I was supposed to be visiting some friends in Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo, Himeji, and Kobe in the first week of April this year, but two omens presented themselves in the form of my first friend not being able to host me, and the second was a traffic accident. Please don’t worry, I am JUST FINE! 私はほんとうにだいじょぶです！I wasn’t about to wait for the third omen to show up, BUT when my vice principal said that I shouldn’t go on the trip, because I had a doctor’s appointment to keep I didn’t make a fuss because I wasn’t waiting for the third omen to show up before or on my Kyoto trip. However, my Vice Principal made a fuss to the man who hit me and he ended up paying for my medical expenses (4 x-rays to my knees and thumb, emergency room attendance, and an abulance ride=about $100). The man who hit me only stopped about 3 feet too late in a crosswalk and unexpectedly knocked me off my bike.
It was scary more than painful. I was dazed as I crawled around on my knees and looked at the few scratched/bleeding parts of me. The people who saw the accident started to close me in and the only thing I could think to say in Japanese was one moment please. I was very lucky that day, but I panicked as they asked me too many questions in Japanese that I couldn’t understand. Someone was holding me up and I was suddenly very sleepy, so I closed my eyes and had the most realistic, colorful dream of my friend Tutor in my Japanese apartment telling me how nasty the bathroom was. I could only agree, and then I was shaken awake again. I didn’t immediately realize where I was and I started to cry. Someone asked me who my friend was to call them, and I spoke as much Japanese as I could telling them to please call Kakujyo, and then someone called an ambulance. It’s funny that this was the week that I had inbetween supervisors, and I had no one officially responsible for me, so it fell on my Vice Principal’s shoulders. It took the kyukyusha (the ambulance) 2 minutes to get there, but by then I was trying to puke on the road. They neckbraced me, strapped me into a very bare-looking ambulance (not like the ones I’ve seen on ER) and put my finger into a pulse-checking machine. A sleu of Japanese questions ensued and I’d never been more thankful that this didn’t happen before I had studied Japanese for 8 months. I also got my handy-dandy Gaikokujin/Alien Card out and relaxed until the doctor could see me.
My Vice Principal intercepted me at the hospital, covered in sweat from worrying about me. He took care of all the details with the hospital, set my follow-up appointment, we went upstairs to talk to my landlady to tell her what happened, talked to the police, and took me home. He was a very scary man in the beginning, but I am thankful that he was there.
The man who hit me was incredibly sorry and stayed the entire time, making sure that he called my school, held me up when I passed out, called an ambulance, and endured the toungue lashing that my Vice Principal gave him. It turns out that he was a Kendo (Japanese martial art) teacher at the only public high school that I don’t teach at in Saiki, and I also accidentally ran into him at the Saiki Spring Festival at a Kendo demonstration that my students pulled me into. He’s a very upstanding, nice man, and sent me a huge gift of senbe (Japanese crackers that cost a FORTUNE) the next day and came to the school to apologize formally the next week. I was very embarrassed, but this is a Japanese formality that people, especially esteemed high school Kendo and English teachers, are subject to.
The funny thing is that before it all started, the day was great. I met my new teachers, it was sunny enough to want to walk to the train station and get my bike back after a week of walking in the rain, a friend spotted me and nicely offered to give me a ride to the station, and I was headed back on my bike to get some takoyaki (octopus dough balls–sounds yummy, huh!?) for my sick landlady in the same hospital that I was ambulanced to shortly afterwards. What a day.
Before all of this, I had to decide when I was going to Kyoto, and the most convenient times were also during the Saiki Spring Festival (Haru Matsuri) which I decided not to go to in favor of seeing the beautiful sakura in Kyoto and Himeji Castle, staying with friends along the way. So, instead on Saturday morning, I went to my friend Alexa’s house, we made a very nice late breakfast, went shopping where I found the PERFECT jean jacket and some shoes that I can not WAIT to wear and on our way back, we intercepted the parade heading to the Haru Matsuri. Perfect timing, and two fun days of Japanese Matsuri ensued.
I think that seeing the sakura in Saiki was definitely more meaningful than seeing it in a famous place like Kyoto, having the tourist experience with everybody else. Even though I was very unhappy in the beginning being in such a small place and not being able to dance as much as I had hoped, over the last 8 months I have been able to see what a unique and strengthening experience this has been. I was able to enjoy the cherry blossoms and the sights, tastes, smells, sounds of Matsuri with my friends, my students, and even the man that I was in a traffic accident with. I felt the pride my students exuded when I came to watch them at the kendo performance and my tea ceremony students were so excited that they could be seen in action by a pair of “sunflower” eyes unlike their own, and I truly appreciated Japan for the first time that weekend.
Let’s enjoy Japan together for the next few months… Saiki will always be my Japanese hometown.