JET Life

My First Trip to the Doctors in Japan

I made it over 11 months without needing to go to the doctors here, but today I had to go because my right ear had been plugged up with sea water since Saturday and I couldn’t get it out. I am very dramatic and worried I had an inner ear infection even though I wasn’t really experiencing any pain.

So my supervisor took me to a nearby walk-in clinic. When we walked in, the room was full of screaming and sobbing children. I immediately knew they were not screams of sickness…they sounded like screams of TORTURE. Now I am not being dramatic. While we waited for my name to be called, I watched three different tiny children come back clutching their mom or dad, terrified and sobbing.

When”Rebeccca-san” was finally called after about 20 minutes of waiting (even doctors are behind in Japan!), I walked through that fateful door with my supervisor into a room that looked severely outdated with several trays of metal instruments and a solitary patient’s chair bolted to the linoleum. There were two nurses working diligently on I don’t know what in their white surgical masks.

There were still two small children with their dad ahead of me, so we sat down on a bench and waited for my turn. The doctor, with a metal  headlamp contraption on his head, was busily working on the little boy. Turns out he was flushing mucus out of his nose with a suction, and that is why all the kids had been crying. I’ve never seen a suction used before to clean out mucus, so this was all new to me. The poor thing started screaming “Daddy! Daddy! Why!” in Japanese, and then he had to go and have the same procedure done to his ears.

I was sitting next to his little sister, who was patiently watching her big brother with big, curious eyes. “Oh no, she’s going to cry too when it’s her turn!” I said.

After the boy was done, his sister resisted her dad a little bit, but she eventually obliged and sat on his lap. The doctor shoved the same contraption up her nose, but she didn’t make a sound. And when she got off her dad’s lap, she was actually giggling. When her ears were being cleaned, she giggled the whole time! I couldn’t keep myself from laughing too.

I waved to the little girl on her way out,  and she stopped to look at me. I assumed she was afraid of me like most little kids in Japan seem to be, but then she gave me a high five! And her brother just glared at me and stomped out of the room. It was hilarious.

Once it was finally my turn to sit in the haunted chair, the doctor told me I didn’t have an infection, but I still needed to lay down on that dreadful table that faced a collage of Dragon Ball Z pictures, have a ratty Hello Kitty towel draped over me, and hold still while he cleaned out my ear. Would I cry like all the other kids, or be strong like that giggling little girl?

So the suction thing (that is kind of like the “Mr. Thirsty” they use at the dentists to get all of the water out of our mouths) didn’t hurt exactly, but it felt WEIRD. And it sounded WEIRD. Like someone was holding a shell to my ear and I could hear the ocean x1000. And then he grabbed whatever was left behind with a giant Q-tip. Eeeeewwwwwwww.

And magically, I could finally hear clearly again! I told my supervisor it was like I had received a brand new ear. But if I was 5, I would have been screaming the whole time like those kids.

As I was paying, I had a quick conversation with the receptionist who said his sister has lived in Minnesota for 30 years. Random. All I could think to say was “People from Minnesota are so nice.” And as I was leaving, he said to me, “I hope you come back again!” and of course I said, “Well I sure hope not.”

I wish I got to keep my wax and turn it into a candle, just like Shrek.

Shrek Ear Wax


My ear is daijobu!


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