Sorry, this is not a new chapter. If you want to know why there’s no new chapter, read on. Warning, there may be some semi-gross details of sickness and butt stuff (no, not the sexual kind).
I should have known things were going to be bad when I threw up over myself on the plane as it descended into Japan. I remember thinking, surely, this has to be the worst part of the trip. It’s only up from here. How wrong I was.
There are a number of factors that led to me throwing up on that flight. First, I was dehydrated. Like an idiot, I didn’t want to get up too much to use the bathroom, so I didn’t drink enough fluids or drank coke, which dehydrated me further. Second, I ate this lukewarm curry on the flight that I should never have touched. Due to various food allergies, I ended up with a different, “allergen-free” meal. The trouble is, I have no idea from whence this meal came (I think it was leftover stuff they had lying around) or how old it was. I only know that I threw up minutes to hours after eating it. Finally, I apparently get motion sick from long airplane trips, my inner ear gets messed up or something. If I stand up too fast I get vertigo. Sitting here, typing this, if I close my eyes and focus just the wrong way the whole world starts spinning slightly.
I managed to avoid throwing up over anyone else and made it to the bathroom in time (shoving my way past a startled flight attendant, who kindly asked me if I was okay moments after seeing puke come out of my mouth.) I cleaned up as best I could, threw away one of my favorite sweatshirts, and ended up covering myself with a blanket. I eventually made it to an airport bathroom, washed as much as I could, changed into clean clothes, and brushed my teeth. That’s the end of that, I thought as I went through customs.
But it wasn’t. Why? Because the dehydration effects didn’t immediately go away. For a while I was light-headed, fatigued, something was wrong. And it basically ate a day of the trip. A day filled with diarrhea, caused by either the curry or dehydration or some combination of the two.
And it got worse on the second day when I decided to visit Osaka Castle. How did it get worse? On the 2nd floor of Osaka Castle, in the only public bathroom, I was taking a whizz. And I had a minor urge to fart. To let one rip. So I did, except it was a wet fart and more than just gas came out. So I shambled into a bathroom stall as I tried to figure out what I was going to do.
I was in Osaka Castle, one of the busiest tourist destinations with Japanese schoolchildren and tour groups swarming outside. And I had just shit myself. And I had no change in underpants. And it could happen again.
I made it out alive, somehow, to the nearest convenience store where I purchased a new set of underwear, which I put on in the bathroom. And that’s all I’ll say about that incident.
I would like to at this moment thank Japan in general for being home to the one place in the world where a number of public bathrooms have bidets, and just for their cleanliness overall. I did my best to be as sanitary as I could during this whole ordeal, and the bidets definitely helped. Still sucked being sick, but glad I was in Japan when it happened.
The motion-sickness-food-poisoning-dehydration-illness cleared up by the next day. I was finally able to get back on track and use my Universal Studios ticket that I’d pre-ordered (no refund allowed). I had a great time there, and lines weren’t a problem with single rider lines, though I avoided the most intense roller coaster after a minor bout of vertigo. The Halloween festivities were awesome too, though I did feel a bit mean-spirited laughing at Japanese schoolgirls running away from zombies. Just kidding, it was hilarious. I capped the night off by trying Wagyu A5 Kobe beef, which was excellent.
Two days later I caught a bad cold. Which was, again, at least partially my fault. But I’d take the exact same path, with the exact same sickness, every time.
By this point in the trip, I had already lost time, so I was pushing my body, even if it was still recovering. So, on a rainy day in Kyoto, visiting Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine, I decided to not go with the flow of tourists through the sea of red gates, but hike up Mt. Inari instead.
Now, this was a rainy day, and I didn’t bring hiking shoes. This meant my feet got wet, and there were mud and puddles on the path. I didn’t care. I was healthy again. I felt warm. If things got rough, I’d just turn back. And, hiking through the bamboo forest felt special. There was no one else brave enough (or dumb enough) to walk on this trail, so for the first time in Japan, I felt like I was alone. It was serene, peaceful, idyllic.
And then I turned the corner. There was a small private graveyard and it was breathtaking, hauntingly beautiful. It was as if the scene had jumped out of one of my favorite video games, Dark Souls. This place, or a similar Shinto cemetery, has to have influenced the art design.
A quiet, secluded area on a rainy day. A note of clear silence in a wash of white noise. I don’t know how to put the feeling into words, what I write doesn’t seem to be enough.
Perhaps simple words are best.
I was hiking on an unknown trail, and out of a mountain of green bamboo emerged this quiet grey resting spot.
I did take a few photos with my phone, but they really don’t do this place any service, so I’ll only say you’ll need to go up this side trail on a rainy day yourself one day.
Anyways, walking through the rain, on a muddy trail, the results seem obvious but hindsight is 20/20. My shoes, feet, and the bottom of my jeans got wet. My immune system was already weak. So I caught a bad cold. But it was worth it. I hope to carry the memory of that small corner of the world for as long as I live.
Fast forward three to four more days of sickness, unfortunately including my reservation at a ryokan where I couldn’t enjoy the baths because I was sick, and it’s not polite to get others sick even though I really wanted to go and was tempted to be the selfish American (but wasn’t, so go me, I guess, though maybe the heat would’ve killed all the germs and I couldn’t have spread them…no, I had to be content with the ceramic bathtub in my room).
Did I get over the cold? Sure. I also got a bad case of hemorrhoids. Since, well, my diet hadn’t been splendid, I’d spent too much time on toilets, and I did a bunch of sitting around watching shows, reading, or playing pachinko/arcade games. (Not writing, because this shit takes hard work and a clear mind, not sickness and pain.)
And then I took the flight back a few days later (today), with the hemorrhoids thankfully abating to the point where there’s only mild discomfort and I only need to wear sanitary napkins to catch the minor bleeding.
Would I visit Japan again? Almost certainly. I’d probably also try to drink way more water on that initial flight, but I now have a whole host of new issues that I should probably talk to my doctor about. Anyways, if you’ve been wondering what I’ve been doing instead of writing, that’s pretty much it.
TL: DR; Stay hydrated, especially on flights. Don’t trust lukewarm airplane food. Don’t push yourself too hard because you’re scared of losing time, you’ll probably waste more time. Roll with the punches. Have an adventure, and good luck, have fun!
Edit: Also, the audiobook for Earth’s Gambit is now released! https://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/Earths-Gambit-Audiobook/B076VSX24Q