Last week I was leading a 10 day walking tour along Shikoku’s famous 88 Temple Pilgrimage Circuit. On a seaside walk, on the way to the remote Muroto Peninsula, we stopped at a cliff top rest-house for a bento lunch. Mine was sushi, bought from the roadside Michi No Eki.
A few hours later I started getting strong stomach pains. It must have been some dodgy sushi I thought, and I tried to carry on with the tour. I was wrong. It wasn’t the sushi that was the problem. 48 hours later an ambulance was racing me across the island for an emergency appendix removal.
Now a week later, I am still in Tokushima Hospital, but a few kilos and an appendix lighter. Looking back, the 1 hour ambulance ride sirens blazing, the rushed phone-calls to colleagues and all the doctors and nurses crowding around my trolley, all seem like they happened to someone else. Perhaps in some senses they did. The events were certainly enough to make me reassess a few things, and the moments of morphine-induced semi-enlightenment quite suitable for a Buddhist-themed tour.
I was very lucky. The doctors were incredibly professional and efficient. The nurses have also been both attentive and sensitive, constantly asking me いける. This question confused me at first as they seemed to be asking if I was able to go somewhere. At that point I was still attached to a drip, had a white tube up my nose and a yellow tube sticking out of my stomach. Surely they didn’t want me to leave already? Were the beds filling up? But they were actually just asking if I was alright. In this case, いける is KANSAI-BEN (the KANSAI region dialect) and means 大丈夫「だいじょうぶ」 (OK/alright).
On the way to an X-ray, a chatty nurse told me the hospital was built by an architect who used to design hotels. This made sense. At times it has even felt like a Japanese ryokan (traditional inn). I can lounge around all day in a turquoise yukata logged onto my portable Wi-fi with on call staff at a push of a button. Food and drinks gets served to our rooms (beds). We even get checked on at night, an indescribable thrill I haven’t experienced in over 30 years.
And like a ryokan stay, the option to roll into bed anytime is irresistibly tempting, and utterly guilt free. じゃ、ちょっとよこになるね。(Right, I’m just going to lie down for a bit)