I've been intrigued by Japan. Not obsessed... no. I'm not one of those sorts to do Daiso, and sushi outlets because I'm hooked to all things Japan... just that the land of the rising sun holds this strange fascination for me...
I mean... the culture, customs, history - and more importantly the manga, anime, music, fashion, technology... porn...you get it...
The currency is a little bit of a bitch though. Japan is expensive and there's no two ways about that.
So - changed a bit of dough, cleared my credit card so I could charge it there... and off we go. First destination : Kyoto!!! We were actually heading to Osaka for the Kansai Music Conference - but we have two days to chill in Kyoto.
First impression of Japan : damn it's systematic. Everything's so... organised. From the people to the infrastructure... down to very single minute detail. Gila pun ada tengok meka hidup camni... teratur, bersih... yes... what can I say, I appreciate a little chaos in my life...
My favourite part though are the toilets. Now... masalah aku ke banyak negara when there's no bidet... pail air. Nak cebok la... aku orang kampung wei. Nenek aku ajar dari kecik!
But in Japan, I love these tech toilets. This one is a pretty common model around the Osaka and Kyoto areas... you can control the temperature, volume and intervals of the spray of water... AND it comes with a butt dryer. I kid you not!
No more wet bums after washing. Some mysterious air source turns on the minute the auto flush kicks in and dries your bottom in seconds.
Now... what makes a really great country (underrated though) are their 7 Elevens. I don't know why... but a 7 Eleven tells me most about a country. What they eat, drink... buy... you know... an instant retail analysis of what to expect.
And Japan loves its darned green tea. A little too much if you ask me...
Oh... and their beers...soft drinks were sucky as lacking in choice and low in sugar (damn healthy buggers). And everything was coffee and tea...and beer... in about two hundred varieties (I exaggerate, but it feels that way compared to what we have here.
Their instant food however was - freaking awesome. I had dinners and suppers from various convenience stores. I covered all three major chains - 7 Eleven of course, Lawson and FamilyMart - all having something wonderful stacked between their shelves.
But it was not all instant food for me. In fact our first meal was in this quaint little restaurant in Kyoto with a beautiful garden.
My immediate problem with Japanese food? A little tasteless (hey I'm Chinese... we like popping flavours while the Japanese are more subtle) - and the portions are way too small for us.
But it was good anyways. We checked in and spent two days playing tourists.
Check out this mini escalator I found. Hilarious. World's shortest perhaps?
Walking around, I noticed most of what I read was true. For example, the fascination the Japanese have with vending machines.
They're everywhere!!! In a sleepy more old fashioned city like Kyoto - even the VERY clean backlanes of houses within the central area have them.
And the variety... crazy. Cigarettes.... hot dishes... drinks..
The second day left a bitter taste in my mouth for Japan however. Amir was having a fever and flu as we were leaving KL. And at the end of day one in Kyoto - he had his annual horrible asthma attack.
Now... it usually starts simple enough - then that major annual affair escalates into a life and death situation.
So without a medical card, an emergency trip to the hospital was frustrating (even with a friend translating).
Took five minutes for reception to locate a hospital that would take us, for the particular medical situation. Two minutes for cab to show up. Five minutes to bloody walk in the so-called Emergency area.
Ten minutes to register (no shit... Amir was gasping for air and he has to fill out his particulars to get a medical card). Another excruciating wait of about five minutes for a medical officer to show up...
Ten minutes of useless routine questions - which could't be skipped despite me giving a full run-down (this was when I realised Japanese are programmed... they find it hard to break out of routine or procedure).
After almost losing my temper (panic took over because Amir was turning blue, meanwhile) - finally they administered oxygen to him and things became more relaxed for me.Another ten minutes and the doctor shows up - to waste another five minutes for the medical officer to brief him.
Then my buttons got pushed.
The doctor insisted Amir be kept warded for observation, get an X ray... some jabs and a million other treatments!
Like dude... we've been through this before. We know what to do. I smelled a scam - I mean... it is a private hospital after all. And I half of my cousins are in the medical field so I kind of can smell a money making scheme happening.
Friend told me to chill... aku cakap dalam bahasa kita... dia ni propah lebih ni. Nak tahan bagai... ubat tanak bagi. Dia cam nak kita bazir duit. Kata tanak!
So ten minutes wasted on this arguing, which ended up with me relieving my stress smiling and telling to the doctor's face "Pukimak ko haram jadah babi ingat aku tatau ko nak perch"... we got our prescription and gi counter.
That 'consultation' - was over RM700!
May pitam rasanya. Dan tak kira ubat ye! Member pulak baru sedar kita nak kena scam. Dia pun naik hantu.
Lepas tu hospital tak ada farmasi. Kena ke pharmacy luar nak beli ubat yang da prescribed! Mahal babiks ubat dia - dekat seribu Ringgit jugak. Rupanya dia nak bagi stok dua minggu. 'Gaduh' cara lembut kali kedua.
Kita amik medication untuk tiga hari (sebab memang da tau it takes a maximum of that to recover... biasa instant). Kena RM400 lebih la gak... Cibai.
Rupanya kat Jepun ni... meka tak jual ubat batuk ke Panadol ke pe kat kedai serbaneka ni. Semua perlukan surat doktor. Matilah ko! Syukur gak kat Malaysia setakat batuk ke selsema atau demam sikit masih boleh beli ubat sendiri...
So it was that one nasty episode early in the Japan trip that left me wondering if I was going to like Japan. After two days in Kyoto... one of the most cleanest cities (and safe too), I had mixed emotions.
Hopefully Osaka would be much better...