'm just trying to cover it so it won't continue to bleed. I put three band-aids on it haphazardly. Each is jutting out awkwardly, but it is covered; still I can see blood seeping through. Then I attend to the other abrasions and cover them as best I can. They are not an immediate concern, because they are not actively pouring blood out, just sidewalk-rashed. Next, I feel my cheekbone. It is surprisingly unproblematic, considering the force with which I felt my face hit the ground. I poke and push at it enough to ascertain with a reasonable degree of certainty that nothing there is broken, at least. Still haven't seen my face in a mirror, so I have no idea what it looks like.  And I really don't give a flying horch; if it's scary, I just have more street cred.

A guy in a uniform and a station interpreter come rushing up to me. Are you OK, she asks. I tell her I'll be fine. She asks if I am sure. I say yes. She asks me several times. Really, even though I'm hurt, I'm relatively not hurt badly in a fashion that calls for medical attention (especially if I have to pay for it). I'm comparatively unscathed, when you consider what could have happened as a result of a fall like that. But I'm not in good shape. After they leave, I slowly stagger to my feet, now that I'm bandaged up. And I'd been sitting in the sun, so I sauntered aver to a shady spot to sit for a bit,  take stock of everything, and get ready to move along again.  Because of the toe injury, I'm having a LOT of trouble walking. But fuck it. I'm ambulatory, even if it is slow and painful. I'm gonna make it to Osaka. But it's not gonna be easy.

But also, mind you, I have no subway pass. I haven't eaten. I'm almost out of money. And I need medical supplies in a realm where I can't even easily figure out what a pharmacy is. All of these things would be problems easily solved if I was uninjured, but now they are big problems that require some serious planning and effort to solve.  And suddenly distances are much, much longer, because I'm hobbling in a huge amount of pain.

I slowly start trudging my way through the station to the place where the train to Osaka is. I stop at several places I see along the way and try to load up on a couple days' worth of food, and some beverages, because my instincts tell me I'm going to be trapped in some hellhole in Osaka, unable to move. I can't find medical supplies at the station; that's OK, maybe I will find a pharmacy on the way to the hotel. I don't get a subway pass because it is just too far to hobble to the subway office. But I figure out that I can take regional Japan Rail lines for free from Osaka Station to the hotel with my Japan Rail pass, though it means more walking (hobbling). Groan.

So I get on the JP train, which is going to require a transfer from Shin-Osaka Station to Osaka Station, and then beyond to hotel land. I dutifully execute the transfer, then end up dropped off somewhere in Osaka, close to the hotel where I'll be staying.

At this point, I'm still oozing blood fairly precipitously from my body's lowest region (but a zone that is damned important for general ambulation). So I have got to find a pharmacy to get some medical supplies, and I have got to get to the hotel I've booked, so I can wash this shit up...I don't want to get gangrenous cholera or whatever, and I'm really not into the amputation thing, be it for dieting, political statements, aesthetics, or whatever the fuck.

So I decide to check Google Maps for "pharmacy" and see if one comes up nearby. One is not to far away, but not quite on the way to the hotel. That's OK, I can slowly make my way there. So I slowly and methodically limp down the street to the pharmacy. When I get there, I pull out Google Translate for the supplies I need. I type band-aids, tape, hydrogen peroxide. They have those, and put them on the counter. I try to see if they have any ointment for pain, so I type ointment and then benzocaine, lidocaine. Doesn't seem like they have anything of the sort. But the pharmacist brings out some kind of ointment...I have no idea what it is, because it is all in Japanese, but I go ahead and get it.

Then I slowly hobble back up the street to the hotel. This one is not really a hostel; it has private rooms. But the rooms are tiny, musty and dingy. They are about the size of the capsule hotel I stayed in in Tokyo, but stretch all the way to the ceiling. And the light switch is in the outside of the room, in the hallway. There is a rolled up thin futon and some bedding, so I unroll it. I lay there for a while. I see some tiny smears of blood on the futon, crap, I hope they are not mine. I'm actually hoping it is someone else's blood. There is no air conditioning and it is stifling hot, but at least there is a fan. The data signal is sporadic, and the wifi doesn't work on the sixth floor, it is only on the ground floor. My room is on the sixth floor, but for some perverse reason, the elevator only goes to the odd floors, so I have to go to five or seven and walk a flight of stairs. At least I don't have to limp all the way up the stairs...i wouldnt mind taking them normally, but the toe is in pain with every step and still oozing blood beyond the bandage. And the bathroom is on the first is a communal shower room packed with tons of naked men all vying for space in one room. This is not the ideal place for dressing my wounds, but it will have to do, I guess. But later I find what looks like a mop sink on my floor, and it works better for me. I changed all the dressings I had put on hastily at the train station, washed the abrasions, and put on hydrogen peroxide and the mysterious ointment, and then covered it all with bandages and tape. Then I went to collapse in my tiny flophouse room.

Later, I make my way downstairs, and decide to try to limp around the neighborhood a little. My new toe bandage is saturated with dried blood already. I make my way into an arcade mall, and it is loaded with bars filled with older Japanese guys surrounded by young, beautiful hostesses. Looks like a money suck and an empty experience, I'll pass. There are some pachenko halls, which are some kind of pseudogambling, and little stores of all kinds. There is a small supermarket, so I get a little bit of food. Then I walk around the arcade some more, trying to practice walking without a limp...I did that a lot while healing up after I broke my ankle a couple years ago. I'm not really up for a huge amount of walking yet, so I make my way back to the hotel.

There are a bunch of people hanging out in the lobby talking, even though it's kind of a narrow space, but at least it has some chairs. It's enjoyable to sit there talking to travelers from different parts of the world. Somebody asks about my bandages, so I tell them about my fall earlier in the day. They all say they can't see any signs of injury on my cheekbone; I still haven't seen myself in a mirror, but that's a good sign. It hurts a little when I push on it, but I don't think anything is broken. We all spend several hours talking in the lobby, then I head back up to my dingy room around one in the morning to sleep.


  1. OUCH. Harshness. Hobbling around oozing blood is not the best part of travel.

    You seem kind of accident prone this trip. What's with that? Hopefully this is the last of it.

  2. Ratings. Nothing like a clown taking a pratfall to sell more detergent.