Gaijin Smash

Don’t Get Sick/Injured in Japan

Posted in Blog by gaijinsmashnet on November 25, 2005

I broke my right collarbone. I don’t want to get into how this happened, I’ll just say that biking off the road and into a rice field may not be the best way to get from Point A to Point B in Japan. Even more unfortunate than the actual injury was that this meant I’d have to make yet another trip to a Japanese doctor. Japanese health care has pioneered new and innovative ways to suck and I’ve made it a point not to go unless, at the very least, a major bone was broken.
My first winter in Japan, there was a very bad flu going around. As any schoolteacher knows, kids are like virus magnets and us poor teachers end up getting caught in their web of snot. So we had a lot of kids dropping and I too caught the flu. Instead of going to the doctor however, I went to work. Az’s Workforce Tip #24 – if you don’t want your co-workers to question your use of sick leave, or to have them not even count it at all, just go into work looking really horrible and really contagious. (“Good morning! *cough*cough*hack* Oh sorry, got a little phlegm on you there…”) They won’t be able to send you home fast enough. I was actually doing okay in the morning. The school nurse took my temperature, which was 37.5 C, which is apparently not that bad. But I got much worse in the afternoon, so the principal sent me home to go to the doctor.
I went and at reception they asked me my temperature. I told them 37.5, but that was taken in the morning while I was still somewhat human. They sat me down without taking my temperature again. I saw the doctor, who spoke English (many docs in Japan do), and he immediately recognized me. “Oh, I know you! You’re the English teacher in the Ghetto School! Ah yes, that school has many sick students with the flu. We’ve had so many students come through with the flu, it seems to be VERY contagious this year. But your fever is only 37.5, so I think you have a cold.”
Note that he never actually examined me, just read the notes that front reception took. And they didn’t even examine me either. So I got *cold* medicine … which *of course* didn’t work. Imagine that. I went back a week later feeling just as sick as before. I saw the same doctor, and as he took his chair he said “Ah yes. I thought you had the flu.”
THEN WHY DIDN’T YOU GIVE ME FLU MEDICINE IN THE FIRST PLACE?!


I decided then that doctors in Japan were useless and so far I haven’t been proved wrong. Aside from the Octopus Incident, I’ve seen and heard about plenty of other sucky Japanese doctors, including one of my friends who went to a hospital in Japan, and they told her she was fine. Not satisfied with that assessment, she went to see her doctors back home, who found she had a life-threatening tumor and had to have surgery immediately. Yeah.
Unfortunately, a broken collarbone is something you kind of have to see the doctor for. I went with my Principal, Vice Principal, and my supervisor from the board of education. The doctor took an x-ray and confirmed what the horrible, debilitating pain in my shoulder was already telling me – yep, I broke it. My supervisor laughs. “It’s because you’re too heavy. You really ought to go on a diet.”
Apparently, really skinny people just hit the ground and bounce. By this theory, supermodels should be invincible and Kate Moss should be damn near indestructible.
The doctor explains that I’ll have to wear a brace for the next 6-8 weeks to keep my shoulder immobile while it heals. I have to wear it all the time, only taking it off for showers. It’s not something I can put on or take off by myself so I’ll need help. My supervisor chimes in again. “I can help you with the brace, but I can’t help you with the showering.” Thanks, I didn’t ask.
The doctor prescribes some painkillers for me. The first set of medicine is no problem. It’s in the second set where I start to not understand some of the Japanese used. I tell everyone this, and the doctor thinks of a new way to describe it. There was one word I did manage to catch – “ass”. Turns out, this is medicine you have to administer … anally.
“I definitely can’t help you with that.” My supervisor says. I definitely didn’t ask.
I ask if there’s another medicine that I can swallow and, you know, not have to shove up my ass. The doctor says that this is the strongest painkiller they have. WTF is up with that anyway? At one point somewhere, there were the Japanese chemists in the lab, going “Ok, now, this is the strongest painkiller we can make, I know! Let’s have the patient take it by shoving it up their ass!” And people don’t believe me when I talk about Japan’s ass fetish. Anyway, the doctor prescribes the ass-medicine to me anyway and tells me I don’t have to take it unless I’m in extreme pain. I don’t think I’d take it even if I was dying and it was the only thing that could save my life. It’s not just a mental roadblock either, with my right arm in traction I can’t even reach back there. Well, at least I know if worse came to worse, all I’d really need to do is bend over in an ichinensei hallway and they’d happily do it for me. “Hey kids, mind helping out your teacher?” *bends over* ” Sweet! 1000 Years of Medicare!” *poke*
You will never hear me complain about American hospitals, ever again.
I went to the pharmacist to get my medicine. As he was giving the explanation on how to take them, as he gave the explanation on the ass-medicine *ahem* he apparently read the horrified look on my face (I’m just glad I have enough of my sanity left to have a horrified look on my face) and said “I guess it’s only Japan that has this kind of medicine, huh?” I decided to be diplomatic, and just said “Well, America might have it too … although it would be very, very, VERY rare.” I thought it best not to point out how me breaking a shoulder bone somehow translates into me sticking pills up my ass in Japan.
And for the record, I never took that medicine.

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52 Responses

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  1. Anonymous said, on December 4, 2006 at 12:41 am

    would u rather be kancho or take a shot in the buttocks

  2. Anonymous said, on December 4, 2006 at 12:41 am

    would u rather be kancho or take a shot in the buttocks

  3. Quintin said, on December 4, 2006 at 1:07 am

    It was because of the bicycle the Americans invented the cup.
    It was because of the bicycle the Japanese have you shoving drugs up your ass.
    Maybe the “ASS” part is to discourage habitual drug users. But then again, since its Japan, it just might have encouraged them.
    get better.

  4. Jay said, on December 4, 2006 at 1:09 am

    “Apparently, really skinny people just hit the ground and bounce. By this theory, supermodels should be invincible and Kate Moss should be damn near indestructible.”
    it’s actually true…
    i’m asian, 5’11” and about 140 lbs…
    i’ve fallen off ladders, roofs, and hit a tree while i was snowboarding.
    NEVER broken a bone. =D

  5. Cool Bones said, on December 4, 2006 at 1:10 am

    There’s ass medicine everywhere in the world, not just Japan. When I was in France it was prescribed to me but I didn’t take it either, I’d rather stay sick.

  6. Anonymous said, on December 4, 2006 at 1:52 am

    don’t they imply more or less the same thing, which is having something stuck up your ass? Doesn’t matter if it’s a 12 years old’s finger or a pill, it’s not suposed to be there either way.

  7. Anonymous said, on December 4, 2006 at 1:52 am

    don’t they imply more or less the same thing, which is having something stuck up your ass? Doesn’t matter if it’s a 12 years old’s finger or a pill, it’s not suposed to be there either way.

  8. Dubetz said, on December 4, 2006 at 2:04 am

    Ass medicine does exist in America. It’s called a “suppository,” or something like that, and I’m assuming the pills were the size of a golf ball from the way you described them.

  9. ian said, on December 4, 2006 at 2:21 am

    hey i know how deadly bike+rice field can be from quarter abroad… poor dan-kirei…
    BTW im all that stuff in your site intro and despite having read your stories will probably JET myself too after graduating from UCD

  10. TheAirman said, on December 4, 2006 at 2:32 am

    The medicine-disguised-as-a-kancho thing would probably work also.
    And the Octopuss incident? I’m stationed in Misawa(Aomori) and heard about it!
    (Az’s Note: Oh. Dear. God.)

  11. Cien said, on December 4, 2006 at 3:08 am

    Drugs administered rectally are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream as opposed to those taken orally. I s’pose they can be taken orally as well, as most drugs do, though the efficiency will likely be reduced, unless it’s the kind of drug with components, active or otherwise, that are rendered inert or unfavorably modified after digestion.
    An alternative would likely involve hypodermic procedures. And I know many people wouldn’t like that.
    In any case… Health care pretty much suck everywhere in the world that I know of. Admittedly the Doctor you consulted for your wintry flu wasn’t exactly following acceptable procedures (he really should take your temperature, even for complaints not associated with flu or fever).
    You’d really do better with United States health care, if for nothing more than the fact that you can sue the Doctor, hospital, and their eighteen generations worth of descendants and not only for a few hefty millions but you actually have a good chance of winning. That’s how millionaires these days are made.

  12. Pi said, on December 4, 2006 at 3:24 am

    Apparently ass medicine gets absorbed into the system faster and more efficiently and completely than oral medicine. Thats what I hear anyway. Still though, i think i’d just eat the ass medicine and chase it with something strong, preferably high proof liquor or brake cleaner.

  13. Jeffrey Friedl said, on December 4, 2006 at 4:13 am

    Things are a bit better in the major hospitals. Local doctors don’t need any continuing education, so it may well be that the last time they actually studied medicine was just after the war. I don’t know that major-hospital doctors have continuing-education requirements, but I’ve had much better luck with them.
    Heck, they even solved (sort of) a problem that US docs couldn’t solve. I occationally have “issues” with my heart, which the US docs solve by stopping it and quickly restarting it (while I’m under, of course!). The second time I had an episode here, the doc gave me some drugs and sent me home. Fixed me right up. I now carry those with me when I go to The States.
    But then, there’s the major-hospital ER doc who counted 9 bones in my wrist X-ray, sending me home, not reazling that there should have been only 8. (Being hit by a drunk driver popped the scaphoid in two.) I went back a week later and an orthopod looked at the same X-ray and said “yup, it’s broken”.
    So yeah, YMMV.
    Jeffrey

  14. Dutchguy said, on December 4, 2006 at 11:30 am

    Apparently ass medicine gets absorbed into the system faster and more efficiently and completely than oral medicine. Thats what I hear anyway. Still though, i think i’d just eat the ass medicine and chase it with something strong, preferably high proof liquor or brake cleaner.
    some clarification on this.
    When you eat it, enzyms attach themselves to the pill and are already preparing it for the stomach to ‘completely’ absorb the stuff. So apparently its a pill that is quite sensitive to those enzyms. Thats why they ask you to shove it up your ass( yes literally) as enzyms wouldnt break the pill apart as there are no enzyms at ur ass.
    I wouldnt say Japan is really easy on this ass fetish part as European/Americans would do the same, however they probably bring u under narcose and shove it up your ass themselves so you wouldnt find out. πŸ™‚
    English isnt my first language so sorry if i made a mistake.

  15. Thanakil said, on December 4, 2006 at 12:53 pm

    I had a ass pill (suppository as already said) when I was a kid, I had a ”cerebral comotion” (I don’t know the real english term, so I’m translating it as well as I can… Basically I had a REALLY strong hit to my head).
    I was feeling really dizzy and sleepy, and from what the doc told me, there was some possibility that if I fell asleep, I could be in coma for X years…
    Then they took X-ray and shoved a suppository in my ass and… 10 minutes later I was in the parking jumping everywhere.
    They work quite well actually =/.

  16. Zantetsu said, on December 4, 2006 at 2:22 pm

    Heh, Az is afraid of suppositories. πŸ˜›
    PS. I don’t blame you, I’d rather take injections than them.

  17. Patrick said, on December 4, 2006 at 2:32 pm

    I don’t know. I’m 5′ 11″, 255 lbs and I haven’t hurt myself in falls. Of course, the last major fall I had was when I was 10, out of my grandmother’s 3rd story window into a lawn chair. But hey. It could have been worse. BOTH pain medications could have had to go up the exhaust chute.

  18. Kerii-chan said, on December 4, 2006 at 3:48 pm

    XD Japanese doctors really do sound suck-ish. The only bad experience I’ve ever had with doctors was when I stepped on a rusty furniture tack while on vacation in Lake Tahoe. The hospital we went to stuck me in a crowded waiting room for an hour and a half (with said tack still in foot) with some freaky old guy who had cut off his finger and kept showing everyone. When they finally called me in, the sat me down on a table, took my temperature (for a nail in the foot?!) then sent me back out to wait for another half hour, til we got impatient, went to a small clinic around the corner, and they got me in, took the tack out and gave me a tetanus shot in ten minutes total.
    And when we got back to NJ, we recieved a bill for $200 from the hospital that did noting but take my temperature.
    I’d hate to know how this would have worked out in the Land of the Rising Sun XD

  19. Godlesswanderer said, on December 4, 2006 at 5:25 pm

    You know what they say, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall”.

  20. Anonymous said, on December 4, 2006 at 6:05 pm

    suppositories aren’t that bad.

  21. Anonymous said, on December 4, 2006 at 6:05 pm

    suppositories aren’t that bad.

  22. BotlGnomz said, on December 4, 2006 at 7:02 pm

    Thanakil: I think the English word is “concussion.”
    Never broken anything, despite years of tae kwon do subjecting me to plowing face first into the ground during flip practice, people falling on me while trying to demonstration kick over me, and getting kicked pretty much everywhere. And I plan to keep it that way.

  23. Gabe said, on December 4, 2006 at 11:13 pm

    To hell with you Az, I had to take a pill up the exaust when I got the flu and could not ingest anything for if I did, out it came again in projectile vomit form… *10,000 years of vomit?*
    Az, you know that I am a fan of yours but common! I mean, I when through that kind of hell when I was there and what was worse is that one of the kids that was in my host family’s house begged me to let them administer it. (To which my response was “Do you want to know what it feels like to get kicked through a wall like Son Goku?”…)
    You dissapoint me grasshopper.

  24. Brad said, on December 5, 2006 at 5:07 am

    “And for the record, I never took that medicine.”
    One might say you’re still sitting on it.

  25. anon said, on December 5, 2006 at 8:04 pm

    gotta get outta this rudius media crap network

  26. Mr. Bomberman said, on December 5, 2006 at 9:37 pm

    Az, my man, that sucks ass (pun definitely intended)
    That road is ONE WAY ONLY.
    Get better; ganbatte.

  27. Banzai Kuristumas said, on December 6, 2006 at 2:00 am

    You should work out more Az, nothing protects the body like a coat of muscles.=)
    Which leads me to a different matter, are there any gyms (as in weight-training gyms) at japaneese schools?

  28. Brian said, on December 6, 2006 at 12:42 pm

    Posted by: Quintin at December 4, 2006 01:07 AM
    “Apparently, really skinny people just hit the ground and bounce. By this theory, supermodels should be invincible and Kate Moss should be damn near indestructible.”
    it’s actually true…
    i’m asian, 5’11” and about 140 lbs…
    i’ve fallen off ladders, roofs, and hit a tree while i was snowboarding.
    NEVER broken a bone. =D
    Im 6’3″ and 260lbs. I practice a variety of cantact sports, Snowboard (When I can), Ride a Motorcycle and have been in quite a few auto accidents, I have never broken a bone. Size has little to do with it. It has to do with nutrition, and flexability.

  29. teratomarty said, on December 6, 2006 at 2:49 pm

    In the US, ass-administered meds are usually preserved for patients who can’t swallow anymore, are running out of good veins to put IVs in, and won’t heal if you stick them with a hypodermic. These factors usually only come together in the very elderly, or in patients with assorted cancers on lots of chemo or radiation. Definitely a medicine of last resort, not something you give to an otherwise healthy guy.

  30. melissa said, on December 6, 2006 at 8:36 pm

    I’ve been reading these entries for awhile now, but something that has bothered me is the idea that because you complain about the differences in culture and the students, people who comment here seem to think that Japan is not worth going to.
    as a female former exchange student and future english teacher myself (hopefully next year), a female that has been groped by Japanese businessmen and stalked as well as harrassed…Japan is STILL my favorite place in the world. The history is amazing, the customs are beautiful, the architecture is awe-inpiring…and for every jerk who grabs my ass or follows me home there are a hundred wonderful people who go out of their way to help me, to offer their only umbrella to me in the rain, to call numerous agencies because I dont speak the language, to take me out when I am homesick, to try their best to celebrate my American holidays, even though they often mess it up. πŸ™‚
    trust me, if any of you travel to the land of the rising sun, you will be welcomed with open arms.

  31. Mr. Bomberman said, on December 6, 2006 at 9:13 pm

    >Melissa.
    What are you tslking about… I love and would like to go to Japan more than ever as a result of reading fellow Az’s blog. I still have time for a chance to come, too. I’m only 16.

  32. Tower said, on December 7, 2006 at 5:41 am

    i think Azrael is trying to warn us, not scare us. Japan is not like anime, it is as equally messed up as other countries, just in different ways.

  33. evil_tennyo said, on December 9, 2006 at 7:40 am

    lol that really sucks.

  34. Rick said, on December 10, 2006 at 4:55 am

    Dude, you’re scaring the shit out of me. Granted, I’ve already been to Japan twice, thankfully no injuries or illnesses, but I’m moving there next year. This type of stuff makes me want to bring all the medicine allowed through customs with me. I too would rather die than to have to shove something up my ass for pain. I can only imagine how it felt having to receive instructions in Japanese on how to apply it…

  35. Karma said, on December 10, 2006 at 9:40 pm

    I can vouch for the crappy hospital thing after giving birth to my son in one. Would you beleive they forgot about me in the delivery room? The nurse found me when she went to turn off the lights!

  36. Chibi-chan said, on December 13, 2006 at 4:53 am

    What’s the delay for the new post πŸ™‚ ?
    Awesome blog ^^

  37. Tyra said, on December 13, 2006 at 8:55 pm

    “I’ll just say that biking off the road and into a rice field may not be the best way to get from Point A to Point B in Japan.”
    I brust into laughter trying to figure out the logisitics of this. Bike + rice field most definatly equal broken something.
    What made you think ‘hm, that rice field looks like an easy ride through, lets give it a go’
    thennn again if you’re living in an area with a lot of rice fields it probably would be quicker to go through it then to go around it.
    Though silly all the rice feilds I’ve seen have been mud bogs.
    I’m surprized you didn’t get stuck and had to carry your bike out of that field.
    hilarious!

  38. Hailey said, on December 15, 2006 at 2:49 am

    Okay, if Japanese hosptials are the worst hospitals on the face of the earth, than French one’s are the best. I got a sunburn and apparently their medicare system would have covered me if I were getting an alergic reaction to the sun.
    I’ve never commented here, but I’ve read everything, and I must say… this all makes me want to teach for a short time in Japan even more. It’s sick and twisted, but honestly, I think I’d love it. I’m not sure if girl teachers get kancho-ed (banish-ed… sorry, Shakespeare) but if so, I’m sure my reaction would scar them for life.
    Oh, and if Ms. Americanized breaks up, be her shoulder to cry on, then woo her! Or tell her a hot American blond woman would instead if you wimped out!

  39. Post said, on December 19, 2006 at 2:49 pm

    WHY NO MORE POSTINGS

  40. Melinda said, on December 23, 2006 at 1:46 am

    That medicine is actually really common in America ^_^ It’s just that no one really talks about it if they’re told to take it.

  41. soumakyo said, on December 27, 2006 at 12:05 am

    a friend of mine strained her wrist back in Japan and had to go to the hospital. She told me she was barely examinated, and the doctor told her not to move her hand, and prescribed her antibiotics. Yeah sure, to fight the well known bacteries of wrist strain.

  42. megan said, on December 29, 2006 at 11:13 pm

    where’d ya go? i need my japanophile fix

  43. Aiden! said, on January 2, 2007 at 5:07 am

    Almost a whole month? I hope Az is okay.

  44. Random Gaijin said, on January 4, 2007 at 7:00 pm

    HOLY FUCKING SHIT! I never heard of a medicine you had to take up the ass! I’d rather give myself shots than do that! I hope that i won’t have to take any medicine like that! I still want to go to japan, but i’m gonna be very careful not to get hurt or sick when i go.

  45. Aiden! said, on February 18, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    Seriously, Az. I don’t care if you don’t have something funny to say. Just inform us that you’re not dead.

  46. Markus said, on March 9, 2007 at 10:16 pm

    This kind of medicine is doesn’t exist in Japan only. Suppositories are common here in Germany, too, particularily for small children (which mightnot always listen to good reason when you tell them “You gotta take that pill, it’s for your own good”). I remember getting quite a few of these things shoved up my ass by my mother. It wasn’t always the most pleasant experience… xD
    Btw, there might be a good reason for not packaging that pain killer as a pill: When you take a pill, the active chemical in it has to survive the stomach acid first (pretty agressive stuff), or it has to be packaged in a pill that dissolves only after it has passed the stomach, which takes at least 1 hour – not the best thing when you need a strong pain killer and you need it now. A suppository on the other hand can go into the blood stream rather fast and with much less interference by digestive chemicals. Second fastest thing after actually getting a shot of medicine I heard.
    Anyway – great story, as always πŸ˜‰

  47. ChΘ―-Gaijin said, on May 13, 2007 at 6:32 am

    “Apparently, really skinny people just hit the ground and bounce. By this theory, supermodels should be invincible and Kate Moss should be damn near indestructible.”
    it’s actually true…
    i’m asian, 5’11” and about 140 lbs…
    i’ve fallen off ladders, roofs, and hit a tree while i was snowboarding.
    NEVER broken a bone. =D
    Posted by: Jay at December 4, 2006 01:09 AM

  48. Ceri Cat said, on September 26, 2007 at 10:39 am

    Suppositories are absorbed faster by your body than oral medications, which means they can be quite effective. Plus with really strong painkillers… Ah hell any meds they tend to taste vile if you don’t get them down quickly. Plus some by nature get too diluted before they can be absorbed. Look on the bright side, at least it wasn’t an elephant trank. πŸ˜‰

  49. Jonadab the Unsightly One said, on November 8, 2007 at 9:09 am

    Suppositories were somewhat more common in the US a few decades ago, but the pharmaceutical industry has since discovered that people will happily pay extra for medication that’s administered in a more convenient fashion, because doctors will prescribe it, because doctors know patients are more likely to actually, you know, take it. There was a post over on pipeline.corante.com (a pharmaceutical chemist’s blog), a few weeks ago maybe, that talked about this, noting that once-a-day pills with no restrictions about full/empty stomach are pretty much the goal for any medication being developed these days.
    Patient compliance is probably better in Japan, for cultural reasons. (Try to imagine, if you will, a Japanese man telling the doctor that he’s probably not going to remember to take the second pill in the evening.) So the drug industry there can get away with meds that are less convenient to administer.
    Even in the US, people will put up with inconvenient meds if the stakes are high enough. HIV meds can have any old wacky schedule they like, for instance, and then there’s oncology, where the medication can go nine tenths of the way to actually killing the patient and they’ll take it anyway.

  50. Lyndsey said, on November 13, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    There are suppositories (I think I like “ass medicine” better!) in the U.S. as well. πŸ™‚

  51. Anonymous said, on December 7, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    Ugh. I can sympathise with what happened, considering I’m in the midst of one such saga. I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis a month ago, and despite every resource I’ve read on RA saying that gentle exercise is good for RA sufferers, my doctor has forbid me from even walking to the combini – and I’m only 23! Oh, and the nurses are my students’ parents, so naturally the whole “patient confientiality” thing goes out the window and every teacher knows about it now.

  52. Anonymous said, on December 7, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    Ugh. I can sympathise with what happened, considering I’m in the midst of one such saga. I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis a month ago, and despite every resource I’ve read on RA saying that gentle exercise is good for RA sufferers, my doctor has forbid me from even walking to the combini – and I’m only 23! Oh, and the nurses are my students’ parents, so naturally the whole “patient confientiality” thing goes out the window and every teacher knows about it now.


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